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Lower Valley Farm, LLC v. Croskey

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Harrison

March 28, 2018

LOWER VALLEY FARM, LLC, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JOHN WILLIAM CROSKEY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.

          Civil Appeal from Court of Common Pleas of Harrison County, Ohio Case No. CVH-2015-0006

          For Plaintiff-Appellant: Attorney Gregory W. Watts Attorney Matthew W. Onest Attorney David E. Butz, Ohio 44735-6963

          For Defendants-Appellees: Attorney R. Jeffrey Pollock Attorney Erin K. Walsh, Attorney A. Jenna Hokes, Attorney Marquette D. Evans, Attorney Michael C. Bednar.

          Hon. Gene Donofrio, Hon. Cheryl L. Waite, Hon. Carol Ann Robb.

          OPINION

          DONOFRIO, J.

         {¶1} Plaintiff-appellant, Lower Valley Farm, L.L.C., appeals from a Harrison County Common Pleas Court judgment denying its motion to enforce a settlement agreement and another judgment granting summary judgment in favor of defendants-appellees, George and Marilyn Monzula, on Lower Valley's complaint for declaratory judgment and to quiet title as to certain oil and gas rights.

         {¶2} This case involves the oil and gas rights underlying 51.5 acres of property located in the Section 16 Property in Harrison County. Appellees George and Marilyn Monzula are the surface owners of these 51.5 acres (the Monzula Property).

         {¶3} Prior to 1962, the Pittsburgh Consolidation Coal Company owned the surface of the Section 16 Property and the surface plus 1/3 of the oil and gas rights underlying the Section 22 Property. The remaining oil and gas was subject to three different deeds. The first deed was from Samuel and Blanche Porter conveying a 1/3 interest in the Section 16 Property and the Section 22 Property, in which they reserved all of the oil and gas underlying the conveyed property (Porter Deed). The second deed was from Emma Croskey conveying a 1/3 interest in the Section 16 Property and the Section 22 Property, in which she reserved all of the oil and gas underlying the conveyed property (Croskey Deed). The third deed was from Eliza Mae Corbley conveying a 1/3 interest in the Section 16 Property, in which she reserved all of the oil and gas underlying the conveyed property (Corbley Deed). There was also a deed from Eliza Mae and William Corbley, without any reservation of oil and gas, conveying a 1/3 interest in the Section 22 Property.

         {¶4} In 1962, Consolidation Coal Company (Consol), successor in interest to the Pittsburgh Consolidation Coal Company, sold the surface rights of the Section 16 Property and the Section 22 Property to Edward Seleski (Consolidation Deed). Consol reserved all oil and gas rights that it had, which was the 1/3 interest underlying the Section 22 Property.

         {¶5} Seleski died on February 25, 1999. In 2001, Consol conveyed its 1/3 interest in the oil and gas rights underlying the Section 22 Property to Seleski's Estate (the Seleski Estate). The Seleski Estate then conveyed the Section 16 Property and the Section 22 Property to Michael and Cheryl Wilt (Wilt Deed). That deed contained the following language:

It is the purpose and intent of the Grantor to sell, bargain and convey to the Grantees herein all its right, title and interest in and to the subject premises, which it owns by virtue of instruments recorded in Deed Volume 148 Page 356 and Deed Volume 148 page 417, and Deed Volume 161 Page 682, records of Harrison Co., Ohio, TOGETHER WITH certain rights acquired by the Grantor by instrument recorded in Official Record Volume Page, Records of Harrison Co., Ohio. The rights conveyed to the Grantor herein in the instrument in Official Record Volume Page and being conveyed in this instrument are only those pertaining to the surface of the subject premises. All other rights not pertaining to surface mining and acquired by the Grantor in the instrument recorded in Official Record Volume Page are specifically excepted and reserved to the Grantor, its successors, assigns and beneficiaries. The purpose and intent of this transfer is to permit the usage of the surface for mining related purposes with the consent of the Grantees herein.

         However, it is the intent of the grantor to convey all coal, minerals and mining rights to the premises that Edward L. Seleski owned at the time of his death. (Brief in opposition to Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment, Ex. E).

         {¶6} On December 11, 2001, the Seleski Estate conveyed its 1/3 interest in the oil and gas rights underlying the Section 22 Property to Lower Valley's predecessor in interest. By deed dated October 25, 2013, that 1/3 interest in the oil and gas underlying the Section 22 Property was conveyed to Lower Valley. That 1/3 interest is not at issue in this appeal.

         {¶7} On December 23, 2010, John Croskey filed an Affidavit Preserving Minerals to preserve the oil and gas underlying the Section 16 Property and the Section 22 Property (Croskey Affidavit) on his behalf as well as on ...


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