A judge in Tarrant County, TX, has dismissed four lawsuits against XTO Energy in which plaintiffs alleged that XTO, now a unit of ExxonMobil Corp., shortchanged them in lease payments.

The cases are similar to dozens of others filed in Tarrant County on behalf of hundreds of individuals and homeowners' associations against natural gas companies that claim lease offers were unlawfully rescinded during the leasing frenzy in the Barnett Shale.

In the four cases in which XTO was granted summary judgment by state District Judge Don Cosby in Fort Worth last week, plaintiffs claimed that their lease offers were withdrawn after natural gas prices declined in fall 2008.

XTO claimed that it was bound by finalized lease agreements with individual mineral rights holders, not by terms reached with neighborhood groups. But plaintiffs maintained that XTO breached its contract with the neighborhood groups.

Taylor Pope, XTO director of litigation, told the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth that the company is pleased with the ruling. "All similar cases filed against XTO have been consolidated into Judge Cosby's court," he said. "We would expect the latest rulings to affect all the other cases, all of them relying on essentially the same facts and law."

Dallas attorney Kip Petroff, who represented the plaintiffs, said an appeal was planned if the judge does not reconsider. Documents relating to these lawsuits and similar cases are posted on the Petroff & Associates website.