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Erickson v. Morrison

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Guernsey

December 30, 2019

W. RANDAL ERICKSON, ET AL. Plaintiffs-Appellees
v.
PAUL E. MORRISON, ET AL. Defendants-Appellants and SUSAN GEORGE (fka Logan) Defendant-Cross-Appellant

          Appeal from the Guernsey County Court of Common Pleas, case no. 17OG441

         JUDGMENT: REVERSED IN PART, AFFIRMED IN PART, AND REMANDED

          FOR PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES: JOHN P. BRODY WILLIAM J. LEVENDUSKY JANE K. GLEAVES KEGLER, BROWN, HILL RITTER GARY PAUL PRICE CHAD A. FOISSET PRICE LAW FIRM LLC CO-COUNSEL, SUSAN GEORGE, FKA LOGAN

          FOR DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS: GREGORY W. WATTS MATTHEW W. ONEST KRUGLIAK, WILKINS, GRIFFITHS & DOUGHERTY CO., L.P.A. NELSON E. GENSHAFT ANTHONY C. CHAMBERS STRIP, HOPPERS, LEITHART ET AL. CO-COUNSEL FOR SUSAN GEORGE, FKA LOGAN

          Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. William B. Hoffman, J. Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, J.

          OPINION

          Delaney, J.

         {¶1} Appellants Paul E. Morrison and Vesta G. Morrison (the "Morrisons") appeal from the April 17, 2019 Findings of Fact/Conclusions of Law/Judgment Entry of the Guernsey County Court of Common Pleas. Appellees are W. Randal Erickson, Kathleen E. Erickson, and Sally Tonning (the "Ericksons"). Defendant/Cross-appellant Susan George ("George") appeals from the same judgment.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         {¶2} This case arose from disputed ownership of mineral rights related to approximately 139 acres of real property in Washington Township, Guernsey County, Ohio.

         Logan's creation of the Reservation

         {¶3} On February 26, 1926, James T. Logan and Rose L. Logan, husband and wife, executed a warranty deed transferring the surface rights of the real estate to Richard Riggs and Alta Riggs. The deed contained the following reservation of the mineral rights (the "Reservation"):

Excepting and reserving therefrom all coal, gas, and oil with the right of first parties, their heirs and assigns, at any time to drill and operate for oil and gas and to mine all coal with further right to build and maintain reservoirs, pipe lines, and the use of reasonable necessary roads; the said first parties their heirs and assigns, being liable and required to pay all taxes assessed against their said property and any damages caused to growing crops by any of such operations. All such operations for coal shall be outside of and leave one acre of solid coal under the dwelling house and under the barn and no drilling for oil or gas shall be within one hundred yards of the said dwelling house, barn, and other buildings located on said farm.

         {¶4} On February 25, 1941, Logan sold the mineral rights to C.L. Ogle through execution of a Mineral Deed which described the oil and gas rights as follows:

James T. Logan, a widower and not remarried, transferred to C.L. Ogle, his heirs and assigns, the following in pertinent part:
This conveyance is intended to convey all of the interest of the Grantor herein, which consists of certain reservations in that certain deed executed on the 26th day of February 1926, from James T. Logan (the grantor herein) and Rose L. Logan (his then wife) to Edward Riggs and Alta Riggs.
The said reservations conveyed herein consist of all coal, gas, and oil, with the right of the said grantors James T. Logan and Rose L. Logan, their heirs and assigns, at any time to drill and operate for oil and gas, and to mine all coal with the further right to build and maintain reservoir pipe lines and the use of reasonably necessary roads, said grantors, their heirs and assigns being liable and required to pay all taxes assessed against the said property, and any damage caused to growing crops by any such operations. All Such Operations for coal shall be outside of and leave one acre of solid coal under the dwelling house and under the barn, and no drilling for oil or gas shall be within one Hundred (100) yards of said dwelling house, barn, and other buildings located on said farm. * * * *.

         {¶5} The Ericksons of the instant case are the heirs of C.L. Ogle. The "Logan Defendants" referenced throughout the opinion, including cross-appellant Susan George fka Logan, are the heirs of James T. Logan.

         {¶6} Title to the surface rights of the real property was conveyed or transferred through estate or intestacy recorded documents. Each recorded instrument contains the Reservation, supra, reproduced in its entirety.

         The Morrisons' deeds contain the Reservation

         {¶7} By warranty deed dated April 26, 1978, filed for record May 1, 1978, the Morrisons took title to the surface rights. The warranty deed contains the Reservation in its entirety.

         {¶8} The Morrisons executed a survivorship deed on June 2, 1983, filed for record on June 16, 1983, conveying the surface rights of the property to themselves in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship. The survivorship deed contains the Reservation in its entirety.

         {¶9} The Morrisons executed a quitclaim deed on May 8, 1998, filed for record on May 12, 1998, conveying the surface rights to the Paul E. Morrison Trust, of which Paul E. and Vesta G. Morrison are both trustees. The trust deed contains the Reservation in its entirety.

         The 2015 litigation: Logans' interest extinguished

         {¶10} On April 9, 2015, the Morrisons brought an action in the Guernsey County Court of Common Pleas styled Paul E. Morrison et al. v. Marjorie A. Logan et al. against the Logan Defendants, [1] arguing the Morrisons own both the real estate and the minerals pursuant to the 1989 version of the Ohio Dormant Mineral ...


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