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Winland v. Christman

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Monroe

June 14, 2019

TIMOTHY L. WINLAND, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JOHN L. CHRISTMAN ET AL., Defendants-Appellants.

          Civil Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas of Monroe County, Ohio Case No. 2016-080

          Timothy Pettorini, Atty. J. Fraifogl, Atty. J. McNab, Roetzel & Andress, LPA, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

          Charles Bean, Thornburg & Bean, for Appellants-Defendants.

          BEFORE: Gene Donofrio, Cheryl L. Waite, David A. D'Apolito, Judges.

          OPINION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

          DONOFRIO, J.

         {¶1} Defendants-appellants, John Christman, Katherine Haselberger, and Charlotte McCoy, appeal from a Monroe County Common Pleas Court judgment granting summary judgment in favor of plaintiff-appellee, Timothy Winland, on his claim to quiet title to certain oil and gas rights.

         {¶2} In 1994, appellee purchased 39.542 acres of land in Monroe County (the Property). In 2000, an oil and gas developer approached appellee about developing the oil and gas underlying the Property. The developer informed appellee that the oil and gas rights underlying the Property had previously been reserved by three individuals through three deeds: Edith Scarborough (by deed executed November 4, 1911); Bentley Scarborough (by deed dated April 15, 1916); and Watson Scarborough (by deed dated April 15, 1916).

         {¶3} Consequently, appellee retained an attorney to conduct a title examination. He then filed a quiet title action (ODMA lawsuit) against the three Scarboroughs seeking a declaration that their interests were either abandoned pursuant to Ohio's Dormant Mineral Act in effect at the time (the 1989 ODMA)[1] or had been extinguished pursuant to the Marketable Title Act. Because appellee was unable to locate any of the three Scarboroughs or their heirs or assigns, he served them by publication in the local newspaper.

         {¶4} No one responded to the publication. Hence, on February 22, 2001, the trial court issued a judgment declaring that the three named Scarboroughs' previously-reserved interests were abandoned and had vested in appellee, or in the alternative were extinguished (the 2001 Judgment). The court quieted title to the oil and gas (including royalties) underlying the Property against any claims by the three named Scarboroughs, their heirs, or assigns.

         {¶5} In 2012, the developer informed appellee that the Property might be subject to another reservation of a two-fifths interest in the oil and gas underlying the Property in favor of Harlan Scarborough and Maggie Fogle. Thus, appellee filed another action to quiet title. He served Harlan and Maggie and their heirs and successors by publication.

         {¶6} Appellants then came forward as the successors in interest, but not as successors of Harlan and Maggie. Instead, appellants claimed to be the successors in interest to Watson and Bentley. They claimed a royalty interest in the production of oil and gas from the Property.

         {¶7} Appellants traced their alleged interest back to 1884, when the Property, along with other adjoining property (collectively known as the Scarborough Tract), was conveyed to William Scarborough. When William died in 1899, his interest in the Scarborough Tract passed to five heirs in equal parts. Those heirs were Maggie Fogle, Harlan Scarborough, Edith Scarborough, Watson Scarborough, and Bentley Scarborough.

         {¶8} The Scarborough Tract was subsequently subject to several mineral reservations.

         {¶9} On October 17, 1908, Harlan and Maggie conveyed their two-fifths interest in the Scarborough Tract to John Umpleby as the guardian of Watson and Bentley Scarborough. But Harlan and Maggie reserved their right to the oil and gas underlying the Scarborough Tract.

         {¶10} On November 4, 1911, Edith conveyed her one-fifth interest in the Scarborough Tract to Umpleby as the guardian of Watson and Bentley. Edith reserved her one-fifth share of all royalties resulting from oil and gas production.

         {¶11} On February 28, 1916, Watson sued Bentley and his guardian, seeking a sale of Bentley's interest in the Scarborough Tract with the exception of the oil and gas rights. At that time, Watson and Bentley each owned one-half of the surface and a one-fifth interest in the oil and gas. Maggie, Harlan, and Edith were not parties to the lawsuit even though Maggie and Harlan still owned a one-fifth interest in the oil and gas and Edith still owned a one-fifth royalty interest in the oil and gas underlying the Scarborough Tract.

         {¶12} On April 15, 1916, the sheriff executed a sheriffs deed conveying Bentley's and his guardian's interest to Watson except for "all the oil and gas in and underlying said premises, and also all rights and privileges now held by the Pure Oil Company, by a certain oil and gas lease[.]" Consequently, Bentley retained a one-fifth interest in the oil and gas. Watson then owned the entire surface of the Scarborough Tract and his one-fifth interest in the oil and gas.

         {¶13} On April 15, 1916, Watson conveyed the Scarborough Tract to A.H. Anderson, subject to the reservation of his interest in the oil and gas.

         {¶14} On April 13, 1931, Bentley assigned his interest in the Pure Oil Company lease to Watson for the term of the lease.

         {¶15} After Bentley's assignment, in 1931, title to the oil and gas underlying the Scarborough Tract was owned as follows. Maggie, Harlan, Watson, and Bentley each owned an undivided interest in the oil and gas. And Edith owned a one-fifth interest in royalties from the production of oil and gas.

         {¶16} On Mach 31, 1944, the Monroe County Common Pleas Court issued a judgment confirming the forfeiture of certain oil and gas royalty interests, including the interest of the Scarborough Heirs for delinquent taxes. On July 13, 1944, pursuant to that judgment entry, the Monroe County Auditor executed an auditor's deed (the Auditor's Deed) conveying the following one-eighth royalty interest to Nova Christman (Christman Royalty Interest):

[T]he 1/8 or all the royalty in oil and gas in the name of Scarborough Heirs, under 70.70 (acres), Range 6, Township 4, Section 17 pt ne, former W.T. [sic] Scarborough Heirs farm now in the name of Martin L. Devore, listed by the Pure Oil Company. Any oil or gas lines to credit of same. Reservations for oil and gas - Monroe County Deed Records, Volume 83, Pages 542 and 543.

         {¶17} The Auditor's Deed refers to "Monroe County Records, Volume 83, Pages 542 and 543." These references are to the instruments that originally severed the above Christman Royalty Interest. Volume 83, Page 542 reserved a one-fifth interest for Bentley and Volume 83, Page 543 reserved a one-fifth interest for Watson.

         {¶18} Nova Christman died on May 3, 1992. His estate did not issue a certificate of transfer until March 26, 2007. All of Nova's interest (the Christman Royalty Interest) passed equally to his three heirs - the three appellants.

         {¶19} On April 12, 2013, after appellee's notice of publication in the quiet title action against Maggie and Harlan, appellants filed a preservation claim under the 2006 ODMA. Appellants claimed a right to ...


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