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BACK TO THE FUTURE: WHEN YOU GOTTA GIVE UP MINERALS THAT YOU DON’T OWN

The “after-acquired-title” doctrine of the law creates problems that can be fixed by a Quiet Title lawsuit. An ‘after-acquired-title’ issue occurs as Colorado Courts have stated, where one conveys property with warranty, but without title, but afterwards acquires title, his first deed works an estoppel, and passes title to the grantee the instant the grantor gets his title. Courts have said that the purpose of the doctrine is to confirm in the grantee any legal estate or interest subsequently acquired by the grantor which was intended to be conveyed.

The North Dakota Supreme Court recently decided Hall v. Malloy, in which the plaintiff prevailed against an ‘after-acquired-title’ claim through a Quiet Title lawsuit. The facts of Hall involved a dispute as to the rightful owner of a number of mineral acres owned by plaintiff due to a conveyance from Harry L. Malloy to Todd Hall’s predecessor in interest, Edwin Hall. Todd Hall claimed he owned 9 net mineral acres, or 10 percent of Harry’s 90 acre interest, while the Malloy Family Mineral Trust claimed he owned half of that interest. This is because Harry and Lorraine Malloy got divorced in 1983, and the judge in the divorce issued an order stating that Lorraine was to receive one-half of Harry’s interest in and to the mineral acres at issue.

The Malloy Family Mineral Trust used the after-acquired-title doctrine to assert the mineral interest allegedly belonging to Lorraine and heirs because Harry in fact did not rightfully own the 90 acre interest he claimed in the divorce proceeding. Instead, he re-acquired the 90 acres in 1995. The 1983 divorce judgment was held to be a valid instrument of conveyance under the North Dakota after-acquired-title statute, but the court noted that the statute also requires that only conveyances of real property in fee simple can create an interest via after-acquired-title. Fee simple is a permanent ownership interest in real property that passes to heirs and is not subject to conditional restraints. The court decided that the judge presiding over the earlier divorce proceeding only compelled the conveyance of whatever interest Harry L. Malloy may have rightfully had at the time (which was nothing), rather than conveying the interest that Harry owned in the mineral acres as fee simple. Hall’s Quiet Title lawsuit permitted Hall to successfully defend his rightful mineral interest over the full 9 acres.

In searching a chain of title, one must consider the consequences of ‘after-acquired-title’ when encountering estates that were not or have not been probated, or in cases of deeds that were set aside for many years and not recorded until well after the date of the conveyance. These are times to look back to the issue of ‘after-acquired-title.’