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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Attorney Warns Landowners About Court Rulings That May Impact Dormant Mineral Act

From Gas & Oil:
While seemingly insignificant, the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision to lift the stay on Tribett strongly suggests that it may be planning to file a consolidated opinion, or series of opinions, resolving all of the major legal issues currently before the Ohio Supreme Court involving the 1989 DMA. Why would the Court lift the stay and request briefing on the two unique issues in Tribett if it planned to reverse Walker (because if Walker is reversed, then Tribett becomes moot)? Such rulings could spell disaster for surface owners or severed mineral holders, depending on how the Ohio Supreme Court rules.

In litigation involving "all-or-nothing" outcomes, parties usually try to settle to avoid the risk of receiving nothing. To date, however, very few 1989 DMA cases have settled, largely as a result of attorneys and their clients taking a “wait and see approach.”

Surprisingly, many surface owners and severed mineral holders have, sometimes on the advice of counsel, failed to investigate their legal options on the theory that they could afford to wait until the Ohio Supreme Court rules on all of the legal issues. While this “wait and see” approach may at one time have had some logic (when the Ohio Supreme Court seemed to be leaning towards a series of piecemeal decisions), this approach should be perhaps reconsidered. The Ohio Supreme Court will likely be issuing a sweeping ruling soon, given the number of 1989 DMA cases and issues pending before it. Once it rules, many surface or severed mineral owners could lose all of their claims to valuable mineral rights under the 1989 DMA, depending on which way the decision falls. Consequently, any Ohio surface owner or severed mineral holder who has waited to assert their claim should seek and retain trustworthy, competent legal counsel, and investigate their options, including the possibility of settlement in advance of the long-awaited 1989 DMA rulings. If not, they could be left with nothing after the Ohio Supreme Court rules.
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