Ohio’s Seventh District Court of Appeals recently interpreted the term “holder” under the 2006 version of the Ohio Dormant Mineral Act (R.C. § 5301.56) (“2006 DMA”) and held that the term should be construed broadly to include the heirs and devisees of the record owner of the severed mineral interest that succeed to the severed mineral interest by intestacy or devise.

In M&H P’ship v. Hines, 2017-Ohio-923, the plaintiff surface owners published a notice of abandonment to have the subject mineral interest deemed abandoned under the 2006 DMA. Within the statutorily prescribed time period, the defendant mineral owners, who are the grandchildren of the now-deceased record owners (“Original Owners”), recorded a claim to preserve in response. The trial court found that the defendant mineral owners sufficiently preserved their mineral rights and the plaintiff surface owners appealed.

In one of their assignments of error, the plaintiff surface owners argued that the trial court erred in holding that the defendant mineral owners proved that they are the successors in interest to the Original Owners. As such, the defendant mineral owners did not have standing to challenge the plaintiff surface owners’ notice of abandonment by filing a claim to preserve. The Court rejected the plaintiff surface owners’ argument and ultimately affirmed the trial court’s decision. In doing so, the Court found that the “broad definition of holder” includes the defendant mineral owners.

The term “holder” means “the record holder of a mineral interest, and any person who derives the person’s rights from, or has a common source with, the record holder and whose claim does not indicate, expressly or by clear implication, that it is adverse to the interest of the record holder.” R.C. § 5301.56(A)(1). In this case, the defendant mineral owners derived their mineral rights from, or had a common source with, the Original Owners because they succeeded to the Original Owner’s interest by intestacy and devise. As such, the defendant mineral owners were “holders” of the subject mineral interest and had standing to challenge the plaintiff surface owners’ notice of abandonment.

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