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West Virginia’s Highest Court Defines “Surface” for Conveyance Instruments

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, West Virginia’s highest court, recently overruled a point in the 1923 case of Ramage v. South Penn Oil Co. (W. Va.), which established that the term “surface” was presumptively ambiguous and always subject to interpretation.  On June 13, 2013 in the case of Faith United Methodist Church & Cemetery of Terra Alta v. Morgan, the Court determined that the term “surface,” when used in an instrument of conveyance, has a “definite and certain meaning,”  and “generally means the exposed area of land, improvements on the land, and any part of the underground actually used by a surface owner as an adjunct to surface use (for example, medium for the roots of growing plants, groundwater, water wells, roads, basements, basements, or footings).”