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Ford v. Baska

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Harrison

June 19, 2017

RODNEY L. FORD, et al., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS
v.
NANCY BASKA [SIC, BAKSA], et al., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES

         Civil Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas of Harrison County, Ohio Case No. CVH-2015-0037.

          For Plaintiffs-Appellants: Rodney L. Ford & Jeanne E. Ford Atty. Joshua E. O'Farrell Atty. Brandon O. Trent Tzangas, Plakas, Mannos, Ltd.

          For Defendants-Appellees: Walter W. Graham, Rhonda M. Miller, Sherri Myers, Cathy Swiger, John Does 1 [sic], and John Does 2 [sic] Atty. T. Owen Beetham

          JUDGES: Hon. Cheryl L. Waite Hon. Gene Donofrio Hon. Carol Ann Robb

          OPINION

          WAITE, J.

         {¶1} Rodney L. and Jeanne E. Ford (collectively referred to as "Appellants") appeal a November 9, 2015 Harrison County Common Pleas Court decision to grant Appellees' Walter W. Graham, Rhonda M. Miller, Sherri Myers, Cathy Swiger, John Does 1 [sic], and John Does 2 [sic] (collectively referred to as "Appellees") motion to dismiss the complaint in this dispute regarding the ownership of mineral rights. Appellants argue that the trial court erroneously dismissed their complaint, because they were bona fide purchasers of both the surface and mineral interests of the subject property. For the reasons that follow, Appellants' arguments are without merit and the trial court's decision is affirmed.

         Factual and Procedural History

         {¶2} This appeal concerns the ownership of minerals located beneath 7.4 acres of land located in German Township, Harrison County. On December 15, 2002, the owner of the subject property, Hilda C. Graham, died. On April 3, 2003, Graham's will was filed in probate court. Pursuant to her will, the surface rights of the property were devised to her daughter, Nancy Baksa. The mineral rights were to be divided among her children as follows: 1/5 to Baksa, 1/5 to Co-Appellee Walter W. Graham, 1/5 to Co-Appellee Mary Jane Cline, 1/5 to Ronald A. Graham, and 1/5 to Co-Appellee Larry E. Graham. On June 20, 2003, the probate court issued a certificate of transfer erroneously listing Baksa as the owner of the property in its entirety.

         {¶3} On October 16, 2007, Baksa conveyed the property to Appellants. The deed stated that it was "[s]ubject however to all easements, restrictions and reservations of record." The deed includes a line stating: "Prior Reference: Volume 139, Page 249 Harrison County Official Records." (Emphasis deleted.) (Deed, p. 2.) The reference refers to the June 20, 2003 probate court certificate of transfer.

         {¶4} On February 5, 2008, Appellees filed an application to reopen the estate. In the application, Appellees requested the certificate of transfer be amended to reflect that only the surface rights of the property were transferred to Baksa. They also requested in their application that a second certificate of transfer be issued to show the transfer of the mineral rights pursuant to the terms of Graham's will. On the same date, the probate court reopened the estate and issued two certificates of transfer. The first certificate of transfer amended the original certificate to reflect that the property was transferred to Baksa, but specifically excluded the mineral rights. The second certificate transferred the mineral interests pursuant to Graham's will. Accordingly, each of Graham's children received a one-fifth interest in the minerals, except for Ronald Graham who appears to have died. His interest was instead split equally among his heirs: 1/15 to Co-Appellee Sherri Myers, 1/15 to Co-Appellee Cathy Swiger, and 1/15 to Co-Appellee Rhonda Miller.

         {¶5} On March 30, 2015, Appellants filed a complaint for breach of warranty deed and seeking declaratory judgment and quiet title against: Baksa, Walter W. Graham, Rhonda Miller, Sherri Myers, Cathy Swiger, John Does 1 [sic], and John Does 2 [sic]. Appellants later voluntarily dismissed Baksa from the action. In lieu of an answer, on June 22, 2015, Appellees filed a motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Civ.R. 12(B)(6). In their motion Appellees argued that Baksa, the sole signer of the October 16, 2007 deed, lacked authority to transfer the entire mineral interest estate because she did not own the minerals. Appellees based their arguments on the Marketable Title Act ("MTA"), which provides that a will filed in probate court is a recorded instrument. Appellants filed a response arguing that they were bona fide purchasers of the property in its entirety. On November 9, 2015, the trial court granted Appellees' motion to dismiss. This timely appeal followed.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR

         WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT IMPROPERLY GRANTED DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES' MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS' RODNEY L. FORD AND JEANNE E. FORD'S COMPLAINT PURSUANT CIV.R. 12(B)(6).

         {¶6} "A Civ.R. 12(B)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted tests only the legal sufficiency of the complaint." Youngstown Edn. Assn. v. Kimble,2016-Ohio-1481, 63 N.E.3d 649, ¶ 11 (7th Dist.), State ex rel. Hanson v. Guernsey Cty. Bd. of Commrs.,65 Ohio St.3d 545, 548, 605 N.E.2d 378 (1992). When reviewing a Civ.R. 12 (B)(6) motion, "the court must accept the factual allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from these facts in favor of the plaintiff." Kimble, supra, at ¶ 11, citing Mitchell v. Lawson Milk Co.,40 Ohio St.3d 190, 192, 532 N.E.2d 753 (1988). In order to grant a Civ.R. 12(B)(6) motion, "it must appear beyond doubt from the complaint that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts entitling him to recovery." O'Brien v. Univ. Community Tenants Union, Inc.,42 Ohio St.2d 242, 327 N.E.2d 753 (1975), syllabus. However, "[i]f there is a set of facts consistent with the complaint that would allow for recovery, the court must not grant the motion to dismiss." Kimble, supra, at ¶ 11, citing York ...


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