CALDWELL, Ohio — The Ohio Supreme Court announced Sept. 3 it will hear a court case that could send ripples across the state when it comes to the question of who may own the mineral rights to a piece of property.
There is no court date set, nor any other details available, as of presstime.
The case will decide who owns the mineral rights under 42 acres in Noble County.
The issues 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 versions intersect and what it means to the surface owner and the mineral rights owner.
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.
According to court records, Noon purchased the property in 1964 and when he sold the property in 1965, he severed the mineral rights from the surface rights and maintained the mineral rights. 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, Walker 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 Seventh District Court of Appeals ruled April 3 that Walker does own the mineral rights since Noon reportedly didn’t develop them since 1964.
Shondrick-Nau appealed the decision to the Ohio Supreme Court May 16.
Ohio Dormant Minerals Act
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 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.
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.
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