Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Federal court adopts report and recommendation to dismiss PGC’s action to quiet title.

On July 18, 2013, the District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania adopted the report and recommendation of a magistrate judge to grant a private trust’s motion to dismiss an action to quiet title brought by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Pennsylvania Game Commission v. Proctor Heirs Trust, 2013 WL 3785253 (M.D. Pa July 18, 2013).

In 1895, Thomas Proctor recorded a deed in Sullivan County reserving the mineral, oil and gas rights of the property to himself and his heirs. In June 1908, the property was sold by Sullivan County Treasurer to a private purchaser at a tax auction, where the oil, gas and mineral estates were not separately assessed. In 1910, the purchaser recorded a deed with the Central Pennsylvania Lumber Company. Fifteen years later, in 1925, CPLC and PGC recorded a deed through which PGC obtained an interest in the mineral rights. PGC claims that in 1980 the Proctor Heir’s conveyed their interests to the Trust. PGC brought its action to quiet title in 2012.

The magistrate judge recommended the action to quiet title be dismissed because PGC failed to establish it was in possession or exercising dominion over the mineral estate. The magistrate judge explained that possession is a jurisdictional prerequisite for an action to quiet title. Further, PGC failed to demonstrate in its complaint the specific claim under Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1061(b), and did not provide well-pleaded facts in its complaint to allege it was in possession of the mineral estate. Pennsylvania courts generally find possession when mineral are “in grasp” (the portion of the land has been tapped by the party). PGC, however, only referred to its right of possession through the deed with CPLC. Therefore, PGC did not state a claim for which relief could be granted, and the magistrate judge recommended the Proctor Trust’s motion to dismiss be granted.

For more information on legal developments in the Marcellus shale play, visit the Marcellus Shale Resource Area.

Written by: Garrett Lent, Research Assistant
Agricultural Law Resource and Reference Center
July 2013

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