• Ohio Trial Courts Issue Additional Rulings on the Dormant Mineral Act
  • January 22, 2014
  • Law Firm: Babst Calland - Pittsburgh Office
  • Two Ohio trial courts issued new decisions on Ohio’s Dormant Mineral Act (“DMA”) addressing an unsettled issue of law concerning whether the 1989 or 2006 version of the DMA should apply to current disputes over the ownership of severed mineral rights. Both trial court decisions held that the 2006 version of the DMA applies to current disputes, which indicates a further reversal of the trend favoring claims made by surface owners that severed mineral interests “automatically vest” under the 1989 DMA. This blog previously reported on Dahlgren v. Brown Farm Properties, which was one of the first trial court decisions to apply the 2006 DMA and provided a short background of the two versions of the law.

    In M&H Partnership v. Hines, Plaintiffs proceeded under a theory that the 1989 DMA applied “automatically” to extinguish the rights of the owners of a severed mineral estate. After considering the application of both the 1989 and 2006 versions of the DMA, the trial court found that the 2006 DMA applied. The court cited the Seventh District Court of Appeals’ decision in Dodd v. Croskey and noted the 2006 DMA’s procedures comport with the Ohio Marketable Title Act’s purpose of simplifying and facilitating title transactions. Further, the surface owner’s theory of “automatic vesting” under the 1989 DMA was contrary to the purpose of the Ohio Marketable Title Act because it would not allow people to rely on the record chain of title for a property. Applying the 2006 DMA, the trial court found that the surface owners had not complied with its procedural requirements and that the mineral owners had properly preserved their interest in the mineral estate.

    The second recent trial court decision applying the 2006 DMA was issued by the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas. In Gentile v. Ackerman, the trial determined that the 2006 DMA applies to current lawsuits based on the precedent of Dodd v. Croskey.  The trial court held it was expressly required to follow the Seventh District Court of Appeals’ decision in Dodd and that the procedures of the 2006 DMA must be followed to achieve abandonment and vesting of a severed mineral estate in a surface owner.