Just yesterday, the Ohio Supreme Court finally answered a question which had been making its way through the Ohio Court System — does the Ohio Marketable Title Act apply to severed mineral interests? Well, the Ohio Supreme Court answered in the affirmative. Ever since the Ohio Supreme Court decided in 2016 that the previous version of the Ohio Dormant Mineral Act did not automatically abandon unused severed mineral interests, surface owners and mineral owners have duked it out in court on whether the Ohio Marketable Title Act would have extinguished similarly unused severed mineral interests.
Before the Supreme Court issued its decision yesterday in West v. Bode, both the Seventh and Fifth District Courts of Appeals held that the Ohio Marketable Title applies independent and addition to the Ohio Dormant Mineral Act. While the Ohio Supreme Court appeared to have agreed with those decisions in its prior decision in Blackstone v. Moore, the West case allowed the Court to once and for all settle this question.
In an opinion written by Justice Judith French, the Ohio Supreme Court held that the Ohio Marketable Title still applies to severed mineral interests. The Court determined that (1) there was not an “irreconcilable conflict between the Dormant Mineral Act and the Marketable Title Act”, (2) that the Ohio General Assembly intended for both statutes to apply to severed mineral interests, and (3) the statutes provide “independent, alternative statutory mechanisms that may be used to reunite severed mineral interests with the surface property subject to those interests.”
As to the claim there was a conflict between the statutes because the statutes have different mechanisms, the Court saw no problem with applying both statutes independent of one another: “[b]ut the fact that the two acts operate differently, toward different ends, does not mean that they are irreconcilably in conflict. Indeed, it suggests the contrary.”
Based on the West decision, surface owners may use both statutes, “either of which may be used to effect the termination of a severed mineral interest, depending on the circumstances of the case and the time that has elapsed.”
The West v. Bode (Slip Opinion) can be found at: https://supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/0/2020/2020-ohio-5473.pdf
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.