Appeal from the District Court of Mountrail County, Northwest Judicial District, the Honorable William W. McLees, Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: VandeWalle, Chief Justice.
N.D. Supreme CourtEstate of Christeson v. Gilstad, 2013 ND 50
This opinion is subject to petition for rehearing.
Opinion of the Court by VandeWalle, Chief Justice.
[¶1] Wade Gilstad, individually and as trustee of an irrevocable trust, Charles Gilstad, and Ruth Smith ("Gilstads") appealed from a district court judgment quieting title in certain mineral interests in Patricia Christeson. We affirm, concluding the district court did not err in concluding the Gilstads did not acquire title to the disputed mineral interests under the abandoned mineral statutes.
[¶2] In 1963, Edyth Christeson acquired an interest in certain property in Mountrail County, including an undivided one-eighth interest in the minerals. Edyth Christeson conveyed her interest in the surface to the Gilstads' predecessors in interest in 1964, but reserved her mineral interest in the property. Edyth Christeson died in 1983, leaving her husband, Emmett Christeson, as her sole heir. Emmett Christeson subsequently remarried, and in 1989 he and his wife Eleanor Christeson executed an oil and gas lease on the property. The lease was recorded in the Office of the Register of Deeds of Mountrail County.
[¶3] Emmett Christeson died in 2000 and was survived by his son, Ronald Christeson. Ronald Christeson died in 2005 and was survived by his wife, Patricia Christeson.
[¶4] In 2007 the Gilstads, as current owners of the surface estate in the property, published a "Notice of Lapse of Mineral Interests," initiating the process under N.D.C.C. ch. 38-18.1 to have the minerals deemed abandoned. The Gilstads mailed copies of the Notice of Lapse to Edyth Christeson and Emmett Christeson, both of whom were by then deceased, to the address appearing of record for them.
[¶5] In March 2011, in a series of separate probate proceedings, the district court determined that Edyth Christeson's undivided one-eighth mineral interest in the Mountrail County property had passed to Emmett Christeson upon her death, to Ronald Christeson upon Emmett Christeson's death, and to Patricia Christeson upon Ronald Christeson's death. Patricia Christeson and the estates of Edyth Christeson, Emmett Christeson, and Ronald Christeson commenced this quiet title action against the Gilstads in April 2011, seeking to resolve the competing claims to the disputed mineral interests. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court concluded that the recorded 1989 oil and gas lease from Emmett and Eleanor Christeson constituted a "use" of the mineral interests within 20 years of the Gilstads' 2007 Notice of Lapse of Mineral Interests which precluded a finding that the mineral interests had been abandoned under N.D.C.C. ch. 38-18.1. The court quieted title in the mineral interests in Patricia Christeson, and the Gilstads appealed.
[¶6] We have outlined the standards governing our review of a summary judgment entered under N.D.R.Civ.P. 56:
Summary judgment is a procedural device for the prompt resolution of a controversy on the merits without a trial if there are no genuine issues of material fact or inferences that can reasonably be drawn from undisputed facts, or if the only issues to be resolved are questions of law. A party moving for summary judgment has the burden of showing there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. . . . Whether the district court properly granted summary judgment is a question of law which we review ...