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Yurina v. The Wiser Oil Co.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District

September 16, 2013

JOSEPH F. YURINA III, ET AL, Plaintiffs-Appellees
v.
THE WISER OIL COMPANY, Defendants-Appellants

Civil appeal from the Guernsey County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 12OG000189.

For Plaintiffs-Appellees SCOTT EICKELBERGER RYAN LINN DAVID TARBERT WILLIAM TAYLOR.

For Defendants-Appellants LYLE BROWN.

Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. Sheila G. Farmer, J. Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, J.

OPINION

GWIN, P.J.

(¶1} Defendant-appellants Forest Oil Corporation ["Forest"] and The Wiser Oil Company ["Wiser] appeal the judgments of the Guernsey County Court of Common Pleas granting default judgments in favor of plaintiff-appellee's Joseph F. Yurina III and Anthony M. Yurina, co-trustees of the Yurina Family Trust dated July 18, 1990 ["Appellee"] and denying their motions for relief from judgment, for leave to file answers instanter and for reconsideration.

Facts and Procedural History

(¶2} Appellees initiated this litigation by filing a Complaint to quiet title and to forfeit a portion of an oil and gas lease with the Court of Common Pleas, Guernsey County, Ohio on April 13, 2012.

(¶3} The Appellees predecessors in title Joseph Yurina, Jr. and Anna Yurina had executed the oil and gas lease in question. The original lessee was Wiser. The lease was dated June 22, 1967 and filed for record in the Guernsey County, Ohio, Lease Records, Volume 55, Page 757.

(¶4} By an instrument titled Partial Assignment, Bill of Sale, and Agreement dated April 10, 1990 Wiser assigned its interest in the lease to Defendant Oxford Oil Company.[1] This Assignment was recorded at Guernsey County, Ohio, Official Records, Volume 3, Page 432. Oxford filed its Answer to the Complaint on April 25, 2012.

(¶5} Under the terms of the assignment of the lease, Wiser reserved to "itself all rights below 100 feet to the base of the Clinton sand horizon and the right to produce oil and gas from these sands..." There has never been any oil or gas produced from the formations that Wiser reserved to itself.

(¶6} Forest acquired The Wiser Oil Company in 2004 by purchasing all issued and outstanding capital stock. Wiser subsequently was merged into Forest effective in November 2005. As of November 2005, Forest and Wiser effectively and legally were one entity.

(¶7} Forest was served by certified mail on April 20, 2012. Appellees filed a Motion for Default Judgment against Forest on June 8, 2012. The Trial Court entered default judgment against Forest on July 12, 2012. Wiser was served by publication. Appellees filed a Motion for Default Judgment against Wiser on September 13, 2012. On October 24, 2012, Forest and Wiser filed their Motion for Relief from Judgment and for Leave to File Answer.

(¶8} Forest and Wiser attached to their motion for relief from judgment the affidavit of Cristin C. Bracken who was Senior Counsel for Litigation for Forest. In her affidavit, Ms. Braken stated, "based upon the belief that Forest did not have an ownership interest in the subject lease for real property, the Forest legal department subsequently decided that Forest would not enter an appearance in the Litigation." Furthermore, in an email attached to attorney Bracken's affidavit, attorney Bracken advised senior level land managers in the Forest land department "I can just default on this petition and a judgment will be issued terminating the ...


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