Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) February 19, 2016 – A recent case in a Texas appeals court shows the importance of addressing mineral rights unambiguously when surface rights are partitioned.
In the case of Hosek v. Scott, the Fourth Court of Appeals in San Antonio, Texas, upheld the trial court’s judgment that ownership of the minerals under a tract of land did not revert to the surface owners after the expiration of a period of time during which the mineral interests remained undivided.
“To protect the interests of the parties, it is essential that a partition of surface or mineral interests use unambiguous language. It is sometimes said that ‘ambiguity is in the eyes of the beholder,’ but here the court found the partition deed was unambiguous,” said Gregory D. Jordan, an Austin oil and gas attorney with the Law Offices of Gregory D. Jordan, who has dealt with numerous partition disputes.
The Hoseks and Scott originally owned equal undivided shares of two tracts of land. In August 1979, they signed a partition deed to partition the land. The deed stated that the partition did not include any of the minerals, which would remain undivided for 25 years “and as long thereafter” as minerals are produced in paying quantities.
Over a period of years, Scott conveyed the surface estate of certain tracts of her partition to the Hoseks and other parties, while reserving the minerals reserved in the partition deed. The Hoseks argued that upon expiration of the 25-year period, the mineral interests reverted to the owners of the surface estates.
The trial court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Scott, finding that the partition deed was unambiguous as a matter of law, that it did not partition the minerals, and that there was no subsequent partition of the minerals after the expiration of the 25-year period. The appeals court affirmed.
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