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Williams v. Stillion

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Monroe

February 27, 2017

JON WILLIAMS, et al. PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES
v.
RONNIE RAY STILLION, Trustee of the Charles R. Stillion Family Trust DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

         Civil Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County, Ohio Case No. 2013-273

          For Plaintiff-Appellee, Jon Williams, et al. Attorney Craig Sweeney Attorney Richard Yoss.

          For Plaintiff-Appellee, State of Ohio ex re. Ohio Attorney General Michael DeWine Attorney Gerald Dailey Attorney Jennifer Barrett Assistant Attorneys General.

          For Defendant-Appellant Attorney Richard Zurz, Jr.

          JUDGES: Hon. Mary DeGenaro, Hon. Gene Donofrio, Hon. Cheryl L. Waite

          OPINION

          DeGENARO, J.

         {¶1} Defendant-Appellant, Ronnie Ray Stillion, Trustee of the Charles R. Stillion Trust, appeals the trial court's decision to apply the 1989 version of R.C. 5301.56, Ohio's Dormant Mineral Act, thereby granting summary judgment and quieting title to the severed mineral interest in Plaintiffs-Appellees, Jon Williams, et al.

         {¶2} For the following reasons, it was error for the trial court to resolve this action by applying the 1989 version of the DMA as the Ohio Supreme Court has recently held that the 2006 version controls resolution of disputes over severed mineral interests. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is reversed, and the case remanded in order for the trial court to apply in the first instance, the 2006 version of R.C. 5301.56, pursuant to the Ohio Supreme Court's recent rulings regarding the ODMA, including, inter alia, Corban v. Chesapeake Exploration, L.L.C., Slip Opinion No. 2016-Ohio-5796 (Sept. 15, 2016).

         Facts and Procedural History

         {¶3} Appellees are the surface owners of certain real property in Monroe County. On June 28, 2013, Appellees filed a complaint against Stillion, alleging that a three-fourths mineral interest in that real property-which previously had been severed from the surface interest-had been automatically forfeited to and vested in Appellees as of March 22, 1992, by operation of the 1989 version of the DMA, R.C. 5301.56.

         {¶4} Stillion filed an original and amended answer and counterclaim asserting that the trust was the present owner in fee simple of the mineral interest, and that the 1989 DMA violated Ohio's Constitution. The Ohio Attorney General intervened to defend the constitutionality of the 1989 DMA and eventually sought summary judgment asserting that the 1989 DMA is a self-executing statute that complies with Ohio's Constitution.

         {¶5} Appellees and Stillion then filed cross-motions for summary judgment. One of the disputed issues during summary judgment proceedings was whether the 1989 or the 2006 version of the DMA controlled.

         {¶6} On July 1, 2014, the trial court granted Appellees' motion for summary judgment and denied Stillion's; in so doing, the trial court applied the 1989 DMA only. Based upon the findings and holdings contained in that entry, the trial court found it unnecessary to rule on the Attorney General's motion for summary judgment. Finally, the trial court's entry is devoid of any consideration or analysis of law or facts relative to the 2006 DMA.

         {¶7} This appeal had been stayed on December 13, 2014 pending the Ohio Supreme Court's decision in multiple cases regarding, inter alia, whether the 1989 or the 2006 version of R.C. 5301.56, the ODMA, controls the resolution of disputed claims to severed minerals ...


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