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Schucht v. Bedway Land and Minerals Co.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Harrison

March 30, 2017

CHARLES J. SCHUCHT, et al., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS/ CROSS-APPELLEES
v.
BEDWAY LAND AND MINERALS COMPANY, et al., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES/ CROSS-APPELLANTS.

         Civil Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas of Harrison County, Ohio Case No. CVH 2012-0010 Affirmed in part, Reversed in part and Remanded.

          For Plaintiffs-Appellants/ Atty. James F. Mathews Cross-Appellees Atty. Robert J. Tscholl Baker, Dublikar, Beck

          For Defendants-Appellees/ Atty. T. Owen Beetham Thomas A. Hill Clay K. Keller Alex Quay Jackson Michael Altvater Babst Calland, Clements & Zomnir, P.C. Matthew L. Fornshell Nicole R. Woods

          Hon. Carol Ann Robb Hon. Gene Donofrio Hon. Mary DeGenaro

          OPINION

          ROBB, P.J.

         {¶1} Plaintiffs-Appellants/Cross-Appellees Charles J. Schucht, Teresa E. Schucht, and Wilma Schucht appeal the decision of Harrison County Common Pleas Court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants-Appellees/Cross-Appellants Bedway Land and Minerals Company ("Bedway Land"), Eric Petroleum Corp. ("Eric Petroleum"), and Chesapeake Exploration, LLC ("Chesapeake"). Appellees/Cross-Appellants have filed separate cross assignments of error.

         {¶2} In this case, Appellants/Cross-Appellees are the surface owners and Appellees/Cross-Appellants are the alleged mineral holders. Appellants/Cross-Appellees attempted to have the mineral rights, which previously were severed, deemed abandoned and reunited with the surface estate. Appellants/Cross-Appellees attempted to solely use the 1989 version of the Ohio Dormant Mineral Act (ODMA) to accomplish that goal. Appellants/Cross-Appellees admittedly did not proceed under the 2006 version of the ODMA.

         {¶3} For the reasons expressed below, the trial court's decision is affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

         Statement of Case and Facts

         {¶4} Appellants/Cross-Appellees own approximately 526.7885 acres in Shortcreek Township, Harrison County, Ohio. They acquired the surface estate in the mid-1990s.

         {¶5} The mineral rights were severed from the surface estate. Bedway Land acquired the mineral rights underlying Appellants/Cross-Appellees' property in 1984 by a quitclaim deed recorded on December 28, 1984. This interest was acquired from William W. Wehr who purchased the mineral rights in 1966 from Kehota Mining Company.

         {¶6} Chesapeake and Eric Petroleum claim to hold an interest in the mineral rights through an oil and gas lease.

         {¶7} In an attempt to have the mineral rights reunited with the surface estate, Appellants filed a declaratory judgment and quiet title complaint seeking a declaration from the trial court that under the 1989 version of the ODMA the mineral rights in the property are abandoned and, as such, vested back to the surface. 2/9/12 Complaint; 1/3/14 First Amended Complaint; 1/17/14 Second Amended Complaint.

         {¶8} All defendants filed answers. 4/17/12 Chesapeake's Answer; 4/17/12 Eric Petroleum's Answer; 8/23/13 Bedway Land's Answer; 12/12/13 Eric Petroleum's Amended Answer; 1/17/14 Bedway Land's Answer to Amended Complaint; 1/28/14 Bedway Land's Answer to Second Amended Complaint; 2/4/14 Chesapeake's Answer to Second Amended Complaint; 2/5/14 Eric Petroleum's Answer to Second Amended Complaint.

         {¶9} All parties filed summary judgment motions. 1/2/14 Bedway Land's Motion for Summary Judgment; 1/3/14 Chesapeake's Motion for Summary Judgment; 1/3/14 Eric Petroleum's Motion for Summary Judgment; 1/8/14 Bedway Land's Motion for Summary Judgment; 3/12/14 Appellants/Cross-Appellees' Motion for Summary Judgment; 3/26/14 Bedway Land's Motion in Opposition to Appellants/Cross-Appellees' Motion for Summary Judgment; 3/26/14 Chesapeake's Motion in Opposition to Appellants/Cross-Appellees' Motion for Summary Judgment; 3/26/14 Eric Petroleum's Motion in Opposition to Appellants/Cross-Appellees' Motion for Summary Judgment; 3/26/14 Appellants/Cross-Appellees' Motion in Opposition to the Defendants' Summary Judgment Motions; 4/1/14 Bedway Land's Reply in Support of Summary Judgment; 4/2/14 Appellants/Cross-Appellees' Reply in Support of Summary Judgment; 4/2/14 Eric Petroleum's Reply; 4/2/14 Chesapeake's Reply; 4/7/14 Appellants' Reply. Appellees/Cross-Appellants argued the mineral rights were not abandoned under either the 1989 or 2006 version of the ODMA. Appellants/Cross-Appellees asserted the mineral rights were abandoned under the 1989 version of the Act and there was no need to apply the 2006 Act. They admitted if the 2006 version of the Act is applicable then they have not followed the procedures under that Act for the mineral interest rights to be deemed abandoned.

         {¶10} On April 21, 2014 the trial court ruled on the summary judgment motions. The trial court found the 1989 version of the ODMA was constitutional. It found both the 1989 and 2006 versions were applicable; however, if the mineral interest rights vested pursuant to the 1989 Act, then any review under the 2006 version became moot. The trial court then found under the 1989 Act the 20 year look back period is a rolling look back. In applying this rolling look back, the trial court found the 1984 quitclaim deed qualified as a title transaction and savings event. It also found leases prior to and after the quitclaim deed qualified as title transactions and savings events. It then concluded there was no 20 year period where a savings event did not occur; under the 1989 Act the interest were not abandoned. As to the 2006 Act, the court indicated the surface owners had not pursued their claims by following the requirements under that Act. Therefore, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellees/Cross-Appellants and against Appellants/Cross-Appellees. 4/21/14 J.E.

         {¶11} Appellants/Cross-Appellees timely appealed the decision. Appellees/Cross-Appellants, individually, filed cross assignments of error.

         Appellee/Cross-Appellant Bedway Land's ...


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