Appeal from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, No. 1750 of 1965, in case of Spring City Foundry Company v. Patrick M. Carey et ux.
John H. Lewis, Jr., with him Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, for appellants.
Morris L. Rush, with him Irving L. Mazer, for appellee.
Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice O'Brien. Mr. Chief Justice Bell took no part in the consideration or decision of this case. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen.
Appellants are the owners of premises situate at No. 3 North Main Street, Spring City, Pennsylvania, having acquired the property by deed on July 1, 1960. Appellants' property is separated on the south from that of appellee by Hall Street, a public thoroughfare which terminates in a dead end at the eastern portion of the properties of the parties. On appellants' property, there exists a driveway leading from Hall Street to appellants' detached garage. Appellee maintains its shipping and receiving department on the Hall Street side of the premises, with loading and unloading facilities directly across Hall Street from appellants' driveway. Appellee's foundry building contains two large doors from which its loading and unloading operations are conducted.
The dispute between the parties originates in the lack of space between appellee's loading doors and Hall Street and the narrowness of that dead end street. Appellee's shipping and receiving process is regularly accomplished by the use of trucks and tractor-trailer rigs, some owned by appellee and others owned by common carriers who make deliveries or pick ups at the foundry. These vehicles proceed into Hall Street and back up to the foundry doors for loading or unloading. Unfortunately, when vehicles of such size are so located, they not only completely block Hall Street, but also, quite often project onto appellants' driveway, where they remain throughout the loading procedure.
Subsequent to their purchase of their property, appellants, by various stratagems, attempted to force appellee to discontinue the use of the driveway described above. Eventually, appellee filed a complaint in equity
seeking an injunction to enjoin appellants from interfering with appellee's use of the driveway and further seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Appellants filed an answer and counterclaim seeking to enjoin appellee from further trespass on their land. The Chancellor's adjudication and decree nisi found for appellee, enjoined appellants from interfering with appellee's operation, entered judgment against appellants in the amount of $2,499.58, as compensatory damages and dismissed the counterclaim. Appellants' exceptions were dismissed and the decree nisi entered as a final decree; this appeal followed.
We have consistently held that the findings of fact of a Chancellor, affirmed by a court en banc, have the force and effect of a jury verdict and will not be disturbed on appeal if supported by adequate evidence. The Chancellor found as a fact that appellee had used the disputed driveway in an open, notorious, continuous and uninterrupted fashion, under a claim of right since 1925. The evidence clearly supports this finding and requires the conclusion that appellee acquired an easement by prescription which had ripened into a legal right prior to appellants' acquisition of the property. All of appellants' arguments relative to the existence or nonexistence of notice of the easement, whether the adverse user was made under a claim of right, breaks in the continuity of the adverse user and turning rights as opposed to parking rights are refuted by the findings of fact, which we find were adequately supported by the evidence.
Appellants urge, however, that appellee is barred from relief by the equitable "clean hands" doctrine. They argue that appellee, in order to exercise its easement, must block a public street, allegedly in ...