Case Summary Citation

Murray v. BEJ Minerals, LLC, 908 F.3d 437 (9th Cir. 2018)


Part of a dispute some 66 million years in the making, Murray v. BEJ Minerals, LLC considered for the first time whether dinosaur fossils—specifically a one-of-a-kind specimen containing entombed “dueling dinosaurs”—qualified as “minerals” for the purposes of a property transaction under Montana law. Finding no consistent statutory or dictionary definition for “mineral,” the Ninth Circuit relied on a test previously utilized by the Montana Supreme Court to hold that the dinosaur fossils constituted minerals due to their rare and exceptional qualities and were therefore part of the property’s mineral estate. The decision was promptly nullified, however, as the Ninth Circuit granted a rehearing en banc and the Montana legislature passed a measure declaring dinosaur fossils part of the surface estate under state law.



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