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Maralex Resources Inc. v. Chamberlain

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Fourth Division

January 2, 2014

Maralex Resources, Inc., a Colorado corporation, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Georgia Chamberlain, Public Trustee of Garfield County, Defendant, and Nona Jean Powell, f/k/a Nona Jean Withers, Defendant-Appellee

Page 400

Rio Blanco County District Court No. 10CV20. Honorable Denise K. Lynch, Judge.

Abadie & Schill, P.C., Lon W. Abadie, William E. Zimsky, Durango, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Dufford, Waldeck, Milburn & Krohn, L.L.P., Nathan A. Keever, Matthew A. Montgomery, Grand Junction, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellee.

Opinion by JUDGE DUNN. Webb and Bernard, JJ., concur.

OPINION

Page 401

DUNN, JUDGE.

[¶1] In this quiet title action, plaintiff, Maralex Resources, Inc., appeals the trial court's judgment in favor of defendant, Nona Jean Powell. We affirm.

I. Background

[¶2] Since 1996, Maralex has been the lessee under oil and gas leases issued by the United States. Under the leases, Maralex operates and maintains various oil and gas wells located on land owned by the federal government. To access the wells, Maralex and its predecessors in interest have historically traversed two roads located on what is now Powell's property, which is adjacent to the federal land.

[¶3] After issues arose between Maralex and Powell regarding access to the roads on Powell's property, Maralex filed an action seeking a declaration that it is the owner, by prescription, of access easements across Powell's property. Maralex also sought a decree quieting title for its continued use of the easements.

[¶4] After a bench trial, the court concluded that Maralex lacked standing to assert a prescriptive easement claim. In doing so, the court relied on common law landlord-tenant principles to conclude that (1) a tenant lacks standing to quiet title to an affirmative easement appurtenant to the fee, and (2) an easement annexed to a leasehold but independent of the fee interest is not a recognized form of property.

[¶5] Despite concluding that it lacked jurisdiction over Maralex's claims, the trial court nevertheless considered and resolved the merits of the suit " to promote judicial economy and to avoid multiple appeals." In a detailed order, the court found that Maralex's use of the roads was permissive, and not adverse.[1] Thus, it found that Maralex did not establish the existence of the asserted prescriptive easements.

II. Appellate Jurisdiction

[¶6] Maralex's original appeal was dismissed for lack of a final appealable judgment. The trial court then certified its findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order under C.R.C.P. 54(b). The parties agree, as do we, that the trial court's certified order is a final appealable judgment. It constitutes both a final ruling on an entire claim for relief and an ultimate disposition on Maralex's claims against Powell. Kisselman v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co., 292 P.3d 964, 969 (Colo. App. 2011). Accordingly, the appeal is properly before us.

III. Standing

[¶7] Maralex contends that the trial court erred in concluding that it lacked standing. We agree.

[¶8] Standing is a component of subject matter jurisdiction and is a constitutional prerequisite to maintaining a lawsuit. See Batterman v. ...


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