An Ohio federal court recently rejected an attempt by surface landowners to avoid and limit the holding in Corban v. Chesapeake Exploration, L.L.C., the landmark 2006 opinion from the Ohio Supreme Court that held that the 1989 Ohio Dormant Mineral Act was not self-executing and that the surface was not automatically merged with the severed mineral interests. The Southern District of Ohio flatly rejected the argument that the Corban opinion violated federal constitutional provisions by depriving surface landowners of a vested property right. This opinion joins other Ohio state and federal opinions upholding Corban’s interpretation of the Ohio Dormant Mineral Act.
The Ohio Supreme Court’s September 15, 2016, decision in Corban v. Chesapeake Exploration, L.L.C., 2016-Ohio-5796, held that the 1989 Ohio Dormant Mineral Act was not self-executing, meaning that the surface was not automatically merged with the severed mineral interests. Since that time, many surface owners who would have benefitted from the opposite interpretation of the Act sought to challenge Corban by raising new claims in pending state and federal actions throughout Ohio. They have raised the claim that the rights provided to surface owners in the 1989 Dormant Mineral Act were vested property rights protected by the United States Constitution, and that the Corban decision and its interpretation of the Dormant Mineral Act unconstitutionally deprived them of those vested property rights. This claim has been raised as a challenge to, and an attempt to nullify, the Corban decision in numerous actions pending in Ohio state and federal courts. Specifically, the claim is that the right to assert a presumption of ownership over the severed mineral interests constitutes a constitutionally protected property right, and Corban allegedly runs afoul of that property right.