Kerri Coriston Sturm, partner in Bernstein-Burkley’s Pittsburgh office, has always loved the library, and one of her favorite aspects of her job is hitting the books and absorbing information.
“I have a great memory,” says Kerri, “and this is one career where that comes in handy. When I am in court, it is just me and my brain.”
Kerri has developed a growing and loyal following of clients and co-counsel who consistently call her to handle both their routine and high-stakes litigation. She has a creative approach to her cases, and derives great satisfaction from exceeding expectations in terms of the result obtained and the cost of achieving it.
Kerri’s practice focuses on high-stakes commercial litigation for plaintiffs and defendants, both at the trial and appellate levels. She has tried and managed cases in state and federal courts across the country involving a variety of claims, including:
- Oil and gas disputes
- Breach of contract
- Uniform Commercial Code matters
- Breach of warranties
- Fraudulent conveyances
- Business torts
Kerri represents plaintiffs and defendants in various types of complex commercial cases, and has developed several niche specialties, including:
- Oil and gas contract disputes
- Title and real property disputes
- Bankruptcy litigation
Prior to joining Bernstein-Burkley, the Youngstown, Ohio native worked for several AmLaw 200 firms and spent several years with a Texas-based energy boutique firm.
- Grove City College (B.A. Economics, cum laude, 1999)
- The Ohio State University College of Law (J.D., 2002)
- Member of Order of the Coif and Moot Court
- Public Relations Editor of the Ohio State Law Review
- Admitted to the bar of Pennsylvania
- Admitted to the bar of Ohio
- Admitted to the bar of Florida
Affiliations and Memberships:
- Pennsylvania Bar Association
- Allegheny County Bar Association
- Energy & Mineral Law Foundation
- Women’s Energy Network (WEN)
- Recognized as a Who’s Who in Energy Law by the Pittsburgh Business Times
- Represented a mineral buying company against two large oil and gas producers for a significant underpayment of oil and gas royalties. The oil and gas producers unilaterally decided to pay royalties according to an older, expired lease, which provided a lower royalty percentage. The Court decided in favor of Kerri’s client, holding on summary judgment that the older lease was no longer in effect, and was superseded by a lease providing an 18% royalty.
- Represented a large telecommunications company in a case brought by a bankruptcy trustee for fraudulent conveyance. The bankruptcy trustee contended that the telecommunications company purchased the assets of a defunct telecommunications company for $10 million less than the assets were worth. After aggressively pursuing discovery, Kerri was ultimately able to settle this matter for $80,000.00.
- Obtained a $7 million judgment for a nationally-recognized bank for breach of a Forbearance Agreement that required a debtor to refinance its debt by a date certain.
- After being sued by a former high-level employee for breach of an employment agreement, Kerri’s client asserted a counterclaim based on various breaches by the employee. In an arbitration before the American Arbitration Association, Kerri’s client was awarded a complete victory. The arbitrator ruled against the former high-level employee, and awarded the client all of its damages as well as attorneys’ fees and arbitration costs.
- After purchasing oil and gas rights through a sheriff’s sale, Kerri’s client was compelled to sue to quiet title against a divested property owner. The property owner claimed to be entitled to future royalties based on an Assignment of Oil and Gas Royalties. The Court ruled in favor of Kerri’s client that the sheriff’s sale completely divested the future royalty interest.
- Successfully represented a non-profit organization in a claim against its former founder and director. In a hotly-contested hearing, the Court awarded the appointment of a receiver to terminate the former founder’s interest in property owned by the non-profit.
- Represented the Plan Administrator of a large bankruptcy estate in claims of professional malpractice against former counsel. Without spending a day in Court, Kerri was able to successfully negotiate a six-figure payout after a mediation in which the mediator specifically noted Kerri’s persuasive arguments.
- Represented owner of 2,000 acres of oil and gas in West Virginia in lawsuit against oil and gas producers for a 7-figure miscalculation in royalties. After an audit of 5 years of royalty statements, Kerri and the Bernstein-Burkley team determined that the producer calculated royalties based on a generic price rather than actual sales of Natural Gas Liquids, which violated the obligations of their drilling permit. As a result, the case settled with a significant payment to the client.
- Represented a multi-million dollar mineral buying company against two large oil and gas producers for a significant underpayment of oil and gas royalties. The oil and gas producers unilaterally decided to pay royalties according to an older, expired lease, which provided a lower royalty percentage. The Court decided in favor of Bernstein-Burkley’s client, holding on summary judgment that the older lease expired for lack of production, and was superseded by a lease providing an 18% royalty.
- Represented lessor-owner of thousands of acres of oil and gas rights in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings by oil and gas producer and successfully prevented discharge of claim for improper payment of royalties.
- After purchasing oil and gas rights through a sheriff’s sale, the firm’s client was compelled to sue to quiet title against a divested property owner. The property owner claimed to be entitled to future royalties based on an Assignment of Oil and Gas Royalties. The Court ruled in favor of the firm’s client that the sheriff’s sale completely divested the future royalty interest.
- Representation of non-participating royalty holder against a quiet title action initiated by mineral-buying company, in which mineral buyer alleges that NPRI was divested by a tax sale, despite that tax sale could only divest real property interest.
- Representation of large landowner against claim by surface owner that oil and gas rights were divested under the Ohio Dormant Mineral Act, where notice to landowner was statutorily defective.
- Represented royalty holder in action for payment of royalties made to prior landowner, discovered after an audit of royalty statements, which resulted in a substantial confidential settlement.
“Thank you for your professionalism and talking us off the bridge at times. You have made this experience more bearable and we are very grateful for your knowledge and advice.” – Client