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ARCLAR CO. v. GATES

August 20, 1998

ARCLAR COMPANY, an Illinois Corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES KENNETH GATES, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FOREMAN

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

 FOREMAN, District Judge:

 Before the Court is defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (Doc. 6). Plaintiff has filed a response (Doc. 12). This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1332.

 Plaintiff, Arclar Company, has sued James Gates for specific performance (count I) and for an injunction (count II) regarding certain land in Saline County. Specifically, Arclar seeks specific performance of an option to purchase a certain surface area of Gates' land that Arclar claims is necessary for its coal mining operation. Arclar also seeks an injunction because Gates is allegedly preventing Arclar from using an easement that Arclar claims to have acquired by deed. The original action was brought in Saline County. Gates removed it to this Court based on diversity and an amount in controversy in excess of $ 75,000.

 I. Background.

 Once upon a time, several members of the Choisser family, (specifically, William Choisser, Kate Choisser, De Launt Choisser, and Willie Choisser), held title to 214 17/20 acres in Saline County. In 1905, in a document called "Warranty Deed to Coal," the Choissers conveyed all of the coal underneath the surface of the 214 17/20 acres to O'Gara Coal Company (Doc. 2, Exh. A). The Warranty Deed to Coal also granted O'Gara Coal Company:

 
. . .the right to mine, dig, ventilate, drain and remove the coal therefrom, and together with the right to use the passageways and entries under the said premises for the purpose of hauling, mining and removing the coal above conveyed, and all other coal not belonging to or hereafter to be acquired by the said O'GARA COAL COMPANY, its successors and assigns, and for a "Right-of-Way" over the same, or such portion thereof as may be necessary for conveying said coal to market; . . .

 (Doc. 2, Exh. A).

 The parties refer to this bundle of rights as a "Conveyor Easement." Finally, the Choissers also granted O'Gara Coal Company, (and its heirs, successors, and assigns), the right at any time to purchase for $ 100 per acre the portion of the land's surface necessary to mine and remove the said coal. Specifically, the Choissers agreed that:

 
The said grantors for themselves, their heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, as a covenant running with the land and the property conveyed, further agree to sell to the O'GARA COAL COMPANY, its successors or assigns, at any time hereafter, such portion of the surface of the premises hereinabove described as may be necessary for the erection of tipple, buildings, powerhouses, railroad tracks, switches and other improvements necessary for the mining and removing said coal at the price of One hundred ($ 100.00) Dollars per acre, and to convey the title of said surface to said O'GARA COAL COMPANY, its successors and assigns, by good and sufficient Warranty Deed . . .

 (Doc. 2, Exh. A).

 By mesne conveyances, Arclar acquired the interests that O'Gara Coal Company had acquired by the Warranty Deed. In other words, Arclar has acquired: 1) the coal; 2) the Conveyor Easement; and 3) the right to purchase the surface necessary to mine the coal.

 Arclar claims that it is necessary to construct a conveyor over and across the Conveyor Easement to convey the coal to market. Although Arclar has the Conveyor Easement, it also claims that it needs 3.442 acres of the surface to construct a high voltage power line and water line to service the conveyor. Gates owns 33 acres, including the 3.442 acres allegedly needed by Arclar. Gates acquired these 3.442 acres with notice of O'Gara's right to buy the surface. Specifically, the deed stated that Gates' 3.442 acres was:

 
Subject to the rights of O'Gara Coal Company its successors and assigns, relating to purchase of the surface and ownership of a right to explore for coal attached as Exhibit A and subject to all rights which are appurtenant to ownership of coal, expressed and implied.

 (Doc. 2, p.3).

 As noted, Arclar seeks specific performance of the option to buy and an injunction preventing Gates from interfering with Arclar's use of the Conveyor Easement. Gates has filed a motion to dismiss based on various grounds discussed below.

 II. Standard of Review.

 A motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the suit. Triad Assoc, Inc. v. Chicago Housing Authority, 892 F.2d 583, 586 (7th Cir.1989), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 845, 112 L. Ed. 2d 97, 111 S. Ct. 129 (1990). A plaintiff is required only to provide a short and plain statement of the claim "that will give the defendant fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests." Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 113 S. Ct. 1160, 122 L. Ed. 2d 517 (1993) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957) (footnote omitted)). The Court must accept pleaded conclusions as true. Early v. Bankers Life & Casualty Co., 959 F.2d 75, 79 (7th Cir.1992). The sole issue when reviewing a motion to dismiss is whether relief is possible ...


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