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Richards v. Hilligas

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Harrison

June 12, 2017

VIKKI RICHARDS, et al. PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES
v.
RALPH EUGENE HILLIGAS, et al. DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES

         Civil Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas of Harrison County, Ohio Case No. CVH 2011-0105

          For Lower Valley Farm, LLC: Atty. David E. Butz Atty. Gregory W. Watts Atty. Matthew W. Onest Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co., L.P.A.

          For Vikki Richards, et al.: Atty. Peter A. Lusenhop Atty. Gregory D. Russell Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease, LLP Atty. Steven A. Chang Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease, LLP

          For Ralph Hilligas, et al.: Atty. Mark Beetham

          Hon. Cheryl L. Waite Hon. Gene Donofrio Hon. Mary DeGenaro

          OPINION

          WAITE, J.

         {¶1} Appellant Lower Valley Farm, L.L.C. ("Lower Valley") appeals the January 3, 2014 decision of the Harrison County Common Pleas Court to deny its motion to intervene. The motion to intervene stems from an action regarding the ownership of mineral interests between Co-Appellees Vikki Richards and Timothy Maloney and Co-Appellees Ralph Eugene Hilligas, Beth Newberry Backus, Kay J. Schlafer, Jill D. Dickerson, Wilma Matusik, Church Builders Plus Inc., Anderson University, Church of God Ministries Inc., and Park Place Church of God Inc. (collectively referred to as "Appellees"). Lower Valley argues that it should have been permitted to intervene because it holds an interest in the minerals and no other party to the underlying action can adequately protect that interest. For the reasons that follow, Lower Valley's arguments have merit and the judgment of the trial court is reversed. The matter is remanded to the trial court with instructions to grant Lower Valley's motion to intervene in the underlying action.

         Factual and Procedural History

         {¶2} On February 1, 1923, George A. and Lorain Hilligas conveyed the surface rights to property located in Shortcreek Township, Harrison County to Kehota Mining Co. This appeal concerns 83 acres of that property. The Hilligases reserved the mineral interests in the land through the following language:

EXCEPTING AND RESERVING unto said Grantors, the heirs and assigns, all the oil and gas within and under said above described premises with the right of removing same, together with all rights and privileges necessary for drilling and operating on said premises for the purpose of removing and marketing said oil and gas.

(2/1/1923 Deed.) The deed was recorded on May 29, 1923. Sometime thereafter, Lorain Hilligas died and her one-half interest transferred as follows: one-third to her surviving husband, George; one-third to her son, Paul Hilligas; and one-third to her daughter, Agnes Newberry.

         {¶3} On August 31, 1967, Paul died. His interest was transferred to his surviving spouse, Co-Appellee Wilma Matusik. Agnes died sometime thereafter and her interest was transferred to her husband, Gene A. Newberry. On Gene's death, the interest was transferred to the Hilligas heirs: Jill D. Dickerson, Kay J. Schlafer, Beth Newberry Backus, Church Builders Plus, Inc., Anderson University, Church of God Ministries, Inc., and Park Place Church of God, Inc. Each heir except for the religious institutions received a one-eighth interest. The various religious institutions split a one-eighth interest.

         {¶4} On July 25, 2001, Edward L. Seleski obtained the surface rights to the property. This deed was recorded on August 20, 2001. On August 6, 2001, the Estate of Edward Seleski transferred the surface rights to Michael H. and Cheryl A. Wilt. Their deed was recorded on August 20, 2001. On December 11, 2001, the Estate of Edward Seleski recorded a deed which transferred a one-half interest in the minerals to a group of Seleski heirs. On the same date, the estate conveyed a one-half interest to the remaining Seleski heirs in a separate deed. The Wilts later conveyed the property to Co-Appellees Richards and Maloney through three separate deeds recorded May 26, 2006, July 20, 2005, and May 24, 2004. The deeds included the Hilligas reservation and an apparent reservation by the Seleski heirs.

         {¶5} On October 19, 2011, Richards and Maloney filed a complaint seeking quiet title or, alternatively, partition against the Hilligas heirs (Ralph Eugene Hilligas, Beth Newberry Backus, Kay Schlafer, and Jill Dickerson). The trial court later ordered Richards and Maloney to add the following Hilligas heirs as codefendants: Wilma Matusik, Church Builders Plus Inc., Anderson University, Church of God Ministries Inc., and Park Place Church of God. On June 14, 2012, Richards and Maloney filed an amended complaint to include ...


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