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Neuhoff v. Neuhoff

Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo

May 15, 2018

JOE B. NEUHOFF AND NANCY M. NEUHOFF; THOMAS H. NEUHOFF AND JUDY NEUHOFF; ROBERT
v.
NEUHOFF AND ANDREA D. NEUHOFF; AND BOCA VAIL, INC., APPELLANTS
v.
PIRANHA PARTNERS, RANDOLPH MUNDT AND THOMAS H. OWEN, JR., INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARTNERS OF PIRANHA PARTNERS, AND CHARLES RAY OWEN, APPELLEES

          On Appeal from the 31st District Court Wheeler County, Texas Trial Court No. 12, 960-A; Honorable Steven R. Emmert, Presiding

          Before CAMPBELL and HANCOCK and PIRTLE, JJ. [1]

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Patrick A. Pirtle Justice

         This appeal involves the proper construction of an assignment purporting to convey an oil, gas, and mineral interest from Neuhoff Oil & Gas Corporation to Piranha Partners. The assignment in question was executed to be effective October 1, 1999, and it was recorded at Volume 467, Page 698, of the Deed Records of Wheeler County, Texas. It is the peculiarity of the description of the property or properties transferred that gives rise to this dispute. Appellants, Joe B. Neuhoff, Nancy M. Neuhoff, Thomas H. Neuhoff, Judy A. Neuhoff, Robert V. Neuhoff, Andrea D. Neuhoff, and Boca Vail, Inc. (hereinafter collectively "Neuhoffs") are the successors in interest to the assignor while Appellees, Piranha Partners, Randolph Mundt, Thomas H. Owen, Jr., and Charles Ray Owen (hereinafter "Piranha") are assignees or successors in interest to the assignee of the assignment in question.

         The Neuhoffs originally sued Piranha seeking, among other relief, a declaratory judgment that they owned all of a certain overriding royalty interest[2] accruing from an oil, gas, and mineral lease covering Section 28, Block A-3, H&GN RR. Co. Survey, Wheeler County, Texas, save and except that portion assigned to Piranha by the assignment in question. The Neuhoffs contend the assignment only conveyed to Piranha their overriding royalty interest in a specific well drilled on the Northwest Quarter (NW/4) of Section 28, to-wit: the Puryear No. 1-28 well. Piranha subsequently filed a counterclaim and cross-action for trespass to try title and for a declaratory judgment finding that the assignment in question conveyed the Neuhoffs' overriding royalty interest, in its entirety, in Section 28 to Piranha.

          On April 29, 2014, Piranha filed its Motion for Partial Summary Judgment requesting the trial court grant summary judgment in its favor on the Neuhoffs' action to quiet title and for slander of title. Piranha further prayed that "Piranha is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law on [the Neuhoffs'] suit to quiet title and for slander of title and title to the overriding royalty interest burdening the Puryear Lease (covering the full section) should be quieted in Piranha." On May 29, 2014, the Neuhoffs filed their own Motion for Partial Summary Judgment requesting the trial court grant summary judgment declaring that they hold title to and own the overriding royalty interest as to "all oil and gas produced within Section 28, save and except that oil and gas in place in the Northwest Quarter of Section 28, which is produced from the Puryear 1-28 Well." A hearing on the competing motions for partial summary judgment was heard, and on March 21, 2016, the trial court entered an order providing, in part, as follows:

It is, therefore, ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the Piranha Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is in all matters GRANTED.
It is further ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that The Neuhoff's [sic] Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Directed Against Piranha Partners, Its Partners and Charles R. Owen is in all matters DENIED.

         In addition to the two paragraphs cited above, the order severed the remaining claims, counterclaims, and causes of action pertaining to other parties from the action in this case, presumably to make the summary judgment order a final, appealable order. All other relief not expressly granted was denied.

         A question concerning the finality of the judgment arose because the order being appealed did not declare anything other than that Piranha's partial motion for summary judgment was granted and the Neuhoffs' partial motion for summary judgment was denied. Because the order was facially incomplete in that it required extrinsic evidence to clarify, explain, or give meaning to its terms, this court ordered the trial court to enter a judgment which more accurately reflected the ruling of the trial court. See Neuhoff v. Piranha Partners, No. 07-16-00136-CV, 2016 Tex.App. LEXIS 10713, at *4 (Tex. App.- Amarillo Sept. 20, 2016, order). Thereafter, on October 20, 2016, the trial court entered its Order Clarifying This Court's Prior Order, declaring Piranha to be the owner of the overriding royalty interest covering the entirety of Section 28.

         Raising four issues, the Neuhoffs contend the trial court erred by (1) granting Piranha's motion for partial summary judgment, (2) denying their motion for partial summary judgment, (3) excluding certain summary judgment evidence, and (4) implicitly excluding other summary judgment evidence. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and render judgment declaring Piranha to be the owner of the overriding royalty interest covering the Northwest Quarter of Section 28 only and we remand this cause to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         Background

         On July 21, 1975, Billie Jean Mallot, and others, acting as Lessors, and Marie Lister, acting as Lessee, executed an Oil, Gas and Mineral Lease (the "Puryear Lease") covering all of Section 28, Block A-3, H&GN RR Survey, Wheeler County, Texas. The Puryear Lease was recorded in the deed records of Wheeler County at Volume 247, Page 818.

         Later that same year, Lister, as assignor, executed an Assignment of Oil and Gas Lease, conveying an undivided two-thirds interest in the Puryear Lease (covering all of Section 28) to Neuhoff Oil and Gas Corp., as assignee. This assignment was recorded in the deed records of Wheeler County at Volume 247, Page 898. A correction assignment of the same property was later recorded in the deed records of Wheeler County at Volume 268, Page 760, on August 16, 1978.

         Three years later, on August 14, 1978, Neuhoff Oil and Gas Corp. and Three "L" Oil Company assigned all their right, title, and interest in the Puryear Lease (covering all of Section 28) to Bobby Reeves, subject to "the Landowners' Three-Sixteenths (3/16th) Royalty Interest" and a "one-sixteenth (1/16th) Overriding Royalty Interest" reserved and retained by the assignors. This assignment was recorded in the deed records of Wheeler County at Volume 269, Page 209, on September 6, 1978.

         In September of 1999, Neuhoff Oil and Gas Corp. offered certain properties for sale at an auction conducted by The Oil and Gas Asset Clearinghouse. The

         Clearinghouse furnished all prospective buyers with an auction catalog describing the properties being offered. Included within the properties being sold by Neuhoff Oil and Gas Corp. was Lot 320.2, described as "Puryear 1-28" in Wheeler County, Texas. The "property data sheet" for Lot 320.2 referenced only production data from the Puryear 1-28 well.

         Prior to bidding on the property, Piranha made its own investigation regarding the properties being sold and it was provided for review a form assignment, identical to the assignment it eventually received, save the omission of the name of the grantee. The ...


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