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Title transactions Limited to County Where Land Located for MTA Analysis

02.25.21 written by

In Lucas v. Whyte, 2021-Ohio-222, the Seventh District Court of Appeals was tasked with determining if various title transactions could act to preserve a severed mineral interest under the Marketable Title Act.

Ohio Rev. Code § 5301.49(D) provides that record marketable title is subject to “[a]ny interest arising out of a title transaction which has been recorded subsequent to the effective date of the root of title from which the unbroken chain of title or record is started; provided that such recording shall not revive or give validity to any interest which has been extinguished prior to the time of the recording by the operation of section 5301.50 of the Revised Code.”

In this case, the operative root of title to Monroe County property was a 1966 deed, and therefore the 40-year review period was 1966—2006.

The Appellants (heirs to the severed mineral interest holders) alleged five title transactions that prevented the mineral interest from being extinguished: Three probate filings: (1) the estate of Donald F. Miller recorded on July 5, 1989, in Belmont County; (2) the estate of June Ann Miller recorded on December 21, 1999, in Belmont County; and (3) the death of Nancy Ruth Trigg on June 17, 1986; and two memorandums of the lease, one between appellant Ruth Trigg Campbell and Gulfport Energy Corporation and the other between appellant John Darby Miller and Gulfport Energy Corporation, both recorded on May 17, 2017, in Monroe County.

As the record did not contain any filings related to the estate of Nancy Ruth Trigg, this event did not preserve the appellants’ interest.  The court acknowledged that a probate filing in Monroe County would qualify as a title transaction, however, there was no evidence that any document related to the two Belmont County estates was recorded in Monroe County.

The MTA is meant to facilitate and simplify land-title transactions by permitting a person to rely on the recording chain of title. R.C. 5301.55. The purpose of the MTA is “to extinguish interests and claims in the land that existed prior to the root of title with ‘the legislative purpose of simplifying and facilitating land title transactions by allowing persons to rely on a record chain of title.’ ” Corban v. Chesapeake Expl., L.L.C., 149 Ohio St.3d 512, 2016-Ohio-5796, 76 N.E.3d 1089, ¶ 17, quoting R.C. 5301.55.

Interpreting the legislative purpose of the MTA, the statutes, and the case law together, the court held it becomes clear that a title transaction must be recorded in the county where the real property is located in order for the R.C. 5301.49(D) exception to apply. Such an interpretation is also practical because someone conducting a search for the recording chain of title for a particular property in a particular county would not be put on notice that there may have been a will filed in probate court in another county, or even another state, that could affect title to the subject property. Without notice in the county in which the property is located, a title examiner would struggle with where to search for possible title transactions affecting the recording chain of title.

Since nothing related to the two Belmont County estates was filed in Monroe County, the court held the exception in 5301.49(D) did not apply.

Further, with respect to the recorded memorandum of leases, the court held that these also failed to satisfy the exception because they were recorded in 2017, approximately 51 years after the appellee’s root of title. Thus, these oil and gas leases were filed after the 40-year look-back period of R.C. 5301.48 (and could not revive the interest). 

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