Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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Under the abandoned mineral statutes, the surface owner must mail a copy of the notice of lapse to the mineral interest owner's address if the mineral interest owner's address is shown of record. Ronald and Sherry Huebner appealed a district court's findings of fact, conclusions of law and order for judgment and judgment denying their request to quiet title in certain Burke County mineral interests. The Huebners argued the district court erred in ruling they did not comply with the notice requirements in the abandoned mineral statutes, N.D.C.C. ch. 38-18.1. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Huebner v. Furlinger" on Justia Law

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Only a person having an interest in, or claiming an interest in, real property may challenge a court's rulings in a quiet title action. William Everett and 14 others appealed a judgment quieting title to certain McKenzie County mineral interests in Craig and Barbara Sorenson. In 2010, the Sorensons sued the Everett defendants and others to quiet title to certain mineral interests, claiming they had succeeded to ownership of those interests because the interests were abandoned under the Termination of Mineral Interest Act. In 2012, the Sorensons commenced another quiet title action against the same defendants claiming entitlement to the same minerals because those interests were abandoned under N.D.C.C. ch. 38-18.1.  2016, the Everett defendants filed a N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion in the 2010 case to vacate the stipulated judgments because the judgments were based on the "mistaken belief" that they "did not own a portion of the mineral interests at issue." In 2016, the district court in the 2012 litigation granted the Sorensons' cross-motion for summary judgment and quieted title in favor of them against the Everett defendants. The court ruled the Everett defendants' lack of counsel when they entered into the stipulations disclaiming any interests they may have had in the minerals was "not grounds for invalidating the valid and binding Judgments." A month later, the court entered an order in the 2010 case denying the Everett defendants' N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion to vacate the stipulated judgments because the motion was untimely and the Everett defendants' "mistaken belief they had no interest in the minerals at issue is not a sufficient reason for disturbing final judgment." The court denied the Everett defendants' motion for reconsideration of the judgment in the 2012 litigation, and the Everett defendants appealed that judgment. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed because collateral estoppel barred the Everett defendants' arguments in this case. View "Sorenson v. Bakken Investments, LLC" on Justia Law

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An action for equitable relief generally cannot be combined with a statutory appeal seeking a review of a local governing body's decision. Donald Cossette and the Angela R. Cossette Revocable Living Trust appealed a district court order dismissing their complaint against the Cass County Joint Water Resource District. The District passed a resolution of necessity determining the Cossettes' property was necessary for the Diversion Project and the District intended "to acquire a Permanent Right of Way Easement over, across, and through the [Cossettes'] Property." The Cossettes sought a declaration that the District inappropriately passed the resolution, and appealed from the District's resolution of necessity relating to the District's intent to acquire an interest in the Cossettes' real property through eminent domain. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed that part of the district court order dismissing the Cossettes' request for declaratory relief. The Court reversed that part of the district court order concluding the Cossettes were not entitled to appeal the District's resolution of necessity, and remanded. View "Cossette v. Cass County Joint Water Resource District" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Herman Kauk, Sr. and Cletis Kauk ("Sellers") contracted to sell land to Herman Kauk, Jr. and Christy Kauk ("Buyers"). The property was known to the parties as “Walter’s Quarter.” The Buyers had their attorney draft a new version of the Sellers’ contract. This version was entitled "Extension of Purchase Agreement" and specified the new closing date. Notably, the new version removed language that granted an option to sell another piece of property, “Katie’s Quarter.” The parties signed the contract. Shortly thereafter, the Sellers sent the Buyers a letter “Notice of Cancellation of Option to Purchase Additional Land." The Sellers executed a Notice of Contract for Deed with the county recorder naming a third party as grantee of the option property. The Buyers filed a complaint on August 10, 2015 requesting a declaratory judgment that the option to purchase "Katie's Quarter" was still valid. Both Buyers and Sellers testified at trial. At trial, both parties acknowledged the first contained an incorrect legal description for the land in the option paragraph, "Katie's Quarter." The "Notice of Cancellation of Option" letter contained the same legal description appearing in that original contract. However, the Notice of Contract for Deed contained the correct legal description for "Katie's Quarter." The district court ultimately found the option was enforceable because it was supported by adequate consideration and nothing in the revised contract revoked the option from the original. The court indicated it was clear "Katie's Quarter" was incorrectly identified in the contract. The Sellers appealed when the district court reformed the contract and ruled in the Buyers’ favor. The Sellers also contended the district court "exceeded its authority when it ruled the issue of reformation was not res judicata" and claims the district court abused its discretion by ordering the same. The North Dakota Supreme Court, after review of the district court record and the Sellers' arguments, found “a structural problem with the district court's orders that this Court cannot ignore.” Concluding the district court abused its discretion by granting declaratory relief, the Supreme Court reversed the district court's orders and remanded for entry of an order of dismissal. View "Kauk v. Kauk" on Justia Law

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The use of an easement must be consistent with the purpose of the original dedication. David and Virginia Ceynar appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Tesoro Logistics LP and McKenzie County. By arguing that use of the lane exceeds the scope of the easement because parking occurs on the lane, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the Ceynars took a narrow view of "highway" and "highway purposes." Streets and roads are lawfully subject, as of necessity, to "parking or standing of vehicles therein for a reasonable time and in a reasonable manner." The evidence supported the fact trucks temporarily stopped on the lane when waiting to access Tesoro Logistics' property. "If we were to agree with the Ceynars' interpretation, all easements granted for highway purposes in which a vehicle temporarily stops would be beyond the scope of the original dedication. This could have a broad impact on streets in residential and commercial areas throughout the State. We conclude the present use is consistent with the scope of the easement granted for highway purposes." View "Ceynar v. Tesoro Logistics LP" on Justia Law

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Charles W.H. Monson, LeeAnn Tarter, and KayCee Williams ("the Monsons") appealed a district court judgment reforming a deed executed in 1980 and quieting title in favor of Steve Goodall, Robert Goodall, Anne Stout, Joanne Quale, and Darrel Quale ("the Goodalls"). This case involved the sale of mineral rights to four tracts of land executed in one deed. In 1980, George and Dorothy Hoffman executed a deed transferring an undivided 508.26/876.26 mineral interest to Francis and Alice Goodall. Subsequent to the execution of these deeds, the Hoffmans retained a total of 508.26 mineral acres out of 876.26 total acres in the subject property. This fractional interest language in the 1980 deed is at the center of this dispute. Dorothy Hoffman died in 1985. George Hoffman died intestate in 1998. The Monsons acquired by intestate succession any mineral interests the Hoffmans retained beneath the subject property. Sometime after George Hoffman's death, members of the Monson family entered into oil and gas lease agreements with Enerplus Resources and Northern Oil and Gas, Inc. In 2013, the Goodall's filed a complaint requesting the district court quiet title in their favor. The Monsons moved for summary judgment, arguing the 1980 deed was unambiguous, the Hoffmans only transferred a fractional interest to the Goodalls, and the Monsons inherited their interests from what the Hoffmans retained in the transaction. The Goodalls claimed the deed did not reflect the parties' intentions, which was to transfer all of the Hoffmans' 508.26 mineral acres to Francis and Alice Goodall. After a hearing, the district court denied the Monsons' motion for summary judgment. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in admitting extrinsic evidence to support the Goodalls' argument that a mutual mistake had been made, and the district court's findings supporting reformation of the deed were not clearly erroneous. View "Goodall v. Monson" on Justia Law

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Jennifer Ogren, Lisa Marie Ogren Castle and Eric Marcus Ogren appeal from a summary judgment in favor of Marlene Sandaker, Karen Walden and Marlys Rulon. In 1958 Mike and Lorene Albert conveyed a 1/8th royalty interest to each of Mike Albert's seven siblings. Mike and Lorene Albert retained the mineral interest and a 1/8th royalty interest. Each of Mike Albert's siblings owned a 1/8th royalty interest. In 2009 Sandaker, Walden and Rulon leased the property to an oil company for a 3/16th royalty interest. In 2011 an attorney prepared a drilling title opinion concluding the 1958 assignment of royalty conveyed a fractional royalty to Mike Albert's seven siblings. A second title opinion in 2012 concluded the 1958 assignment of royalty conveyed a fraction of royalty to Mike Albert's seven siblings. In 2013 the Ogrens commenced an action to quiet title to the disputed royalty interests. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment to resolve the interpretation of the 1958 assignment. The district court entered an order and judgment in favor of Sandaker, Walden and Rulon, determining as a matter of law the 1958 assignment conveyed a fraction of royalty. The Ogrens appealed, arguing the district court erred by granting summary judgment in favor of Sandaker, Walden and Rulon because the 1958 assignment of royalty granted a fractional royalty and not a fraction of royalty. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Ogren v. Sandaker" on Justia Law

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Dori Lentz appealed an order and judgment denying her request to modify the distribution decrees of the Estate of Charlotte C. Nohle and ordering her to pay the estate's attorney's fees. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the requested modification or by awarding attorney's fees. View "Estate of Nohle" on Justia Law

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Missouri River Royalty Corporation and Bauer Family LLP appeal a district court's order granting summary judgment to the defendants, most of whom are members of the Brokaw family (collectively "Brokaw"). In 1958, Lyman Brokaw conveyed "an undivided full interest" in the minerals in and under the property at issue here to North American Royalties Inc. ("North American"). Later that year, North American conveyed an undivided one-half interest in the minerals to Claud Hamill. Over the next fifty years, North American transferred other fractional interests to various persons and entities. By the time of this action, Plaintiffs alleged the ownership proportions of the 160 mineral acres were as follows: The Hamill Foundation - 50%; Black Stone Minerals Co. - 25%; Missouri River Royalty Corp. - 18.75%; and Bauer Family LLP - 6.25%. (Appellants Missouri River Royalty Corp. and Bauer Family LLP were referred to as "North American Successors.") North American Successors claim ownership through North American and initiated this action against Brokaw to quiet title in the minerals. Missouri River Royalty Corporation and Bauer Family LLP appeal a district court's order granting summary judgment to the defendants, most of whom are members of the Brokaw family (collectively "Brokaw"). On cross motions for summary judgment, the district court quieted title to certain minerals in favor of Brokaw. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court except to the extent the district court vested title in North American. As to that, the Supreme Court reversed the denial of the motion to correct judgment and remand for entry of a corrected judgment vesting title of the one half-interest not held by Brokaw only in North American Royalties Inc.'s successors in interest. View "Black Stone Minerals Co. v. Brokaw" on Justia Law

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Charles Robinson, Paul Robinson, and William Robinson appealed an amended judgment granting summary judgment in favor of THR Minerals, LLC, and deciding ownership of mineral and royalty interests in certain property. The Supreme Court concluded the assignment of royalty at issue was unambiguous, and the district court did not err as a matter of law in construing the assignment to decide the ownership of the subject mineral and royalty interests between the parties. View "THR Minerals, LLC. v. Robinson" on Justia Law