Ga. high court sides with Dellinger in mineral rights case
by Jason Lowrey
May 20, 2014 | 1809 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ruling on a case argued before them on Feb. 3, the Georgia Supreme Court decided Monday that James R. Dellinger owns the mineral rights to approximately 211 acres of land in Bartow County.

Dellinger had been defending his mineral rights against Cartersville Ranch LLC, which asserted Dellinger never had the mineral rights and later asserted he lost the mineral rights because he did not pay taxes on them, according to a court summary from February.

The case went to the state supreme court after a lower court granted Dellinger summary judgement and affirmed his mineral rights. Dellinger came to own the mineral rights from a 1918 sale where L.L. Cline bought the surface land from W.C. Satterfield, who retained the mineral rights. Cartersville Ranch eventually purchased the surface land, while Dellinger received the mineral rights through an inheritance laid out in an executor’s deed of distribution from 1983.

Carterville Ranch argued Dellinger never had mineral rights, due the original 1918 sale including a land purchase option of indefinite duration, which they said violated the state’s rule Against perpetuities, according to the court summary from February.

However, in Monday’s ruling, Chief Justice Hugh P. Thompson wrote in the opinion, which all justices concurred with, that, “It is clear that the parties to the 1918 deed intended to convey to the grantee fee-simple title to the surface rights, with a reservation in the grantor of retained title to the mineral rights of the property.”

The court also dismissed Cartersville Ranch’s assertion that the 1983 executor’s deed of distribution was too indefinite to be enforced. The deed stated Dellinger was granted, “‘mineral interest and mining privileges in 155 acres, more of less, of Lot 270,’ while this land lot actually contains 220 acres,” according to the opinion.

In its opinion, the court ruled, “This argument, however, misconstrues the import of the 1983 Executor’s Deed which merely served as a deed of assent for the estate of Dellinger’s mother. ... Under Georgia law, Dellinger’s interest in this property derived from his mother’s will.”

“... As Cartersville Ranch has failed to point to any evidence showing that anyone other than Dellinger obtained an interest in the reserved mineral rights, or that Dellinger has not retained a legally enforceable interest therein, summary judgement in favor of Dellinger on this issue was appropriate,” the court continued in its opinion.

In addressing Cartersville Ranch’s claim Dellinger’s mineral rights had lapsed, the court stated it was “undisputed” that Dellinger paid the ad valorem taxes assessed on the property.

“Under Georgia law, it does not matter whether he paid these taxes as sole holder of the entire reserved mineral interest or as holder of an undivided partial interest in the mineral rights,” the opinion said.

Attorney William Neel Jr., who represented Dellinger during the case, said he was pleased with the result.

“I’m just so happy for Mr. Dellinger’s sake. He’s 85 years old and he’s just sad the Rollins family put him through all of this to take away the mineral rights that he’d been paying tax on — he and his family — for over 100 years. It’s just sad to me that they had to put him through all that. But I’m just so thankful that we have justice in the end and that’s what our court system is for,” he said.

Although he said he could not speak for Cartersville Ranch and its attorneys W. Henry Parkman and Lee Davis, Neel believed the ruling was “the end of the line.”

“Technically there is a right to file a motion for reconsideration — there might even be a right to appeal to a U.S. Supreme Court — but that would be highly unlikely in a case of this nature, and I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said.

To read the full opinion, visit the Georgia Supreme Court’s website, www.gasupreme.us.