James Maragos, Andrew Maragos and Vivian Zimmerman, Trustees of the George S. Maragos Residuary Trust, a/k/a The George S. Maragos Trust, Plaintiffs and Appellants
Newfield Production Company, Defendant and Appellee
from the District Court of McKenzie County, Northwest
Judicial District, the Honorable Robin A. Schmidt,
Judge.REVERSED AND REMANDED.
William E. Bergman, Minot, ND, for plaintiffs and appellants.
Danielle Krause (argued) and Lawrence Bender (on brief),
Bismarck, ND, for defendant and appellee.
VandeWalle, Chief Justice.
1] The Maragos Trust appealed the district court's
summary judgment in favor of Newfield Production Company
determining Newfield was not a proper party defendant.
Because Newfield failed to establish they were entitled to
judgment as a matter of law, we reverse and remand.
2] Newfield Production Company ("Newfield")
operates four oil and gas wells on an area of land:
Township 153 North, Range 96 West Section 3:
S1/2NW1/4, Lots 3 and 4 ("the property"). The
Trustees of the George S. Maragos Residuary Trust ("the
Trust") assert they are the owners of a 1/8 of 1%
royalty interest in the property.
3] The Trust argues it acquired its interest in the royalties
through the following process: H. H. Hester possessed a
royalty interest in the property and conveyed to George S.
Maragos a 1/8% royalty interest in December 1937. George S.
Maragos retained his interest until his death when the
administrators of his estate assigned the royalty interest to
the Trust in January 1985.
4] While operating the wells, Newfield has relied upon a
division order-title opinion ("division order") to
allocate the royalty interest for the property. Newfield
argues, according to its division order, Hester's
conveyance to Maragos failed because Hester had no interest
in the property at the time he purportedly conveyed the
interest to Maragos. Because of this alleged failed
conveyance, Newfield has not paid any royalty interest to the
5] The Trust sued Newfield for an accounting and all unpaid
revenue from the 1/8% royalty interest in the property. The
Trust moved for summary judgment. Newfield filed a
cross-motion for summary judgment, arguing it was not a
proper party defendant because it did not have a competing
interest in the 1/8% royalty interest. The district court
granted Newfield's cross-motion for summary judgment,
holding the Trust claim was really a quiet title claim,
Newfield was not a proper party defendant, the proper parties
are the other competing royalty interest owners, and the
Trust was not entitled to attorney's fees and interest
under N.D.C.C. § 47-16-39.1.
6] On appeal, the Trust argues the district court erred by:
(1) finding Newfield was not a proper party defendant, (2)
holding the "dispute of title exception" under
N.D.C.C. § 47-16-39.1 applied, and (3) granting Newfield
7] Our standard of review for a district court's grant of
summary judgment is well established:
[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 ...