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CDS Family Trust, LLC v. Martin

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 16, 2017

CDS FAMILY TRUST, LLC, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ERNEST R. MARTIN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge

         This case involves a dispute over property and mineral rights in a parcel of land located in Garrett County, Maryland. Plaintiffs CDS Family Trust, LLC and The Carl Delsignore Family Trust (collectively, “plaintiffs” or “CDS”) seek a declaratory judgment regarding their asserted ownership in the property and also assert several counts in tort based on defendants' allegedly unlawful exploitation of the minerals and the land. (ECF No. 19.) Defendants Corsa Coal Corporation NAPP (“Corsa”), Wilson Creek Energy, LLC (“Wilson Creek”), WPO, Inc. (“WPO”), Ernest R. Martin, Patricia J. Martin, Jeffrey Rose, and Debbie Rose have filed a series of cross- and counter-claims asserting their own respective interests in the property and claims based thereon.

         Now pending before this Court are two motions: first, the Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 53) (the “Martin Motion”) filed by Ernest Martin and Patricia Martin; second, the Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 62) (the “CDS Motion”) filed by CDS. The parties' submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, the Martin Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 53) is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE, and the CDS Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 62) is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         In ruling on a Motion for Summary Judgment, this Court considers the facts and draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007).

         Through a series of land transactions and testamentary devises over the past sixty years, the CDS plaintiffs and the Martin defendants have come to assert competing ownership claims over portions of the land and mineral rights in the Kittanning and Freeport coal seams which exist, in part, in Garrett County, Maryland. (ECF No. 19 at ¶¶ 12-15.) In November 2005, the Martins entered into a lease agreement with defendant WPO, Inc., to allow WPO to extract coal and other minerals from their purported property. (Id. at ¶ 19.) The Rose defendants are the agents of WPO, and have acted on its behalf during the relevant period. (Id. at ¶ 6.) In January 2011, PBS Coals, Inc. (“PBSC”) entered into an agreement with WPO to purchase WPO's rights as lessee of the purported Martin property. (Id. at ¶ 23.) From 2011 to 2013, PBSC and WPO extracted substantial amounts of coal from the disputed property. (Id. at ¶¶ 25-28.) In 2014, defendant Corsa Coal Corporation purchased PBSC. (Id. at ¶ 29.) PBSC now exists as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Corsa Coal. (ECF No. 65-1 at ¶¶ 5-6.)[1] Through this action, plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that they are the owners of portions of the Kittanning and Freeport coal seams and coal. (ECF No. 19 at ¶ 32.) Plaintiffs also allege that defendants have wrongfully extracted and conveyed significant portions of plaintiffs' purported minerals and seek damages and an accounting to remedy the financial injuries which defendants have caused.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         I. Motion for Summary Judgment

         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a court “shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A material fact is one that “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Libertarian Party of Va. v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A genuine issue over a material fact exists “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. When considering a motion for summary judgment, a judge's function is limited to determining whether sufficient evidence exists on a claimed factual dispute to warrant submission of the matter to a jury for resolution at trial. Id. at 249.

         Motions for summary judgment must be supported by admissible evidence of record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The rule itself provides that, “[a] party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by:

(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or;
(B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1). A motion for summary judgment will be denied if it is not sufficiently supported by admissible evidence of record. See generally Under A Foot Plant, Co. v. Exterior Design, Inc., BPG-15-871, 2016 WL 4555021, at *3 (D. Md. Sept. 1, 2016).

         In evaluating a Motion for Summary Judgment, this Court must consider the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Libertarian Party of Va., 718 F.3d at 312; see also Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). This Court “must not weigh evidence or make credibility determinations.” Foster v. University of Md.-Eastern Shore, 787 F.3d 243, 248 (4th Cir. 2015) (citing Mercantile Peninsula Bank v. French, 499 F.3d 345, 352 (4th Cir. 2007)); see also Jacobs v. N.C. Administrative Office of ...


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