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Steptoe & Johnson PLLC: Ohio Court Favors Surface Owner in Dormant Mineral Act Ruling

Walker v. Noon was recently decided by the Ohio Seventh District Court of Appeals. Walker is noteworthy because it is the first appellate level decision addressing the automatic reversion provision under the 1989 version of the Ohio Dormant Mineral Act (ODMA) [enhanced version available to subscribers].

The court upheld the automatic reversion of the 1989 ODMA and ruled in favor of the surface owner. In Walker, a mineral reservation occurred in 1965 that completely severed the oil and gas estate from the surface. The surface was conveyed in subsequent deeds with a recital of the original 1965 reservation. No other “savings events” as defined by ODMA were alleged. In 2011, the surface owner filed a notice of abandonment under the 2006 ODMA.  The mineral owner responded by filing a claim to preserve the mineral interest, and a quiet title action ensued.   
The court applied the 1989 version of ODMA, noting that the minerals reserved in 1965 automatically reverted to the surface on March 22, 1992, the effective date of the 1989 ODMA. The court denied the mineral owner’s argument that the surface conveyances which recited the 1965 reservation were “title transactions” as defined by ODMA. The court also rejected the argument that the 2006 ODMA applied retrospectively thus giving full effect to the 1989 ODMA.

To find out more about this issue, or discuss particular plans or needs related to unit development under the Ohio statute, please contact us.

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