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: Sandstrom, Justice.
This opinion is subject to petition for rehearing. [Go to Documents]
[Download as WordPerfect] Concurrence filed.
Opinion of the Court by Sandstrom, Justice.
[¶1] The successors to the interests of eight siblings of John Q. Nichols ("Goughnour defendants") appeal from a summary judgment in a quiet title action by the successors to the interests of John Q. Nichols ("Nichols plaintiffs") to determine ownership of 1/2 of the mineral interests in a parcel of land in Mountrail County. The Goughnour defendants claim they collectively own 1/4 of the mineral interests in the land and the Nichols plaintiffs own 1/4 of the mineral interests. The district court decided the Goughnour defendants collectively own 1/9 of the mineral interests in the land and the Nichols plaintiffs own 7/18 of the mineral interests. We affirm.
[¶2] The parties are descendants of John C. and Margaret Nichols. In 1950, John C. Nichols owned all the surface interest and 1/2 of the mineral interests in 640 acres of land in Mountrail County. After the deaths of John C. and Margaret Nichols, their nine children, Muriel Wakeman, Eunice Goughnour, Paul Nichols, Donald Nichols, John Q. Nichols, Rita Wagner, Robert Nichols, Genevieve Lincoln, and Clair Nichols, each owned an undivided 1/9 surface interest and an undivided 1/18 interest in the minerals. In documents dated in June 1955, eight of the siblings each executed separate "warranty deed[s]" that stated they did "grant, bargain, sell, and convey . . . all my undivided one-ninth interest in and to" the tract of land to John Q. Nichols. In each deed, the grantors "covenant[ed] . . . they are well seized in fee of land, real estate and premises aforesaid, and have good right to sell and convey the same in manner and form aforesaid" and agreed to "warrant and defend" John Q. Nichols from claims against the property. Each deed also said it:
hereby excepted from this grant and there is hereby reserved from this grant, to the grantors, 25% of all minerals, gas, oil and hydrocarbon compounds and 25% of all royalties on account thereof with the right to prospect, explore and drill for such gas, oil, and hydrocarbon compounds on and under the surface of said land. According to attestations by notary publics, seven of the deeds were signed in June 1955, and one deed was signed in February 1956. All eight deeds were filed for record with the register of deeds for Mountrail County on March 2, 1956.
[¶3] On March 2, 1956, John Q. Nichols and his wife executed and recorded a quit claim deed conveying certain tracts of land to themselves, including the land involved in this action and excepting "three-fourths of all mineral interests in and under" that land.
[¶4] In March 1960, John Q. Nichols' wife wrote a letter to one of her husband's sisters, ...