from the District Court of Williams County, Northwest
Judicial District, the Honorable David W. Nelson, Judge.
J. Evert, for plaintiff and appellee.
M. Pippin, for appellants.
1] Charles Robinson, Paul Robinson, and William Robinson
appeal from an amended judgment, granting summary judgment in
favor of THR Minerals, LLC, and deciding ownership of mineral
and royalty interests in certain property. We conclude the
assignment of royalty at issue is unambiguous, and the
district court did not err as a matter of law in construing
the assignment to decide the ownership of the subject mineral
and royalty interests between the parties. We affirm.
2] In August 2014 THR filed an amended complaint to quiet
title to mineral and mineral royalty ownership in specific
property located in Williams County. Before suit was
commenced, the various parties stipulated to the ownership of
the property as sought in THR's complaint, except for
defendants Charles Robinson, Paul Robinson, and William
Robinson ("Robinsons"). In September 2014 the
Robinsons answered THR's complaint.
3] The dispute in this case involves the interpretation of a
1942 "Assignment of Royalty, " from Ivan and Oleta
Metzger, husband and wife, to assignee T.H. Richardson. It is
undisputed that at the time of the conveyance, the Metzgers
owned a one-third interest in the property described in the
assignment. Based on their respective successor interests and
interpretations of the assignment, THR asserts the Metzgers
conveyed to Richardson a 6.25 percent royalty interest in the
entire property, while the Robinsons contend the Metzgers
created a 6.25 percent royalty burden on only the one-third
interest they actually owned.
4] THR moved the district court for summary judgment, and the
Robinsons filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. In
January 2015 the district court held a hearing on the
parties' motions. In March 2015 the court granted THR
partial summary judgment based on its interpretation of the
1942 assignment, which the court concluded was unambiguous.
The court held that "to be made whole, the heirs of T.
H. Richardson are entitled to 18.75% [ i.e., three
times 6.25 percent] of the interest owned by Oleta and Ivan
Metzger as a result of the February 17, 1942
conveyance." The court, however, did not grant full
summary judgment because the record did "not have the
information to set out current ownership" and was
"not sufficient to establish what The Metzger[s']
owned prior to the 1942 deed, with sufficient proof to
warrant a Quiet Title judgment."
5] In July 2015 THR again moved the district court for
summary judgment, submitting additional documents to
establish chain of title to the property. The Robinsons again
opposed THR's motion, asserting summary judgment was
inappropriate because "there absolutely exists a genuine
dispute regarding the existence of a material fact, " in
that "there is still a dispute as to the interpretation
of the February 17, 1942 Assignment of Royalty from Oleta and
Ivan Metzger to T.H. Richardson." In September 2015 the
district court held a hearing on THR's second summary
judgment motion. In December 2015 the court entered amended
findings of fact, conclusions of law, and an order granting
judgment in THR's favor. An amended judgment was entered
from which the Robinsons appeal.
6] The Robinsons argue the district court erred in granting
summary judgment in favor of THR. Our standard of review for
a district court's grant of summary judgment is well
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. In determining
whether summary judgment was appropriately granted, we must
view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party
opposing the motion, and that party will be given the benefit
of all favorable inferences which can reasonably be drawn
from the record. On appeal, this Court decides whether the
information available to the district court precluded the
existence of a genuine issue of material fact and entitled
the moving party to judgment as a matter of law. Whether the
district court properly granted summary judgment is a
question of law which we review de novo on the entire record.
Markgraf v. Welker, 2015 ND 303, ¶ 10, 873
N.W.2d 26 (quoting Hamilton v. Woll, 2012 ND 238,
¶ 9, 823 N.W.2d 754). "Summary judgment is
inappropriate if neither party is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law or if reasonable differences of opinion exist
as to the inferences to be drawn from the undisputed
facts." Markgraf, at ¶ 10 (quoting