COFFEY (SHARLA), ET AL. VS. KEHOE ROCK AND STONE, LLC , ET AL.Annotate this Case
RENDERED: OCTOBER 31, 2008; 10:00 A.M.
TO BE PUBLISHED
Commonwealth of Kentucky
Court of Appeals
SHARLA COFFEY, JAMES H. SIMPSON,
AND GLENN R. COFFEY
FROM GREENUP CIRCUIT COURT
HONORABLE MARC I. ROSEN, JUDGE
ACTION NO. 07-XX-00001
KEHOE ROCK AND STONE, LLC
REVERSING AND REMANDING
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BEFORE: CAPERTON, KELLER AND NICKELL, JUDGES.
CAPERTON, JUDGE: Sharla Coffey, James H. Simpson, and Glenn R. Coffey
(collectively “the Coffeys”) bring this appeal from a July 20, 2007, opinion of the
Greenup Circuit Court, wherein the court reversed the decision rendered by the
Greenup District Court. As the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, the
judgment of the circuit court is hereby reversed and remanded with directions to
vacate the judgment of the Greenup District Court.
The Coffeys entered into a lease about February 9, 2001, to have
limestone mined from their property.1 The lease was to commence immediately
upon signing, continue for twelve (12) months, and thereafter monthly until the
Lessee gave the Lessor thirty (30) days notice of its intent to terminate the lease.
Kehoe Rock and Stone, LLC (Kehoe) started mining operations in 2004. In
August 2006, the Coffeys informed Kehoe of their intention to terminate the lease
within thirty (30) days. Kehoe refused to vacate the premises. A forcible detainer
action was subsequently filed in the Greenup District Court by the Coffeys. The
district court granted the forcible detainer action when it determined that the
contract was an “at will” lease which gave both parties the right to terminate.
Kehoe appealed to the circuit court
The circuit court reversed the district court as it disagreed with the
interpretation of the lease agreement. The circuit court determined that the lease
gave Kehoe a unilateral right to terminate based on the plain language in the
contract and that an implied right to terminate giving rise to a forcible detainer
action was in direct opposition to the contract language. It is from this reversal
that the Coffeys appeal. This Court granted the Coffeys’ motion for discretionary
The original parties to the lease were the Coffeys and James Slaughter d/b/a American Bulk
Services. Kehoe acquired the lease through multiple transfers of the sublease. Slaughter has
instituted an action in the Greenup Circuit Court contesting the validity of these transfers.
The statute which confers jurisdiction on the district court in civil
matters is contained in KRS 24A.120,2 and interests in land are specifically
excluded. As stated in Emmons v. Madden, 781 S.W.2d 529, 530 (Ky.App. 1989),
[T]he district court did not have subject matter
jurisdiction to resolve the dispute concerning possession
of these properties. It is well settled in this
Commonwealth that a forcible detainer action is viable
only where the relationship of the competing parties is
that of landlord and tenant. “It has been repeatedly
decided by this court that to maintain the writ of forcible
detainer the relationship of landlord and tenant must exist
in some form.” Cuyler v. Estis, 23 K.L.R. 1063, 64 S.W.
673, 674 (1901). The summary procedure provided for
in district court is designed to “restore to a landlord
premises unlawfully detained by a mere tenant.” Hall's
Ex'rs v. Robinson, 291 Ky. 631, 165 S.W.2d 163 (1942).
Issues of “[s]ubject matter jurisdiction . . . are different than other issues because
they may be raised at any time, even by the court itself.” Kentucky Employers
Mutual Insurance v. Coleman, 236 S.W.3d 9, 15 (Ky. 2007)(citing Commonwealth
Health Corporation v. Croslin, 920 S.W.2d 46, 48 (Ky. 1996)).
It has long been the law in Kentucky that a mineral lease does not
result in the creation of a landlord-tenant relationship but instead is a grant of
incorporeal interests within the land. Ellis v. Beech Creek Coal Co., 467 S.W.2d
132, 133 (Ky. 1971). While Ellis concerned a lease of coal, we see no difference
between the lease of limestone, as a mineral, and the lease of coal, as a mineral.
KRS 24A.120 provides that a: District Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction in:
(1) Civil cases in which the amount in controversy does not exceed four thousand dollars
($4,000), exclusive of interest and costs, except matters affecting title to real estate . . . .”
Therefore, a lease of limestone does not create a landlord-tenant relationship but,
as in Ellis, an incorporeal interest in land.
We hold that the district court was without subject matter jurisdiction
to determine the issue as it concerned an incorporeal interest in land. Thus, the
district court should have dismissed the action as the “parties may not by
agreement, appearance, estoppel or otherwise confer subject matter jurisdiction
upon the court.” Day v. Day, 937 S.W.2d 717, 719-720 (Ky. 1997).
Therefore, the judgment of the circuit court is hereby reversed and we
remand to the circuit court with directions to vacate the judgment of the district
BRIEF FOR APPELLANTS:
BRIEF FOR APPELLEE:
William H. Wilhoit
Phillip Bruce Leslie
BRIEF FOR AMICUS CURIAE,
JAMES E. SLAUGHTER:
Michael A. Frye