Who owns the mineral rights? The Ohio Supreme Court may decide

CALDWELL, Ohio — A fight over who owns the mineral rights under 42 acres of land in Noble County may be headed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Jon Walker Jr. filed a lawsuit against John R. Noon in 2012 in an attempt to get the mineral rights to the property. Walker owns the surface rights.

Background

According to court records, Noon purchased the property in 1964 and severed the mineral rights from the surface rights when he sold the property in 1965. In 1970, the property changed hands two more times.

Then, in 2009, Walker purchased the property. In December 2011, Walker sent a notice of abandonment of mineral interest to Noon.
But in January 2012, Noon filed an affidavit and laid claim to preserve his mineral interest.

In April 2012, Walked filed a complaint for judgment. He requested the trial court rule that he is the lawful owner of the mineral rights.
Walker claimed in the court records that the mineral rights merged with the surface rights in 1992 by the way of the 1989 Ohio Dormant

Mineral Act

He claimed Noon abandoned his interest in the mineral rights when he failed to stop them from expiring.

Meanwhile, Noon filed a mineral preservation notice with the court in the spring of 2012.

The Noble County Court found that Walker did own the rights and denied Noon’s motion to keep his mineral rights.

Court of Appeals

Noon then filed an appeal with the Seventh District Court of Appeals in April 2013. Noon died after filing the appeal. His daughter, Patricia Shondrick-Nau, was substituted in the case since she is the executor of Noon’s estate.

The issues in the case revolve around the 1989 version of the Ohio Dormant Minerals Act and the 2006 version of the same law. This is the first case to go to court over how the acts intersect and what it means to the surface owner and the mineral rights owner.

The Seventh District Court of Appeals ruled April 3 that Walker does own the mineral rights since Noon reportedly didn’t develop them since 1964.

Ohio Dormant Minerals Act

The Ohio’s Dormant Minerals Act, which is part of the Ohio state law, provides a surface owner with the opportunity to gain title to previously severed mineral rights if those rights have not been “used” during a specific 20-year time period.

The 2006 version of the Ohio Dormant Minerals Act specifically applies to any mineral interest, defined as a “fee interest in at least one mineral regardless of how the interest is created and of the form of the interest, which may be absolute or fractional or divided or undivided.”

The 1989 version of the statute did not define the interests subject to abandonment.

The 1989 version of the Dormant Minerals Act has been described as a “use it or lose it” statute: if the mineral-interest owners did not “use” their mineral interests during a 20-year time period, they automatically vested in the surface owner.

The 2006 version of the Dormant Minerals Act says the surface owner must adhere to a multi-step process to accomplish the merging of the surface and mineral interests. The surface owner must confirm that the oil and gas mineral interests have not been used within the previous 20 years.

Then the surface owner must “serve notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, to each holder or each holder’s successors or assignees, at the last known address of each, of the owner’s intent to declare the mineral interest abandoned.”

If certified mail notice is not possible, the surface owner must publish notice at least once in a newspaper of general circulation in each county in which the land is located.

The surface owner must also confirm that one of the mineral interest holders has not recorded documents within 60 days of service or publication of the notice laying claim to the mineral rights.

Then the surface rights owner must file an affidavit of abandonment in the county recorder’s office between 30 and 60 days after the published notice date.

Ohio Supreme Court

Patricia Shondrick-Nau has appealed the Seventh District Court of Appeals decision to the Ohio Supreme Court, according to her attorney, Matthew Warnock, of Bricker & Eckler, Columbus.

Warnock said it is unknown if the Ohio Supreme Court will hear the case.

Walker’s attorney has 30 days from May 16 to file a memorandum in response to the filing. If Walker files a response, the Ohio Supreme

Court will then take two to four months to decide if it will consider the appeal.

However, Chesapeake Exploration has filed a friend of the court brief, asking for the Supreme Court to look into the case because it will impact so many landowners.

In addition, the federal court in Columbus has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to examine the issues in the case because justices are waiting to make a decision in a separate, unrelated federal case, based on the Ohio court’s decision.

The case is gaining interest because the decision could impact so many landowners since the Seventh District Court of Appeals covers Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Harrison, Jefferson, Mahoning, Monroe and Noble counties, which are all involved in shale exploration.

Decision stands

If the Ohio Supreme Court declines to hear the case, then the mineral rights will be remanded to Walker as was ruled in the Seventh District Court of Appeals.

About the Author

Kristy Foster Seachrist lives in Columbiana County raising sheep and horses. She earned her degree from Youngstown State University and has worked in both print and broadcast journalism. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/fosterk96. More Stories by Kristy Foster Seachrist

21 Comments

  1. Ironfarmer says:

    Land owners pay the taxes for ever and ever and these Johnny come lately’s come around, NUT’S with them I feel it’s just and fair land owners get the rights they usually live on the land and pay the Taxes on it, Justice should not let others rule over them or run all over them period!

    • Loretta Koch says:

      My family has owned mineral rights since 1961, we are hardly ‘Johnny come latleys’

      • Ironfarmer says:

        Yah what U pay a buck an acre and then never payed any land taxes this stupid kinda of stuff should have never been allowed to happen a law should be past at least in Ohio that if U own the land and are paying the taxes all the rights go with it too no matter what and U don’t want to loose the rights don’t sell the land Period!

      • Auggie says:

        And just how much money have you made on them and how much real-estate taxes have you paid? If any, I willing to bet it is a fraction of what the surface owner has paid.

    • cynthia says:

      Our family does not own the land anymore but we do own the mineral rights and we have always paid taxes on that,the land owner should have made sure upon buying his porperty that he owned land and the mineral rights,no we have always paid our share

      • landowner says:

        You haven’t kept up the land and what taxes – you just want to get rich quick. The land owner should have all rights including what is beneath his surface. you didn’t want the land so why should you reap the benefits. The owner wants the land and is taking care of the land, we farm it, grow crops, and feed animals that feed you – so why should we give up our benefits because you think you own something underneath all of this. This law needs to go to the land owners. I am tired of people coming saying my great grand pappy owned this and I want something now.

  2. Ironfarmer says:

    I also feel this 2006 version of the abandonment law was just made up so all these Lawyers could get a big peice of the pie and it’s just messing things up!

  3. bill franklin says:

    Why not make it like coal mining, which seemed to strike a balance between the surface owner and the severed coal owner ?
    The current surface owner would get 1/3rd of the royalties (but no right to lease or to deny or to object to a lease by the oil and gas owner)
    The surface owner would also get 100% of the damages to the surface / crops / timber
    and the oil and gas owner has 100% right to lease and would get 2/3rds of the royalties.
    as for the lease bonus payment, who knows?
    It used to be only a couple of Dollars per acre
    At least for now, it is much much more
    If a landowner wants to retire and sell his farm to someone else (a non-family member, or “stranger”), and keep the oil and gas for himself and his heirs, why should the retiring farmer be forced to deed the oil and gas and all future revenue to the stranger?
    On the other hand, why should the current surface owner get absolutely nothing ?

  4. Auggie says:

    Why does anyone think it is fair that the surface owner should not own the mineral rights. Most of these rights were sold off many years ago for virtually nothing and made the, in most cases, unscrupulous leaser rich. Most of these lease are now held by paying the land owner virtually nothing every month or supplying a small amount of natural gas. They than turn around and sell these leases to big oil companies and receive large signing bonuses. These bonuses should go to the owner of the land not the mineral owner or at least shared by both. The taxes on the land are paid by the surface owners but the benefits all seem to favor the mineral owner. As far as people who want to retain the mineral rights but sell the property, than it should be deeded that way and the taxes should be paid by both them and the surface owner.

    • Ironfarmer says:

      I agree it’s time the little people (land owners) won one for a change instead of some ancient gamblers that ripped off poor hungry beggers for a buck an acre then to get super rich why’ll the land owner payed the taxes, what stupid stuff that was should have never been allowed to happen

  5. Auggie says:

    Exactly, these leases should not be able to be sold off by the mineral owners. They should revert back to the surface owners when these wells are played out. What happened to the law that only allowed these oil guys to tie up 20 acres for a producing well. We have 3 wells 2 producing virtually nothing and one producing nothing. But the mineral holder is able to tie up 130 acres and than sell it off to big oil for a fortune.

  6. Frank says:

    So… Let me get this straight: “Party A” sold his mineral rights to “Party B” 100 years ago. NOW Party A wants his stuff back… Huh?? Are you kidding me? You call that justice? How do you know that “Party A” wasn’t ripping off “Party B” in the deal? How in the world do you have any justice if you come back years later and just rip-off someone’s duly-purchased stuff? I hope the Supremes take this case and settle honest property rights once and for all. And don’t try to play the “poor” card. We are just poor folks ourselves, and we never abandoned our rights, just because we didn’t drill soon enough for your tastes.

    • landowner says:

      Yes, the person that owned the land many many years ago and left it abandoned is now wanting his rights in minerals. We filed the correct paper work with the courts for abandonment and he wants his money for mineral rights – its not right. Everyone is poor in this area, if you didn’t want the land why would that give you any right to have anything else. the land was foreclosed on, and they didn’t want anything to do with this – we paid the back taxes and cleared the title on the land with the bank, why would they have any rights to minerals, they were not there 20 years ago and now that they are they want them. Not right!

  7. landowner says:

    I agree with the land owner – we own the land and pay the taxes on it and keep up the land, we are getting ready to go to court on the same scenario and these people came out of the woodwork and say they own the minerals when we filed for them through the abandon act. If you own the land you should own the mineral rights. We bought the land on a foreclosure plus paid back taxes – and now these people think they own the rights. What is fair about this???

    • Auggie says:

      Why didn’t the mineral interest owner step up to pay the taxes. They just want to collect the royalty money and let the surface owner pay the taxes or new owners pay the back taxes. I bet they won’t be sending the new owners (surface) their 1/8, with out a court battle.

  8. landowner says:

    so totally agree with Auggie. Why should mineral rights owners have the right to sign with a company saying they can come on your land and drill or survey the land while you have crops or farm animals and/or hunting. What gives them that right?

  9. Bobby says:

    If the person buying the land when the mineral reservation took place wasn’t worried about the minerals, why the concern now? Buying land is a simple deal. If you are worried about drilling operations taking place on the surface, don’t buy the land if the minerals don’t come with it. If the current seller is the mineral owner and won’t convey the minerals, have a no surface operations provision placed in the deed and you won’t have to worry about your lands being drilled on. You can also walk away from the deal and find another tract of land where the seller is willing to convey either a portion or all of the minerals.

    With that being said, I support the Dormant Mineral Act. It’ll allow the mineral owners that know they own the minerals to file a document within the 20 year time frame to secure their interests. Meanwhile, all of the mineral reservations in the late 1800′s and early 1900′s, where the heirs aren’t aware that they own these minerals, will revert back to the current surface owner.

  10. we have own are property for 27 years 100 years ago the land owner reserved minerals rights and timber rights .recently a guy pulls in my driveway and tells me he owns my timber. see you court.

  11. landowner says:

    I agree – what is right about this – someone comes lurking out of the blue – geez my father owned a house many years ago – maybe I should go claim those mineral rights. its not right what people are doing to the land owners.

  12. landowner says:

    You don’t own the land – you shouldn’t have the rights to the underground – you haven’t paid a dime on the taxes of that land – why should you benefit because you great great grand pappy owned it – they sold it and wanted it gone. The Ohio Supreme Court needs to see the landowners side – not the people lurking to get rich quick.

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