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11th District upholds Automatic Abandonment under the 1989 DMA as Constitutional

12.30.14 written by

In Thompson, et al. v. Custer, et al., Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty oil and gas attorneys, Gregory W. Watts, and Matthew W. Onest, and William G. Williams, successfully defended landowners in a lawsuit involving the 1989 Ohio Dormant Mineral Act (O.R.C. § 5301.56). In 2013, several individuals claiming to be heirs of a previously severed mineral interest created in 1950, sued the current surface owners of the real property. The surface owners defended the litigation, asserting that the 1989 Ohio Dormant Mineral Act precluded relief for the plaintiffs because the interest had remained dormant from 1950 until 2012, was legally abandoned, and had reverted to the surface estate. The Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas granted summary judgment in favor of the surface owners, finding that the severed mineral interest had been abandoned under the 1989 Ohio Dormant Mineral Act.

The Eleventh District Court of Appeals, in a unanimous decision, held that the plain language of the 1989 Ohio Dormant Mineral Act provided for automatic abandonment of severed mineral interests which were not subject to any savings event and automatically vested with the surface estate without requiring any affirmative act by the surface owner. The Eleventh District found the 1989 Dormant Mineral Act operated prospectively through the use of a three-year grace period (from March 22, 1989, until March 22, 1992), and therefore, held the Act was not an unlawful retroactive statute and thus, complied with Article II, Section 28 of the Ohio Constitution.

This case is significant because it involves the third Ohio appellate court, joining the Fifth District Court of Appeals and the Seventh District Court of Appeals, to decide that the 1989 Ohio Dormant Mineral Act is an automatic abandonment statute, imposed no obligation on surface owners, and complies with the Ohio Constitution.

Thompson, et al. v. Custer, et al., 11th Dist. Trumbull No. 2014-T-0052, 2014-Ohio-5711 (Dec. 29, 2014)

NOTE: This general summary of the law should not be used to solve individual problems since slight changes in the fact situation may require a material variance in the applicable legal advice.

If you have any questions concerning this client alert, please contact Attorney Gregory W. Watts or Attorney Matthew W. Onest at 330-497-0700.