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Frazier v. Consolidated Tungsten Mines, Inc.

Supreme Court of Arizona

May 1, 1956

H. FRAZIER, George W. Denton, Lon A. Fuller, Clint Camp and J. W. Cobb, Appellants,
CONSOLIDATED TUNGSTEN MINES, Inc., an Arizona Corporation, Appellee.

Page 448

[80 Ariz. 263] Edward B. Ashurst, Wickenburg, for appellants.

Byrne & Byrne, Prescott, for appellee.

PHELPS, Justice.

This is an appeal from a summary judgment granted in favor of plaintiff-appellee and against defendants-appellants and counterclaimants in that action. The parties will be referred to hereinafter as plaintiff and defendants, as designated in the trial court.

The facts are substantially as follows: Plaintiff filed a complaint in which it alleged that it was the owner, subject only to the title of the United States, of certain described unpatented mining claims; that defendants claimed an estate or interest in them adverse to that of plaintiff; that such claim was without any right whatsoever. The prayer was that it be declared that defendants have no interest in said mining claims and that they should be enjoined from asserting any claim thereto.

Defendants' answer, duly filed and subsequently verified under oath, denied that plaintiff had any claim to said mining claims. In defendants' 'First Further and Separate Answer and Affirmative Defense' to plaintiff's complaint, they alleged that these mining claims belong to defendants. Defendants alleged that no location work, or any other work was ever done by plaintiff upon six of plaintiff's claims, nor was a shaft eight feet deep, four feet wide by six feet long dug thereon disclosing mineral

Page 449

in place within 90 days after the claims were located by the locators thereof, nor was any discovery shaft, as aforementioned, sunk on the above-named mining claims until after the claims were located by one W. R. Daugherty on July 1, 1954. It is further alleged that no labor was done or were improvements made by plaintiff on such claims in the value of $100 or any other amount, after February, 1952, and that on July 1, 1954, these claims became open to location.

It is alleged that on July 1, 1954, W. R. Daugherty entered upon the mining claims described in plaintiff's complaint and located them by posting notices of location; that on July 17, 1954, Daugherty officially recorded the claims as his own; that on August 15, 1954, Daugherty conveyed his interest in the mining claims to the defendants who perfected the location of said claims within 90 days following July 1, 1954, by sinking on each claim a discovery shaft eight feet depth, four feet wide and six feet in length discovering mineral in place, and monumented the same as required by law.

[80 Ariz. 264] A counterclaim erroneously labeled 'Cross-complaint' was filed and subsequently verified under oath alleging that defendants had title to the mining claims and praying that plaintiff be forever enjoined from claming any interest in said mining claims.

This was the state of the record at the time that plaintiff made a motion for summary judgment accompanied by an affidavit containing the statement of Garth A. Brown. As it appears in the abstract of record submitted by defendants, Mr. Brown's statement alleges:

'* * * that he was on the ground covered by the claims of the said plaintiff between the 17th day of August, 1854, and the first day of September, 1954, in charge of assessment work done on said claims at the request of the said plaintiff; that at that time, there had been no location work done by the defendants or on their account, and if any such location work was actually done, it was done at a date subsequent to the doing of the assessment work hereinbefore described.'

From an examination of the record we shall assume that the date in the affidavit as shown by the abstract of record described as the 17th day of August, 1854, was meant to be the 17th day of August, 1954. (The original affidavit is not in the record.) There were no controverting affidavits filed in opposition to the one filed by plaintiff above set forth.

Inasmuch as the pleadings present a number of disputed facts concerning the ownership of the mining claims involved, viz., the question of whether the claims were open to location on July 1, 1954; whether plaintiff had done discovery work on certain of said claims and whether it had done the assessment work on any of them since February 2, 1952, and inasmuch as the only question presented to the trial court by its motion for a summary judgment is whether the pleadings and the affidavit filed by plaintiff presented a genuine issue of material fact, we believe we may be justified in assuming that the order for summary judgment was based upon the contents of the affidavit of Garth A. Brown filed on behalf of plaintiff. If the above assumption is correct, we are of the view that treating the affidavit to be true, as we must do under the circumstances, plaintiff's position was not battered thereby.

If plaintiff had not done its assessment work for the year 1953-54 the mining claims became open for location or relocation on July 1, 1954, and if defendants' predecessor in interest, W. R. Daugherty, initiated his right to perfect the location of said claims by discovery of ore in place and by posting notices of location thereon according to law, defendants had 90 days therefrom within which to perfect said location. The fact that plaintiff during the month of August, 1954, or at any other time within said 90-day period did its assessment work for 1954-55 did not have the ...

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