Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Summary 2008 WY 60

Summary of Decision issued June 3, 2008

Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Case Name: Wyoming Bd. of Land Commissioners v. Antelope Coal Co.

Citation: 2008 WY 60

Docket Number: S-07-0183

Appeal from the District Court of Converse County, the Honorable John C. Brooks, Judge.

Representing Appellant (Plaintiff): Bruce A. Salzburg, Attorney General; Michael L. Hubbard, Deputy Attorney General; Martin L. Hardsocg, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Susan Kay Stipe, Senior Assistant Attorney General; and Brandi Lee Monger, Assistant Attorney General.

Representing Appellee (Defendant): Patrick Reed Day, Holland & Hart, LLP, Cheyenne, Wyoming; Hadassah Marie Reimer, Holland & Hart, LLP, Jackson, Wyoming.

Facts/Discussion: The Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners (the Board) asserted that Antelope Coal Co. (Antelope) underpaid the royalties it owed Wyoming pursuant to two coal leases. The sales in question were between Antelope and an affiliated company, Venture Fuels.

Mineral leases are contracts and are interpreted and construed pursuant to the general principles of contract interpretation. The Court agreed with the parties that the language of the royalty provision was clear and unambiguous. The final sentence in the lease indicated two circumstances in which the Board may make its own determination of value. The first was when there was no sale of the coal. The second was when the Board determined that the sales price did not truly reflect the value of the coal. The Board made the assumption that since the sale was non-arms length, it did not reflect fair market value. That assumption was contrary to Wyoming law. Prices between affiliated companies can reflect fair market value. The Department was required to determine fair market value based on actual evidence of fair market value not on the presumption that sales between affiliate companies does not reflect fair market value.

Holding: The information before the district court as it considered the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment, could be divided into three categories. First, the district court had the actual sales prices between Antelope and Venture Fuels, which under the terms of the leases, was prima facie evidence of gross value. Second, it had evidence from Antelope supporting its position that the sales prices between Antelope and Venture Fuels reflected fair market value. Third, it had the Board’s unsupported assumption that sales between Antelope and Venture Fuels did not truly reflect the value of the coal because they were not arms length transactions between unrelated parties. Given the information, the district court correctly ruled that there were no genuine issues of material fact and that Antelope was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.


J. Burke delivered the decision.

Link: http://tinyurl.com/6df9eb .

[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses the "Universal Citation." It was given an "official" citation when it was issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. Please note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you pinpoint cite to a quote, you should cite to this paragraph number rather than to any page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library.]

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