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MARCUS MARTIN v. ROBERT M. WINFIELD AND JUANITA GAYLE WINFIELD

AUGUST 22, 1984

MARCUS MARTIN
v.
ROBERT M. WINFIELD AND JUANITA GAYLE WINFIELD



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, P.J., ROBERTSON AND SULLIVAN, JJ.

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

This action has been brought by the payees on a $16,800.00 sight draft made and delivered by an experienced lessee of oil and gas rights. The maker admits delivery of the draft and that it was intended as payment of the agreed upon rental, but charges affirmatively that it was procured by fraudulent misrepresentation.

 A Rankin County jury rejected the maker's fraud defense and returned a verdict in favor of the payee holders. Finding in the record substantial evidence supporting the verdict of the jury, we affirm.

 II.

 A.

 Marcus E. Martin is an insurance agent and attorney who for the last 20 years has bought and sold gas and oil property. His general method of operation has been to locate an area where there is active leasing or oil and gas activity. He then contacts land owners and tells them that, whatever the highest offer is for the lease on their land, he, Martin, will pay them $10.00 more per acre than that offered. After acquiring a lease, Martin generally resells the lease to the large company which has bought up most of the area.

 The Winfields had been making inquiries about the possible leasing of the oil, gas and other minerals on lands owned by them in Simpson County, Mississippi. Martin heard about the availability of a lease on the Winfield property. Martin contacted Winfield by telephone.

 Here the testimony begins to conflict. Martin says that he asked Mr. Winfield what his best bona fide offer for a lease on the property had been and that Winfield told him it was $200.00 per acre. Martin says that on the basis of this offer, he offered Winfield $210.00 per acre which Winfield accepted. Mr. Winfield's version of the negotiations is slightly different. First of all, it does not appear that Winfield is sensitive to the difference between a bona fide contractual offer for his minerals and a general estimate of the value of his minerals. Winfield says that he told Martin" it was between $150.00, $200.00, an acre ". This statement by Winfield to Martin was apparently based on what he had been told by a minerals leasing agent named Frank Prescatory.

 Martin testified further that Winfield had assured him that leasing was going on in the section where the Winfields'

 land was situated, and that drilling was occurring within a mile of his property. Winfield testified that it was quite possible that he had relayed on to Martin such information regarding leases and drilling and that his belief in such information was based on what Mr. Prescatory had told him.

 Through these negotiations, the stage was set. On January 25, 1982, Martin, purportedly relying upon representations regarding offers and leasing/drilling activity made by layman Winfield and having made no independent investigation of the matter, drove to a restaurant in Hattiesburg to close the deal. The Winfields, assuming they had reached a fair price for their lease with an experienced oil man, arrived at the same restaurant. The Winfields executed the mineral lease prepared by Martin and delivered it to Martin, who in exchange tendered to the Winfields a 15 day sight draft which provides as follows:

 Upon approval of title but not later than 15 days after sight.

 Martin went to the office of the Chancery Clerk of Simpson County to record the lease. When he got there, Martin asked about and found that there was no leasing or drilling activity whatsoever going on in the Winfields' area. Martin decided not to record the lease. In the days following, Martin contacted several oil leasing interests and inquired if they would be interested in buying the Winfield lease. He found no takers. During this same time, Martin cancelled payment on the draft he ...


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