Ronald D. Huebner and Sherry M. Huebner, as Trustees of the Huebner Family Trust dated February 5, 1992, and Robert L. Wilkens, as Trustee of the Robert L. Wilkens Revocable Trust, Restated 1999, Plaintiffs and Appellants
Elsie M. Furlinger and Janet Hill; the unknown heirs, devisees and legatees of Elsie M. Furlinger and Janet Hill; and all other persons unknown claiming any estate or interest in or lien or encumbrance upon the property described in the Complaint, whether as heirs, devisees, legatees, or personal representatives of any of the above-named persons who may be deceased or under any other title or interest, Defendants and Appellees
from the District Court of Burke County, North Central
Judicial District, the Honorable Stacy J. Louser, Judge.
D. Olson, Williston ND, for plaintiffs and appellants.
G. Quarne (argued) and Jessica L. Merchant (appeared),
Williston ND, for defendants and appellees.
1] Ronald and Sherry Huebner appeal a district court's
findings of fact, conclusions of law and order for judgment
and judgment denying their request to quiet title in certain
Burke County mineral interests. The Huebners argue the
district court erred in ruling they did not comply with the
notice requirements in the abandoned mineral statutes,
N.D.C.C. ch. 38-18.1. We affirm.
2] The Huebners are the current surface owners of property in
Burke County and successors-in-interest to Eugene Huebner and
Harold Wilkens. In 2006 the Huebners took steps to claim
unused mineral interests under the subject property through a
notice of lapse of mineral interest.
3] Ownership history shows that in 1955 Nanne Williams, also
known as Nanne C. Nickey, conveyed the subject property in
Burke County to Eugene Huebner and Harold Wilkens, reserving
one-fourth of the mineral interest underlying the property.
In 1975 Nanne C. Nickey died and her daughter Elsie M.
Furlinger was later appointed personal representative of the
estate. On February 22, 1982, Marion Furlinger, as personal
representative, executed an oil and gas lease. The lease was
recorded in Burke County. The lease listed Marion
Furlinger's address as 2925 El Prado Blvd., Tampa, FL
33609. A petition for administration of Nanne C. Nickey's
estate was filed in the Burke County Court on June 24, 1982.
This document listed an address for Elsie Marion Furlinger as
2925 El Prado Blvd., Tampa, FL, and an address for Janet Hill
as Rt. 1, 5 Grand Ave., Lake Zurich, Ill. By a July 8, 1982
personal representative's deed of distribution Elsie M.
Furlinger and her sister, Janet Hill each received a one-half
interest of the one-fourth mineral interest reserved by their
mother. The 1982 personal representative's deed of
distribution, recorded in Burke County, listed Elsie M.
Furlinger's address as 2925 El Prado Blvd., Tampa, FL.
The 1982 personal representative's deed of distribution
did not include a zip code for Elsie M. Furlinger or an
address for Janet Hill.
4] In 2006 the Huebners' attorney began the process to
claim the mineral rights by researching whether the subject
minerals had been used. According to the Huebners'
attorney, he was looking for any activity under the names
Nanne C. Williams and Nanne Nickey. He discovered the 1982
personal representative's deed listing Elsie M. Furlinger
and Janet Hill. The Huebners' attorney searched the Burke
County Recorder's office, the Burke County Clerk's
office and Westlaw's people search feature to locate
addresses for Elsie M. Furlinger and Janet Hill.
5] The Huebners' attorney testified he was unable to
locate an address for Janet Hill. He testified he used Elsie
M. Furlinger's address listed on the 1982 personal
representative's deed to narrow his search for Janet
Hill's address to Florida, where he located a Janet Hill.
Ronald Huebner also attempted to find addresses for Elsie M.
Furlinger and Janet Hill but was unsuccessful. Ronald Huebner
testified he researched a family history library, newspapers,
books and Ancestory.com.
6] The Huebners published notices of lapse of mineral
interests in the Burke County paper on October 11, 18 and 25,
2006. On October 27, 2006, the Huebners mailed a copy of the
notice of lapse of mineral interests to Elsie M. Furlinger at
2925 El Prado Blvd., Tampa, FL 33629. The Huebners'
attorney testified he relied on the 1982 personal
representative's deed to obtain an address for Elsie M.
Furlinger. The the address was supplemented by adding a zip
code absent from the address on the 1982 personal
representative's deed. The Huebners also mailed a copy of
the notice of lapse of mineral interests to Janet Hill at Sun
City Center, FL 33573.
7] In 2009 the Huebners filed a quiet title action to perfect
title to the mineral interests under the subject property.
The Huebners served Elsie M. Furlinger and Janet Hill by
publication. The district court entered a default judgment
quieting title to the mineral interests to the Huebners. In
2011 Tim Moran and John Moran, as unknown heirs, devisees,
and legatees of Elsie M. Furlinger and Janet Hill filed a
motion to vacate the default judgment. The district court
vacated the judgment, ruling the Huebners' service by
publication was ineffective.
8] The Morans answered the Huebners' complaint to quiet
title and counter-claimed to quiet title to the mineral
interests. A one-day bench trial was held. The district court
entered an order on May 4, 2015, which was amended on May 21,
2015. The district court denied the Huebners' request to
quiet title the mineral interests to them, finding they did
not comply with the statutory requirements of N.D.C.C. ch.
38-18.1. On June 5, 2016 the district court entered its
findings of fact, conclusions ...