BEFORE DAN M. LEE, P.J.; ROBERTSON AND GRIFFIN, JJ.
ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:
This case presents the hardest question spawned by Trimble v. Gordon, 430 U.S. 762, 97 S. Ct. 1459, 52 L.Ed.2d 31 (1977). Putative heirs of a Rankin County landowner claim under our statute on descent and distribution as modified by the Equal Protection Clause, Trimble variety. Pre-Trimble innocent third party purchasers for value invoke due process and contracts clause rights in defense.
The Chancery Court held for the third party purchasers. We affirm.
Lou Vander McLaurin died intestate in June of 1955 and was laid to rest at the Rock Hill Baptist Church Cemetery. At his death McLaurin owned forty acres of rough and hilly woods in Rankin County, Mississippi. The land had been his on and off since 1892, at times flourishing with cotton, corn, peas, sorghum, turnips and timber, at others fallow. The land's value lay in its potential for oil and gas.
Seven legitimate children survived McLaurin. Our concern focuses upon Victor Blue Alexander (Alexander) whom plaintiffs claim was an eighth child, albeit one born out of wedlock. When he became an adult, Alexander entered into a common law marriage with Mable Collier in 1926, and together sired Victor Alexander, Charlotte Alexander and Willie Louise Burrell. Neither Mable Collier nor Alexander himself ever established paternity in a formal proceeding, but we are told that Lou Vander McLaurin openly acknowledged Alexander to be his son.
Between March 12, 1969, and March 13, 1974, McLaurin's legitimate heirs executed leases conveying to Shell Oil Company certain rights to the oil, gas and minerals under and on the land. Shell immediately went into production, and its drilling operations continued for more than ten years. Shell has acknowledged gross income of about $13,000,000.00 between 1973 and 1983.
On February 9, 1977, Shell assigned an overriding royalty to Amoco Production Company. Then on December 22, 1983, Shell transferred all of its interest in the subject lands to a subsidiary corporation, Shell Western E&P, Inc. (SWEPI).
Meanwhile, the alignment of plaintiffs was completed on September 11, 1982, when the putative illegitimate heirs of Lou Vander McLaurin conveyed oil and gas interests to Robert W. Vaughan and Lewis E. Turner.
On June 29, 1984, Mable Collier, alleged common law wife of Victor Blue Alexander, joined with his three illegitimate heirs at law and filed complaint with the Chancery Court of Rankin County. Plaintiffs sought to establish their right to inherit as against legitimate heirs at law of Victor Blue Alexander's alleged father, Lou Vander McLaurin, and Amoco Production Company (Amoco) and Shell Oil Company (Shell). Plaintiffs claim rights of inheritance under Miss.Code Ann. 91-1-15 (Supp.1988). Robert W. Vaughan and Lewis E. Turner claimed as Plaintiffs' successors in interest.
On September 10, 1986, Shell moved for summary judgment. Amoco filed its summary judgment motion on January 14, 1987. On November 9, 1987, after argument and consideration of briefs and authorities, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Amoco and Shell, and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The Court found that retroactive application of Trimble v. Gordon, 430 U.S. 762, 97 S. Ct. 1459, 52 L.Ed. 31 (1977) and Miss. Code Ann. 91-1-15 (1972 as amended) would violate Amoco and Shell's due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, as well as the prohibition of any law impairing the obligation of contracts under Article 1, 10 of the United ...