Appeal, No. 275, Oct. T., 1956, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Carbon County, Jan. T., 1956, No. 56, in case of Earl C. Peters v. East Penn Township School District. Judgment reversed.
Martin H. Philip, for appellant.
Albert H. Heimbach, for appellee.
Before Rhodes, P.j., Gunther, Wright, Woodside, Ervin, and Carr, JJ. (hirt, J., absent).
[ 182 Pa. Super. Page 117]
This is an action of ejectment brought by Earl C. Peters against the East Penn Township School District, Carbon County, to establish that its title to forty square rods (1/4 acre) of ground was a determinable fee which terminated when the use of the land for school purposes was discontinued. On a case stated the court below filed an opinion and entered a special verdict in favor of the school district. Earl C. Peters appealed to this Court.
The controversy arises from certain language in a deed of November 9, 1893, by which James F. Peters, of whom Earl C. Peters is an heir, conveyed the property in question to the East Penn Township School District. The habendum clause of the deed provides: "To have and to hold the said piece of ground, and appurtenances, to the School District aforesaid, and its assigns as long as it is used for public school purposes." The warranty clause provides that the grantor
[ 182 Pa. Super. Page 118]
will warrant and defend the premises to the school district "as long as it is used for public school purposes." The property is no longer used for school purposes, and the school district has instituted separate proceedings for the purpose of selling the property to a prospective buyer to whom it desires to give a fee simple title. It could not do so, however, according to the case stated, while the present action of ejectment remains as a cloud on the title.*fn1
The contention of appellant is that the words "as long as it is used for public school purposes" created "a base fee determinable," and that, since the property is no longer used for the stated purpose, the land has reverted. On the other hand, the school district contends that these words express only a purpose for which the conveyance was made, and that they are not a limitation on the title. The effect of a deed and the extent of the estate conveyed are controlled by the intention of the grantor as expressed therein. In view of the public policy favoring the free alienability of land, a deed which would convey an estate in fee simple except for certain words, or for a phrase or clause must be interpreted strictly against any such limitation unless the grantor's intention to so limit the fee is clearly expressed or necessarily implied. Sapper v. Mathers, 286 Pa. 364, 367, 133 A. 565; Abel v. Girard Trust Company, 365 Pa. 34, 38, 73 A.2d 682. Words which merely express the purpose for which the conveyance is made are not considered words of limitation on the title; such words are viewed as superfluous to the grant. T.W. Phillips Gas & Oil Co. v. Lingenfelter, 262 Pa. 500, 502, 105 A. 888.
[ 182 Pa. Super. Page 119]
The court below, after discussing a number of cases in which purported limiting expressions were held to be statements of purpose, concluded that the words in the instant deed were similar thereto, that they were expressive merely of a purpose, and that they did not import a limitation. ...