Roberts v. Unimin Corp., 022818 FED8, 16-4172

Docket Nº:16-4172
Opinion Judge:ARNOLD, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Kathy Roberts; Karen McShane Plaintiffs - Appellants v. Unimin Corporation Defendant-Appellee
Judge Panel:Before SMITH, Chief Judge, ARNOLD and KELLY, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:February 28, 2018
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Kathy Roberts; Karen McShane Plaintiffs - Appellants

v.

Unimin Corporation Defendant-Appellee

No. 16-4172

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

February 28, 2018

Submitted: December 12, 2017

Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas - Batesville

Before SMITH, Chief Judge, ARNOLD and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

ARNOLD, Circuit Judge.

For the past century, the Williamson family has leased out a plot of Arkansas land for silica mining. The current lease, signed in 1961, provides for a term of years until 2007 and continuing "as long thereafter as" certain activities occur on the property. In 2015, Kathy Roberts and Karen McShane (both née Williamson), the present lessors, sought a declaratory judgment against Unimin Corporation, the present lessee, that the lease created a tenancy at will. The lessors claimed further that the lease was unconscionable and that Unimin had unjustly enriched itself by refusing to vacate the land when they demanded possession. After the close of discovery, the lessors dismissed their unconscionability claim with prejudice. The district court[1]granted summary judgment to Unimin on the remaining claims, ruling that the lease had created a determinable leasehold, not a tenancy at will, and so Unimin did not unjustly enrich itself by staying in possession. The lessors appeal from that judgment, and we affirm.

We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo, keeping in mind that summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine dispute of material fact and, viewing the record in a light most favorable to the lessors, Unimin is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Smith v. Arrington Oil & Gas, Inc., 664 F.3d 1208, 1212 (8th Cir. 2012). We also review the district court's construction of the lease and its interpretation of state law de novo. Id. The parties to this diversity action agree that Arkansas law governs. See id.

On appeal, the lessors challenge only the district court's ruling that the lease created a determinable leasehold and not a tenancy at will. The lease provides that the leasehold will endure as long as "siliceous materials" are "shipped" from the lessee's mill and at least one of...

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