McMaster v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Property Law
  • Date Filed: 09-24-2013
  • Case #: 11-17489
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Justice Bybee for the Court, Circuit Judge Tashima and Senior District Judge Wood
  • Full Text Opinion

In order to withstand a motion for summary judgment when bringing a complaint under the Quiet Title Act a plaintiff needs to detail the scope of their right, title or interest the they are claiming in the real property, the circumstances of how it was obtained, and the right, title, or interest being claimed by the United States.

Ken McMaster and two others are the owners and operators of the Oro Grande mining claim outside of Redding, California. McMaster filed multiple attempts, starting in 1992 and up until 2008, with the Bureau of Land Management ("BLM") for a patent that would convey an estate in both the surface and mineral interests of the mining claim. However, in 2009 the BLM issued a patent for Oro Grande in which only the interest in mineral deposits was conveyed and reserved all title to the surface estate and a right-of-way for the construction of ditches and canals to the authority of the United States. McMaster then filed suit under the Quiet Title Act ("QTA") to obtain quiet title to fee-simple ownership of the mining structures and improvements on Oro Grande. The district court granted summary judgment to the United States for this and McMaster’s follow up complaint filed under the Declaratory Judgment Act ("DJA") for McMaster’s failure to state a claim. McMaster filed a timely appeal claiming that he should receive fee-simple title to the surface estate of Oro Grande. The Ninth Circuit held the district court acted properly in ruling that to withstand a motion of summary judgment for a claim brought under the QTA, in his complaint McMaster should have detailed the scope of his right, title, or interest in which he was claiming in the real property, the circumstances in which it was obtained and state the right, title or interest being claimed by the United States, meaning that a “great deal of specificity” should be used. Further, with respect to McMaster’s claim under the DJA, the court held that the QTA is the only means to challenge the United State’ title to a piece of real property. AFFIRMED.

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