Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lincoln v. Magnum Land Services, LLC., No. 3:12-CV-576, 2013 WL 2443926 (M.D. Pa. June 5, 2013)

On June 5, 2013, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled on a gas producer’s motion to dismiss a landowner’s claims to quiet title and for slander of title involving a leasing dispute in Wyoming County, PA. Plaintiff Robert Lincoln was approached by Defendant Magnum Land Services in February of 2008. Defendant offered to lease Plaintiff’s sub-surface oil and gas rights. Plaintiff altered the terms of the lease, signing and returning it to Defendant. In March, Plaintiff contacted the Defendant and stated he was withdrawing the lease, having not heard from Defendant. Two months later, Defendant sent Plaintiff a check for $71,362.50, which plaintiff voided and returned.

In August, 2008, Plaintiff leased their oil and gas rights to a third party, Chief Exploration, and recorded the lease with the county recorder. In August of 2009, Defendant recorded the altered February 2008 lease, and subsequently assigned the oil and gas rights to Belmont Resources, who assigned to Sinclair, and further Chesapeake and Statoil. In September of 2009, Plaintiff learned Defendant had recorded the altered agreement as a lease, and believing it would cast a cloud on his title and prevent participation in a Wyoming County Landowner’s Group deal, filed an Affidavit affecting title. In December, Plaintiff mailed the Affidavit and a quitclaim deed to Chesapeake. In September of 2011, Chesapeake and Statoil released the oil and gas rights via the quitclaim deed.

The court granted the motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claim of quiet title, because Chesapeake and Statoil released and surrendered the oil and gas rights of the property. The court explained that because this release had occurred prior to the filing of the complaint there was no cloud of title on the property.

Further, the court granted the motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claim of slander of title because the statute of limitations for slander of title had expired. A claim of slander of title has a statute of limitations of one year from when the cloud of title arises. Here, when Defendant filed the counteroffer as a lease, the period began. Plaintiff did not include the slander of title claim until amending his complaint three months after the statutory period elapsed, therefore, it was dismissed.

Written by: Garrett Lent, Research Assistant
Penn State Law, Agricultural Law Center
June 2013

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