United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Benson, pro se.
A. Markert, Larson King, LLP, and Nicholas C. Grant,
Ebeltoft. Sickler. Lawyers PLLC, Counsel for Defendants
Family Tree Corporation, Inc. and Desert Partners IV, L.P.
MEMORANDUM OF LAW & ORDER
Michael J. Davis Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendants Family Tree
Corporation and Desert Partners IV, L.P.'s Motion to
Dismiss [Docket No. 15] and Plaintiff John Benson's
Motion for a Judgment on the Pleadings [Docket Nos. 64-65].
The Court heard oral argument on February 22, 2018. Because
the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over Defendants Family
Tree Corporation and Desert Partners IV, L.P., they are
dismissed as defendants in the action. The Court does not
reach Defendants' multiple alternative arguments for
Complaint and relevant public documents describe a detailed
and extensive history regarding the parties, property title
at issue, and the years of previous litigation. For the
purpose of analyzing the motion to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction, the Court provides only an abbreviated
description of the facts.
The Relevant Parties
John Benson is a Minnesota resident. (Compl. ¶ 1.) Elmer
and Frances Benson were his grandparents. (Id.)
Family Tree Corporation (“Family Tree”) is a
Wyoming corporation with its principal place of business in
Lakewood, Colorado. (Dykes Aff. ¶¶ 3, 4.) It buys
and sells real property mineral interests and participates in
oil and gas wells. (Id. ¶ 7.) It has never had
an office in Minnesota; has never employed persons in
Minnesota; has never owned any property in Minnesota; and has
never advertised in Minnesota. (Id. ¶¶
Family Tree identifies owners of real property mineral
interests, it sends them a letter expressing Family
Tree's interest. (Dykes Aff. ¶ 8.) The mineral
rights owner then decides whether or not to respond to Family
Tree and enter into negotiations. (Id. ¶ 9.)
Family Tree has never bought or sold mineral interests in
Minnesota. (Id. ¶10.)
Desert Partners IV, L.P. (“Desert”) is a limited
partnership organized under the laws of the state of Texas.
(Gieb Aff. ¶ 3.) None of the partners of Desert are
Minnesota residents. (Id. ¶ 4.) Desert is in
the business of buying and selling real property mineral
interests. (Id. ¶ 7.) Desert has never had an
office in Minnesota, employed persons in Minnesota, owned
property in Minnesota, or advertised in Minnesota.
(Id. ¶¶ 5-6.) It has never had any contact
with Defendant Ann Kemske or Geri Benson because it acquired
its portion of the mineral interests at issue from Family
Tree. (Id. ¶ 8.)
Mineral Rights History
lawsuit relates to certain mineral interests in, on, under,
or relating to real property located in McKenzie County,
North Dakota, described as Township 152 North, Range 100
West, Section 33: E1/2SE1/4, Section 34: W1/2SW1/4
(“Property”). (Markert Aff., Ex. 1, N.D. Compl.
¶ 1.) The mineral interest at issue is an undivided
one-fifth mineral interest in the Property or 32 net mineral
acres (“Subject Mineral Interest”).
Subject Mineral Interest was conveyed by Elmer and Frances
Benson to their granddaughter, Defendant Ann Kemske, by two
quit claim deeds executed in 1984 and 1985 (“1984 and
1985 Quitclaim Deeds”). (Markert Aff., Exs. 3-4.) Each
of the 1984 and 1985 Quitclaim Deeds conveyed an undivided
one-tenth mineral interest to each of the 5 grantees: Ann
Kemske, Plaintiff John T. Benson, Edward A. Benson, Louise F.
Benson, and Geri K. Benson Weidt (“Benson
grandchildren”), for a total transfer to Kemske of an
undivided one-fifth mineral interest.
conveyed the Subject Mineral Interest to Family Tree by a
Mineral Deed dated April 15, 2010, which was recorded on May
12, 2010, in the McKenzie County Recorder's Office as
Document No. 401900 (“Kemske-FT Deed”). (Markert
Aff., Ex. 6.) Under the Kemske-FT Deed, Kemske conveyed to
Family Tree all of her “right, title and interest in
and to all of the oil, gas, and other minerals in and
under” the Property. (Id.)
12, 2010, Family Tree conveyed 24 net mineral acres in the
Subject Mineral Interest to Desert, and the deed was recorded
on June 14, 2010, in the McKenzie County Recorder's
Office as Document No. 403773 (“FT-Desert Deed”).
(Markert Aff., Ex. 7.)
10, 2010, Geri Benson, one of the Benson grandchildren,
conveyed by mineral deed all of her right, title, and
interest in and to the minerals underlying the Property to
Family Tree (“Benson-FT Deed”), and the deed was
recorded in McKenzie County on July 9, 2010, as Document No.
404541. (Markert Aff., Ex. 8.)
April 9, 2012, a quitclaim deed signed December 13, 1990, was
recorded in the McKenzie County Recorder's Office as
Document No. 431969 (“1990 Quitclaim Deed”).
(Markert Aff., Ex. 9.) The 1990 Quitclaim Deed conveys to
Thomas Benson, Plaintiff's father, all of Ann Kemske and