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In re Estate of Simmons

United States District Court, D. Colorado

December 11, 2017

IN RE ESTATE OF CHARLOTTE F. SIMMONS, a Colorado estate, Plaintiff,
v.
N.G.L. HOLDINGS, LLC, an Arizona limited liability company, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING N.G.L. HOLDINGS, LLC'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          R. Brooke Jackson United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 21. For the reasons below, the Court DENIES the motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background.

         This case arises from a property dispute in Huerfano County, Colorado. ECF No. 1 at 1. Ms. Charlotte Simmons, through her estate, claims that she is the rightful owner of the mineral estate located beneath the surface estate owned by N.G.L. Holdings, LLC (“NGL”). Id. NGL contests this, claiming that it is the owner of both the surface estate and the mineral estate. ECF No. 15.

         The land at issue (henceforth, “the Property”) is legally described as:

“The North ½ of the Northeast ¼, and the Southeast ¼ of the Northeast ¼ of Section 9; and the Northwest ¼ of the Northwest ¼ of Section 10; all in Township 30 South, Range 69 West of the 6th Principal Meridian in Colorado containing one hundred and sixty acres.” Judge R. Brooke Jackson

         ECF No. 21-1. The Property's chain of title is recorded as follows:

• On November 10, 1895 the United States government granted the Property to Robert J. Price. Id.
• In 1928 the Price family conveyed the Property to Dorothy A. Dawson. ECF No. 21-2.
• On November 24, 1965 the Dawson family conveyed the surface estate to Alva and William Adams (collectively the “Adamses”), but reserved the mineral estate to itself. ECF No. 21-3 at 1, 2.
• Then, on February 8, 1974, the Dawson family conveyed the mineral estate to the Adamses. ECF No. 21-4. At this point, both the surface and mineral estates of the Property were held in common ownership by the Adamses.
• On May 1, 1974, a co-partnership of the Adamses called the Quivira Land Company, see ECF No. 21-5, conveyed the surface estate to Charlotte and Alam Simmons (collectively the “Simmonses”). That same day, the Adamses, in their individual capacities, conveyed the mineral estate to the Simmonses. ECF No. 21-7. As such, as of May 1, 1974, the mineral and surface estates of the Property were held in common ownership by the Simmonses.
• Alan Simmons died on August 11, 1982, at which time the Property passed to Charlotte Simmons exclusively. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 17(A).
• On September 27, 1995 Charlotte Simmons conveyed at least some portion of the Property to the Leonard F. Austin Jr. Revocable Trust Date April 15, 1987 (the “Austin Jr. Trust”). ECF No. 21-8. The conveyance did not specifically reference the surface or mineral estates, but stated that the following were not included in the conveyance: “1995 taxes and all subsequent years, restrictions, reservations, covenants, easements and rights-of-way of record, if any.” Id.
• On June 29, 2007 the Austin Jr. Trust conveyed to NGL via warranty deed “the real property, together with improvements, if any, and any right, title, or interest to mineral rights and water rights, if any.” ECF No. 21-9 at 1. That same day, a quitclaim deed was made and delivered to NGL including the same legal description. ECF No. 21-9 at 2.

         B. Procedural History.

         Ms. Simmons filed a complaint with this Court on September 29, 2016 seeking to quiet title to the Property's mineral estate. ECF No. 1. After submitting an answer and counterclaim against Ms. Simmons for breach of warranty of title, ECF No. 15, NGL then filed this motion for summary judgment on June 21, 2017. ECF No. 21.

         Federal jurisdiction is based upon diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.[1]Therefore, Colorado substantive law applies. Macon v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 743 F.3d 708, 713 (10th Cir. 2014). Because the Colorado Supreme Court has not directly addressed the legal issue presented, this Court must “attempt to predict how [Colorado's] highest court would interpret [the issue].” Squires v. Breckenridge Outdoor Educ. Ctr., 715 F.3d 867, 875 (10th Cir. 2013). In doing so, this Court may “consider all resources available, including decisions of [Colorado] courts, other state courts and federal courts, in addition to the general weight and trend of authority.” In re Dittmar, 618 F.3d 1199, 1204 (10th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         II. ...


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