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Swords Creek Land P'ship v. Belcher

Supreme Court of Virginia

September 12, 2014

SWORDS CREEK LAND PARTNERSHIP
v.
DOLLIE BELCHER, ET AL

FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF RUSSELL COUNTY. Michael L. Moore, Judge.

Alvin L. Emch (Eric D. Whitesell; Blair M. Gardner; Lee Adair Floyd; Gillespie, Hart, Altizer & Whitesell; Jackson Kelly, on briefs), for appellant.

Peter G. Glubiak (Terrence Shea Cook; Glubiak Law; Cook Law, on brief), for appellees.

PRESENT: Lemons, Goodwyn, Millette, Mims, and Powell, JJ., and Russell and Koontz, S.JJ.

OPINION

CHARLES S. RUSSELL, SENIOR JUSTICE.

This appeal requires us to revisit the questions arising from the interpretation of a severance deed conveying ownership of, and the right to remove, coal and timber. The dispute before us is between the present owners of the surface of the land and the successors-in-interest to the grantees of the coal rights. The parties assert conflicting claims to royalties generated by the extraction of coal bed methane gas (CBM) from the coal seams underlying the property.

Facts and Proceedings

There are no material facts in dispute. In 1887, Christopher Richardson and Amanda Richardson, his wife, owned a 891 3/4-acre tract of land in Russell County. On February 7, 1887, they executed a deed conveying to Joseph I. Doran and W. A. Dick

all of the coal, in, upon or underlying a certain tract of land and the timber and privileges hereinafter specified as appurtenant to said tract of land [metes and bounds description follows] to enter on, over, upon, and through said tract of land for the purpose of digging, mining, or otherwise

Page 571

securing the coal and other things in and on said tract of land hereinbefore specified, and removing the same from off said land . . . .
And, as appurtenant to said tract of land, and the rights hereinbefore granted, all the timber except as hereinbefore excepted on said tract of land that may be necessary to use to successfully and conveniently mine said coal and other things above mentioned and granted; and the right to the said [grantees and their assigns] to enter on, over, upon, and through said tract of land for the purpose of digging, mining, or otherwise securing the coal and other things in and on said tract of land hereinbefore specified, and removing the same from off said lands; the right to pass through, over, and upon said tract of land by railway or otherwise, to reach any other lands belonging to the said [grantees] for the purpose of digging for, mining, or otherwise securing the coal and other things hereinbefore specified, and removing same from off such other land . . . .

This severance deed included a general warranty of title and covenants of quiet possession and freedom from encumbrances.

The parties to this appeal are Dollie Belcher, Doris E. Dye and Ruby Lawson, successors-in interest to the grantors named in the 1887 severance deed (the Surface Owners) and Swords Creek Land Partnership, ...


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