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The topic of this Article arose from a recent opinion by the North Dakota Supreme Court: Western Energy Corporation v. Stauffer. The case dealt with how the law handles changes in ownership of property, specifically land including underlying mineral interests, that come into dispute after substantial periods of time have passed, resulting in a need for the parties involved in the dispute to turn to the courts for a solution. The passing of a substantial amount of time often becomes the issue in resolving the dispute in these types of situations.

The opening paragraph in the Court’s opinion in Western Energy states that “Western Energy appealed from a district court judgment finding its quiet title action pertaining to claimed mineral interests to be barred by applicable statutes of limitation and laches.” Statutes of limitation are fairly straightforward and are discussed below as they are the determinative factor in the case. However, the specific goal here is to examine several of the approaches that can be taken in this kind of situation and how the issue is ultimately resolved. Raising the claim of “laches” is a rather vague concept, but it appears in some of these cases and has an interesting background, as discussed in the last part of this Article. The background of the case in question will be laid out first followed by the discussion of several traditional methodologies for resolving cases of this kind, generally, in the context of other court cases.



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