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Rainbow Trout Farms, Inc. v. Kuntz

United States District Court, D. Kansas

June 12, 2014

RAINBOW TROUT FARMS, INC. Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL J. KUNTZ, ET AL. Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JULIE A. ROBINSON, District Judge.

Plaintiff Rainbow Trout Farms filed this action against Defendants Michael J. Kuntz and Jone D. Kuntz, arising out of a contract dispute for mineral rights and executive leasing rights. This case comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 24) and Defendants' Cross Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 29). The motions are fully briefed and the Court is prepared to rule. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion and grants Defendants' cross-motion.

I. Uncontroverted Facts

On October 23, 2008, Plaintiff purchased real estate (the "Property") in Gove County, Kansas from Defendants. Defendants reserved a portion of their mineral interests in the Property by contract and warranty deed. The Real Estate Purchase Agreement (the "Contract") provided as follows:

Minerals: an undivided One Half (½) of the Seller's mineral interest will be reserved by the Seller for a period of Ten (10) years and as long thereafter as production exists. If the transaction hereto is successful in Closing[, ] Buyer shall have executive leasing rights. This mineral interest is on all but the producing acreage at the time this contract is executed.[1]

The Correctional Warranty Deed (the "Deed)", solely changing the name of the purchaser of the Property to Plaintiff's name, was filed on January 29, 2009 with the Register of Deeds of Gove County, Kansas. The Deed provided in part: "EXCEPTING AND RESERVING to Grantors, Michael J. Kuntz and Jone D. Kuntz, husband and wife, an undivided one-half of their oil and gas interest for a period of ten years from December 1, 2008, and as long thereafter as production exists."[2] While the Contract contemplated executive leasing rights, the Deed did not.

Defendants and Plaintiff leased their interests in the Property for oil and gas exploration by separate agreements to third parties. Defendants Michael J. Kuntz and Jone D. Kuntz then transferred a portion of their oil and gas interest in the Property to Defendants Charles A. Kuntz and Deborah Schoenberger by quitclaim deed.

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.[3] In applying this standard, the court views the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.[4] "There is no genuine issue of material fact unless the evidence, construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party."[5] A fact is "material" if, under the applicable substantive law, it is "essential to the proper disposition of the claim."[6] An issue of fact is "genuine" if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.'"[7]

The moving party initially must show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law.[8] In attempting to meet this standard, a movant that does not bear the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial need not negate the other party's claim; rather, the movant need simply point out to the court a lack of evidence for the other party on an essential element of that party's claim.[9]

Once the movant has met this initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."[10] The nonmoving party may not simply rest upon its pleadings to satisfy its burden.[11] Rather, the nonmoving party must "set forth specific facts that would be admissible in evidence in the event of trial from which a rational trier of fact could find for the nonmovant."[12] To accomplish this, the facts "must be identified by reference to an affidavit, a deposition transcript, or a specific exhibit incorporated therein."[13] Rule 56(c)(4) provides that opposing affidavits must be made on personal knowledge and shall set forth such facts as would be admissible in evidence.[14] The non-moving party cannot avoid summary judgment by repeating conclusory opinions, allegations unsupported by specific facts, or speculation.[15]

"Where, as here, the parties file cross motions for summary judgment, [the Court is] entitled to assume that no evidence needs to be considered other than that filed by the parties, but summary judgment is nevertheless inappropriate if disputes remain as to material facts."[16] Cross motions should be considered separately.[17] Just because the Court denies one does not require that it grant the other.[18]

Finally, summary judgment is not a "disfavored procedural shortcut;" on the contrary, it is an important procedure "designed to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action."[19] In responding to a motion for summary judgment, "a party cannot rest on ignorance of facts, on speculation, or on suspicion and may ...


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