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WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT v. CORGAN. (03/23/61)

March 23, 1961

WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLANT,
v.
CORGAN.



Appeal, No. 323, Jan. T., 1960, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, Oct. T., 1959, No. 1700, in case of Wilkes-Barre Township School District v. John B. Corgan. Judgment reversed; reargument refused May 18, 1961.

COUNSEL

Gifford Cappellini, with him Thomas C. Moore, for appellant.

Michael H. Sheridan, for appellee.

Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Bok and Eagen, JJ.

Author: Eagen

[ 403 Pa. Page 385]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE EAGEN.

The appellant, the Wilkes-Barre Township School District, sued the defendant, John B. Corgan, to recover for intentional damage to the surface of land resulting from trespass and deep excavations thereon by the defendant. Preliminary objections to the complaint in the nature of a demurrer were sustained by the court below, and judgment entered for the defendant. The plaintiff appeals.

For the purposes of this appeal every well-pleaded, material, relevant fact, and every inference fairly deducible therefrom must be accepted as true: Byers v. Ward, 368 Pa. 416, 84 A.2d 307 (1951).

On January 13, 1893, by deed from the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Company, the plaintiff, the Wilkes-Barre Township School District, became "the owner" of the "surface and right of soil" of certain land in Luzerne County. The deed discloses that it accepted and reserved to the grantor, ownership in the coal and other minerals in, under and upon the land, and

[ 403 Pa. Page 386]

    also the right and privilege of removing the same. The grantor was given the right to make and drive tunnels and passageways under the surface for the purpose of mining. The deed also stipulated, inter alia, that the grantor would not, in any event, incur liability for any injury to the surface of the land or improvements thereon, by reason of the mining and removal of the coal or minerals, and did not guarantee lateral or vertical support.

In April 1959, the defendant, John B. Corgan, a successor in title to the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Company, without the permission or knowledge of the plaintiff, Wilkes-Barre Township School District, moved heavy machinery, consisting of draglines, onto the surface of the land and began operations digging up the earth and soil. As a result, the surface was disheveled and soil was removed, leaving a hole or a crevice one hundred and fifty feet in depth. These facts constitute a cause of action and the lower court erred in summarily entering judgment for the defendant.

The basic issue revolves around the proper interpretation of the terms of the deed involved. In construing a deed or a contract, certain general principles must be kept in mind. First, it is the intention of the parties at the time of entering in thereto that governs, and such intention is to be gathered from a reading of the entire contract: P.M. & Co. v. Stephano Bros., 331 Pa. 278, 200 A. 605 (1938); Maxwell v. Saylor, 359 Pa. 94, 58 A.2d 355 (1948). In addition, "'Contracts must receive a reasonable interpretation, according to the intention of the parties at the time of executing them, if that intention can be ascertained from their language. (Citing cases). ...


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