The parties in the case are Cartersville Ranch, LLC and James R. Dellinger Jr. According to a summary of the case prepared by the Office of Public Information, the case involves a deed dating back to 1918, when L.L. Cline bought the land from W.C. Satterfield. The deed, according to the summary, stated Satterfield was selling the surface land, but was reserving the mineral rights. The deed also stated if Satterfield or his heirs wanted to made “mud dams, dumps, ponds or ditches” to mine materials, they would pay Cline or his heirs $35 per acre.
The mineral rights passed to Dellinger, Satterfield’s grandson, through an Executor’s Deed of Distribution dated April 30, 1983, according to the summary.
Cartersville Ranch, which purchased the surface land from Cline, sued Dellinger and argued under the Mineral Lapse Statute he had failed to use the rights and had not paid taxes for the previous seven years. Cartersville Ranch later amended the complaint by arguing the 1918 deed was void from the beginning because it created an additional purchase option, which violated Georgia’s Rule Against Perpetuities, a rule designed to prevent tying up property for an indefinite period and destroying its salability.
According to the summary, Cartersville Ranch also argued the 1983 executor’s deed was too vague to be enforceable.
Dellinger filed a counterclaim asking the court to declare he was the sole owner of the mineral rights. He was granted summary judgment and the court found the legal description in the 1918 deed was not invalid due to vagueness, the deed did not violate the Rule Against Perpetuities because it created a penalty rather than an additional purchase option and Dellinger’s interest in the property had not lapsed because he had paid his taxes on the mineral rights in the previous years.
Cartersville Ranch then appealed to the Supreme Court of Georgia.
In its appeal Cartersville Ranch argue the trial court erred because the mineral rights Dellinger claims never existed. Cartersville Ranch contends the parties in the 1918 deed included a land purchase option of indefinite duration, a violation of Georgia’s Rules Against Perpetuities. They also argue Dellinger’s alleged mineral rights still would be void because the description of the mineral rights allegedly conveyed to him by the 1983 executor’s deed “was too indefinite to be enforceable under well-settled Georgia law,” according to the attorneys’ briefs.
“The deed purported to convey ‘mineral interest and mining privileges in 155 acres, more or less, of Lot 270’ but Lot 270 contains 220 acres, and the deed contains nothing to identify which 155 acres of mineral rights are the subject of the conveyance,” the attorneys’ brief continues.
Dellinger’s attorney argues the case is not about stale mineral rights, but Cartersville Ranch’s efforts to steal mineral rights it does not own, according to the summary. Dellinger’s attorney also argued he did attempt to use the mineral rights by drilling test holes on the property in 2006. When Cartersville Ranch found Dellinger had been paying taxes, the summary states, they amended their argument with two new theories, saying the 1983 executor dead was too vague and the 1918 deed violated the perpetuities rule.
“However, Appellant’s misguided effort to divert attention to the actual number of acres in the Land Lot (and where such acres might be located) misses the material point that all of the acres of which Appellant is the surface owner are subject to the mineral interests that passed to Appellee by testamentary success, regardless of acreage or location,” Dellinger’s attorney argues.
When arguing against the Rule Against Perpetuities violation, Dellinger’s lawyer said the language in the 1918 deed required payment for additional uses of certain surface rights was in the nature of a damage clause.
Cartersville Ranch is represented by W. Henry Parkman and Lee Davis, who both declined to comment, with Parkman saying in an email, “We must respect the process and, without commenting, will let the case play out in the Georgia Supreme Court.”
Dellinger is represented by William Neel Jr., who also declined to comment until after arguments are made Monday.