Murray v. BEJ Minerals, LLC
Facts: A seller conveys one-third of the mineral rights of a property to a buyer. The seller reserves the remaining two-thirds of the mineral estate. The buyer later discovers rare, well-preserved dinosaur fossils on the property and sells some of them to a museum after learning of their high value.
Claim: The seller seeks ownership of two-thirds of the dinosaur fossils and sale proceeds, claiming they belong to them since they hold two-thirds of the estate’s mineral rights and dinosaur fossils are minerals.
Counterclaim: The buyer seeks ownership of all the dinosaur fossils and sale proceeds, claiming they belong to them since they are the owners of the estate and dinosaur fossils are not minerals.
Holding: A federal appellate court holds two-thirds of the dinosaur fossils and sale proceeds belong to the seller since they retained two-thirds of the estate’s mineral rights and dinosaur fossils are properly classified as minerals. [Murray v. BEJ Minerals, LLC (9th Cir. 2018)_F.3d_]
Editor’s note—Mineral rights are explained in first tuesday’s video on Land: The First Component of Real Estate.
Further, court opinions occasionally contain nuggets of linguist brilliance. This case begins with a dramatic opening worthy of Hollywood:
Once upon a time, in a place now known as Montana, dinosaurs roamed the land. On a fateful day, some 66 million years ago, two such creatures, a 22-foot-long theropod and a 28-foot-long ceratopsian, engaged in mortal combat. While history has not recorded the circumstances surrounding this encounter, the remnants of these Cretaceous species, interlocked in combat, became entombed under a pile of sandstone.
That was then . . . this is now.