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Ohio Court of Appeals Decision Adds New Wrinkle to Dormant Mineral Act Litigation

A recent decision from the Seventh District Court of Appeals, Eisenbarth v. Reusser, adds a new wrinkle to the ongoing legal battles concerning the applicability and scope of Ohio’s Dormant Mineral Act (“DMA”). The Seventh District previously ruled in Walker v. Shondrick-Nau that the 1989 DMA applies to current disputes over ownership of severed mineral interests and that a mineral interest which was “dormant” for a twenty-year period merges with the surface of the property. In further applying the 1989 DMA, the Court in Eisenbarth decided that the 1989 DMA only applies to the twenty-year period immediately preceding its enactment and that it does not apply on a “rolling” basis to successive twenty-year periods. Under this ruling, the 1989 DMA would not apply if any statutory savings event occurred after March 22, 1969 (twenty-years preceding the 1989 DMA’s enactment) because the person claiming that the mineral interest was abandoned would have to rely on a period of time occurring outside of the prescribed twenty-year period.

The Court also ruled that a recorded oil and gas lease is a title transaction for purposes of the DMA. This issue is currently the subject of an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court in Chesapeake Exploration, L.L.C. v. Buell.