Ohio Dormant Mineral Act Vests Mineral Rights In Surface Owners.

The defendants, the current surface owners of the real estate at issue, entered into an oil and gas lease with a production company in 2012 and the memorandum of lease was recorded at that time.  The plaintiffs are the heirs of a prior owner of the property.  That prior owner reserved a one-half mineral interest in the tract via a deed recorded March 22, 1950.  After the defendants filed the memorandum of lease, the plaintiffs filed a "Notice of Claim to Preserve  Mineral Interest" with the county recorder in early 2013, and then sued the defendants claiming that they had not abandoned their mineral interest and that the 1989 Ohio Dormant Mineral Act (DMA) was unconstitutional.  The trail court rejected the plaintiffs' claims, holding that the defendants were the rightful owners of the minerals and that the DMA was constitutional.  As such, the DMA required the plaintiffs to create a "savings event" within three years of the DMA's enactment (by Mar. 22, 1992) and that the plaintiffs had failed to do so.  On appeal, the court affirmed.  While the DMA was amended in 2006 to eliminate the automatic abandonment provisions of the 1989 version of the DMA, by requiring a surface owner to provide notice to the mineral interest holder of an intent to have the minerals declared abandoned, the 2006 version had no application to mineral rights that had become fully vested in the surface owner by 1992.  There was no language in the 2006 amendment that indicated that it should apply retroactively, and the 1989 DMA was constitutional.  Thompson, et al. v. Custer, et al., No. 2014-T-0052, 2014 Ohio App. LEXIS 5530 (Ohio Ct. App. Dec. 29, 2014).