North Dakota Supreme Court Issues Decision Regarding Ownership of Minerals Beneath Railroad Rights of Way
The North Dakota Supreme Court issued its decision in EOG Resources, Inc. v. Soo Line Railroad Company, 2015 ND 187 on July 15, 2015. Prior to the issuance of this decision, most attorneys examining title to lands in North Dakota took one of two contrary positions relating to the ownership of the minerals beneath railroad rights of way which were evidenced by “Right of Way Deeds” or other similar instruments conveying strips of land to a railway company. Some attorneys treated these deeds as creating easements only, following the legal theory that because the railroad could have condemned the strip of land as an easement, it could have only obtained from the fee owner by a conveyance what it would have obtained by way of a condemnation. This position followed the logic outlined in Lalim v. Williams County, 105 N.W.2d 339 (N.D. 1960). The second position taken by other attorneys was that Lalim did not apply, and that the plain language of the deeds resulted in a conveyance of full fee title. This position was often accompanied by the citation to State v. Rosenquist, 51 N.W.2d 767 (N.D. 1952).