Steptoe & Johnson PLLC: Ohio Appellate Court Adopts Fixed ‘Look Back’ Period For 1989 Dormant Mineral Act

In the recent 7th District Court of Appeals case of Eisenbarth v. Reusser, 7th Dist. Monroe No. 13 MO 10, 2014-Ohio-3792 [enhanced opinion available to subscribers], the court determined that the “look back” period for the 1989 Dormant Mineral Act (“DMA”) was fixed and not rolling. In making its determination, the court specifically noted that mineral forfeiture under the 1989 DMA requires no savings events to occur within the “preceding twenty years” of the effective date of the statute (March 22, 1989) and not “within the preceding twenty years after the last savings event.” Specifically, a savings event that occurred in 1974 was not subject to the 1989 DMA, because a savings event had occurred during the twenty years preceding March 22, 1989, the effective date of the act.

The court also upheld its previous decision that a lease is a title transaction, because it affects an interest in the land. More specifically, a lease by a holder of the executive rights affects the entire estate and not just the portion of the executive rights holder.

Finally, the court determined that the Reussers, the non-executive rights holders, were entitled to half of the bonus. Citing various treatises and cases from other states, the court determined that mineral holder without executive rights is more than a holder of a non-participating royalty interest, and unless the right to receive bonuses was expressly conveyed, remains with the holder. Therefore, the Reussers were entitled to a portion of the bonus commensurate with the percentage of minerals they owned.

The 7th District Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Harrison, Jefferson, Mahoning, Monroe, and Noble Counties. This case can still be appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio. 

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