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Talley v. Peedin

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

February 8, 2017

JENNIFER POFF TALLEY, BARRY TALLEY, NATHAN L. POFF, JR., ROSE M. LEW, AND JOHN LAURENCE POFF APPELLANTS
v.
CAROLYN PEEDIN, ET AL. APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM THE CLEBURNE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 12CV-12-141] HONORABLE TIM WEAVER, JUDGE

         AFFIRMED

          Kutak Rock LLP, by: Jess Askew III and Samantha B. Leflar, for appellants.

          Gammill & Gammill, by: Randall L. Gammill; Dunn, Nutter & Morgan, LLP, by: Charles A. Morgan and M. Wade Kimmel; Brian G. Brooks, Attorney at Law, PLLC, by: Brian G. Brooks; and Maureen H. Harrod, for appellees.

          DAVID M. GLOVER, Judge.

         There is a long history of litigation between appellants, who are the children (Poff children) of Dr. Nathan Poff, Sr. (Dr. Poff), and his first wife, Lou Veta Poff Moon (Lou Veta), and appellees, Carolyn Poff Peedin (Carolyn), who was Dr. Poff's second wife, and her current husband, Merlin Peedin. This latest action involves contested mineral rights. It originated when SEECO, Inc., filed a complaint for interpleader and declaratory judgment to have the trial court determine to whom SEECO should pay natural-gas production royalties regarding designated property in Cleburne County. All of the individuals and entities named by SEECO as having a potential interest in the property are traceable to Dr. Poff. One group consists of Dr. Poff's children with Lou Veta (who now claim their ownership by inheritance from their mother). The other group consists of Dr. Poff's second wife, Carolyn, (who claims her interest by inheritance from Dr. Poff), and her current husband, Merlin Peedin. We dismissed an earlier appeal in this case on April 22, 2015, concluding there was no final order. Talley v. Peedin, 2015 Ark.App. 261.

         On April 4, 2016, the trial court entered an "Amended Final Judgment, " which describes the property at issue as follows:

The Court finds that the mineral interest at issue is located in Section 12-T10N-R8W, Cleburne County, Arkansas, and is particularly described as:
Tract 1: The North Half of the Northeast Quarter (N ½ NE ¼), Southeast Quarter of the Northwest Quarter (SE ¼ N.W. ¼), and the North Half of the Northwest Quarter of the Northwest Quarter (N ½ N.W. ¼ N.W. ¼), containing 140 acres in the aggregate, more or less.
Tract 2: The Northeast Quarter of the Northwest Quarter (NE ¼ N.W. ¼), containing 40 acres, more or less.
Tract 3: The South Half of the Northeast Quarter (S ½ NE ¼), containing 80 acres, more or less.
Tract 4: The South Half of the Northwest Quarter of the Northwest Quarter (S ½ N.W. ¼ N.W. ¼), and the North Half of the Southwest Quarter of the Northwest Quarter (N ½ SW ¼ N.W. ¼), containing 40 acres in the aggregate, more or less.
The disputed mineral interests involve a one-fourth (1/4) interest in Tracts 1, 2, and 3 and a three-sixteenth (3/16) interest in Tract 4.

         The trial court found that ownership of the undivided one-fourth (1/4) interest in the minerals underlying Tract 3 is held by Carolyn; that ownership of the undivided one-fourth (1/4) interest in the minerals underlying Tracts 1 and 2, as well as the three-sixteenth (3/16) interest in the minerals underlying Tract 4 are held by MAP2009-OK; that the lease interests arising from Carolyn and her successors-in-interest are valid, i.e., XTO Energy, Inc., holds an undivided eighty-five percent (85%) leasehold interest in the minerals in Tracts 1, 2, 3, and 4; that Shaw Farms, Inc., holds an undivided seven and one-half percent (7½%) leasehold interest in the minerals in Tracts 1, 2, 3, and 4; and that Boston Mountain Oil & Gas, LLC, has an undivided seven and one-half percent (7½%) leasehold interest in the minerals in Tracts 1, 2, 3, and 4, with a one hundred percent (100%) wellbore reservation in the GreenBay Packaging Well #10-08#3-13H12.

         The trial court further found that the Poff children have no ownership interest in the subject minerals and that all leases involving the subject minerals executed by the Poff children in favor of Sedna Energy, Inc., and Chesapeake Exploration, LLC, and the later assignments of those leases to Barlow Projects, Inc., XTO Energy, Inc., and BHP Billiton Petroleum (Fayetteville), LLC, are null and void. The trial court incorporated by reference its amended findings of fact and conclusions of law into the "Amended Final Judgment, " which included the legal conclusions that the Poff children were estopped from pursuing an ownership interest in the subject mineral interests under the doctrines of res judicata, collateral estoppel, judicial estoppel, and equitable estoppel. Finally, the trial court awarded attorney's fees and costs to Carolyn in the amount of $5, 000 plus postjudgment interest.

         This appeal followed, with the Poff children contending 1) the trial court erred in not finding their mother owned half the mineral rights at the time of her death; 2) they are not estopped from claiming ownership of their mother's mineral interests based on the previous lawsuit regarding their father's interest in the mineral rights; and 3) the attorney's fee award of $5, 000 should be reversed because a justiciable controversy existed and there was no finding or evidence of bad faith. We affirm.

         Dr. Poff's marriage to Lou Veta took place in 1953. In 1971, he acquired by warranty deed, in his name only, 100% of the surface rights to the Cleburne County property that is in dispute, along with one-half of the mineral interests in Tracts 1, 2, and 3, and three-eighths of the mineral interests in Tract 4.

         On October 9, 1973, Dr. Poff and Lou Veta conveyed the Cleburne County property by form-type warranty deed to William Clyde Glover. The deed provided in pertinent part

THAT we, Nathan L. Poff and Lou Veta Poff, his wife, for and in consideration of the sum of . . . do hereby grant, bargain, sell and convey unto said William Clyde Glover, grantees, and unto his heirs, successors, and assigns forever, the following ...

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