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BATON COAL COMPANY APPEAL (11/13/50)

November 13, 1950

BATON COAL COMPANY APPEAL


Appeal, No. 102, March T., 1950, from order of Court of Quarter Sessions of Fayette County, March Sessions, 1950, No. 7, in the Matter of Sale of Certain Unmined Coal of the Pittsburgh River Vein owned by Fayette County Institution District, etc. Order affirmed.

COUNSEL

William A. Meyer, with him Herman M. Buck, Kountz, Fry, Staley & Meyer and Ray, Coldren & Buck, for appellant.

Jacob E. Horewitz, with him Clark W. Martin and J. K. Spurgeon, for appellees.

Before Drew, C.j., Stern, Stearne, Jones and Bell, JJ. Argued September 27, 1950. Before Drew, C.j., Stern, Stearne, Jones, Ladner and Chidsey, JJ.

Author: Stearne

[ 365 Pa. Page 520]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE ALLEN M. STEARNE

This appeal is from an order of the Court of Quarter Sessions of Fayette County declining to approve a proposed sale of coal lands of a county institution district.

[ 365 Pa. Page 521]

Fayette County Institution District is the owner of 62.5 acres of coking coal situate in South Union Township. On December 30, 1949 the district, acting through the county commissioners according to applicable statutory provisions, decided to sell the unmined coal lands. The enabling act permitting the sale is the Act of 1937, June 24, P.L. 2017, sec. 305, 62 PS sec. 2255 (c), as amended by the Act of 1949, April 21, P.L. 704, 62 PS sec. 2255 (c) Supp. The modification by the amendment reads: "(c) With the approval of the Court of Quarter Sessions of the Peace, upon such notice as the court may require, to sell or lease real and personal property of the institution district."

Invitation to bid, by sealed bids, for the unmined coal was publicly extended by the commissioners and duly advertised. Sealed bids were received by them and opened on February 17, 1950. The Baton Coal Company, the appellant, submitted a sealed bid of $177,500 which was the highest and best bid. The bid was accompanied by a certified check for $50,000 down money. The bid was accepted by the district. In pursuance to the Act of 1949, supra, the commissioners petitioned the Court of Quarter Sessions to approve the sale. A date for hearing was fixed by the court. Notice was given to all parties as well as by publication. At the hearing testimony was submitted by appellant that the amount of its accepted bid was fair and adequate and in excess of the "top fair market value" of the coal. Two offers were submitted to the court by prospective purchasers which constituted substantial increases above appellant's bid. The court deferred approval or disapproval of the proposed sale in order that the commissioners should be given an opportunity for further consideration. At a subsequent hearing the commissioners reported that they had received a bid from one Dean D. Sturgis, Trustee, of $195,000 accompanied by a $50,000 deposit; another from Unity Coal Company for $196,000

[ 365 Pa. Page 522]

    with deposit of $50,000 and had also received an additional deposit of $18,500 from appellant, to be paid to the district in addition to the amount of its bid of $177,500 (if confirmed by the court), or a total of $196,000. The court in banc thereupon refused to approve the proposed sale for the amount of appellant's sealed bid of $177,500 and directed the Institution District to re-offer the coal lands for sale at a price not less than $196,000 in accordance with the procedure indicated in McKees Rocks Borough School District Petition, 360 Pa. 285, 62 A.2d 20.

An appeal was then taken to this Court. At the argument, appellant contended that unless the amount of its sealed bid was unfair and inadequate such bid must be accepted. This Court remanded the record in order to ascertain "whether or not the highest sealed bid... constituted a fair and adequate price for said property..." and directed that "... for present purposes, no consideration or effect [was to] be given the offers for the property made after the sealed bids were opened [and accepted]...." In pursuance to such order, further hearings were had in the court below. The court in banc, in a unanimous opinion by President Judge CARR, said "... we now find as a fact that the sum of $177,500 did not at the time constitute a fair and adequate price." With the entire record before us the ...


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