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Dorothy J. Pierce Family Mineral Trust v. Richard D. Jorgenson and Brenda R. Jorgenson

May 17, 2012

DOROTHY J. PIERCE FAMILY MINERAL TRUST, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT
v.
RICHARD D. JORGENSON AND BRENDA R. JORGENSON, DEFENDANTS AND APPELLEES



Appeal from the District Court of Mountrail County, Northwest Judicial District, the Honorable Gary H. Lee, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Crothers, Justice.

N.D. Supreme CourtDorothy J. Pierce Family Mineral Trust v. Jorgenson,

2012 ND 100

This opinion is subject to petition for rehearing. [Go to Documents]

[Download as WordPerfect] Concurring & dissenting opinion filed.

DISMISSED.

Opinion of the Court by Crothers, Justice.

[¶1] The Dorothy J. Pierce Family Mineral Trust ("the Trust") appeals from a judgment dismissing the Trust's claim against Richard and Brenda Jorgenson for reformation of two warranty deeds. Because the parties' claims to quiet title in the disputed mineral acres have not been fully adjudicated and no N.D.R.Civ.P. 54(b) certification appears in the record, we dismiss the appeal as premature.

I

[¶2] On March 21, 1984, Ethewin Wright, who owned the surface and mineral interests in certain Mountrail County property, entered into a contract for deed with the Jorgensons to sell them the property. The contract for deed reserved to Ethewin Wright "all" of the mineral interests in the property. After Ethewin Wright died, a personal representative's deed was executed on August 13, 1987, conveying her interests in the property to her children, Dorothy Pierce and LaRoy Wright, "SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE."

[¶3] The Jorgensons paid the final installment on the contract for deed to Pierce and LaRoy Wright in 1988. On October 31, 1988, Pierce and LaRoy Wright executed two separate and identical warranty deeds conveying the property to the Jorgensons and reserving "½ of all" of the mineral interests. LaRoy Wright's "undivided ½ interest" in the minerals was eventually conveyed to Pierce, who in 2008 executed a quitclaim mineral deed conveying her mineral interests to the Trust.

[¶4] In March 2010, the Trust brought this action against the Jorgensons seeking reformation of the two 1988 warranty deeds to conform with the 1984 contract for deed. The Trust also alleged the intent of the language used in the warranty deeds "was to reserve one-half of the minerals to [Pierce], and one-half of the minerals to [LaRoy Wright]" and requested that the court quiet title to the minerals in the Trust. In their answer, the Jorgensons denied that the mineral reservations were "inadvertently inserted" into the warranty deeds and requested that "[t]itle to the disputed minerals be quieted in" them. The Jorgensons moved for summary judgment, arguing the 1988 warranty deeds granted them "all of the mineral interests" in the subject property under the Duhig rule. See Kadrmas v. Sauvageau, 188 N.W.2d 753 (N.D. 1971); Duhig v. Peavy-Moore Lumber Co., 135 Tex. 503, 144 S.W.2d 878 (1940). The district court denied the motion, concluding the issue was "academic" because Pierce and LaRoy Wright were not parties to the lawsuit and the "actions of individuals who are not named parties cannot form the basis for the granting of summary judgment."

[ΒΆ5] The case proceeded to trial before the district court. In its post-trial brief, the Trust argued the 1988 warranty deeds should be reformed because of mutual mistake of the parties. The Trust also argued the Jorgensons' interpretation of the warranty deeds "is not consistent with application of the Duhig doctrine" and claimed "even if the deeds are not reformed, the correct interpretation of the mineral reservation is that the minerals were reserved by the sellers." In their post-trial brief, the Jorgensons argued the Trust had failed to establish that a mutual mistake had occurred to support reformation of the warranty deeds and contended "the Court should make a finding that the reservations contained in the Warranty Deeds are the reservations to be considered." The court found the Trust did not establish by clear and convincing evidence that a mutual mistake occurred to warrant reformation of the warranty deeds and dismissed the Trust's action. The ...


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