Ohio Dormant Mineral Act Confusion

Ohio Dormant Mineral Act Confusion

Those mineral owners and lawyers who have followed the Ohio Dormant Mineral Act (ODMA) saga know what a mess it has been.  The Ohio Supreme Court has teed up a series of cases which may help to clarify some of the problems and issues that have arisen.  Most of these cases come from courts local to the Ohio Valley.

Two pending cases, Gerrity v. Chervenak and Fonzi v. Brown, will further delve into the issues surround home much diligence is required under the ODMA when trying to find holders old severed mineral interests.  The cases to discuss this issue have turned away from any bright-line rule about how much or what type of diligence has been required and, instead, made case by case factual decisions.  Will the Court create a new bright-line rule or will it affirm the case by case analysis that the lower courts have found appropriate?

Another important case is West v. Bode. West had been pending for some time, but the Ohio Supreme Court issued its ruling on December 2, 2020.  This case involved the interplay between the older Ohio Marketable Title Act (MTA) and the more specific ODMA.  The MTA was the original statute attorneys used to try and clear potentially questionable title issues.  The MTA itself did appear to apply to oil and gas mineral interests, but the ODMA was enacted as part of the MTA and deals more directly with mineral interests.

Which law continues to apply, the MTA or the ODMA?  Courts thus far have held that the MTA still applies even after the ODMA was passed.  Therefore, surface owners who might have failed in their efforts to obtain their mineral rights under the ODMA may still have a path to ownership under the MTA.  The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in West v. Bode that the MTA is still a valid path towards the extinguishment of old oil and gas reservations.  That means that landowners who might have previously failed in their ODMA applications or those who might not be able to pursue the ODMA in the first instance may still be able to claim the minerals under their land through the MTA.  This will continue to be fertile ground for litigation and may present a whole new series of litigation in eastern Ohio.

The Ohio Dormant Mineral Act (ODMA) confusion continues. Jeremy McGraw explains.