Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County at No. 481, September Term, 1960, in case of Upper Montgomery Joint Authority v. Lawrence I. Yerk.
C. Edmund Wells, with him Wells, Campbell, Yohn & Wells, for appellant.
Bruce L. Waltman, with him J. Willard Schoelkopf, for appellee.
President Judge Bowman, and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Manderino, Mencer and Barbieri. Opinion by Judge Barbieri.
This eminent domain case comes before this Court on appeal from an order by the Common Pleas Court of Montgomery County, dismissing New Matter and the defense of the Statute of Limitations raised therein by Upper Montgomery Joint Authority (Condemnor) to a Petition for Appointment of a Jury of View filed by Lawrence I. Yerk (Condemnee).
Condemnor effected the taking of the Condemnee's land by the filing of condemnation indemnity bonds on October 27, 1960 and January 4, 1961. The filing of the bonds effected the taking under the Statute then in effect which provided that when "any municipality . . . having the right to acquire lands . . . by eminent domain, has tendered a bond . . . filed in and approved by the court, such municipality . . . shall have the right to immediate possession thereof." (Act of June 7, 1907,
P.L. 461, § 1, 26 P.S. 141). A limitation of six years began to run on January 4, 1961, the date when the last bond was filed, because of another statutory provision that "no person having an interest in any land . . . may petition for the appointment of viewers for the assessment of damages or bring an action for damages after expiration of a period of six years from the date on which the political subdivision or authority became entitled to possession of the land . . .". Act of April 3, 1956, P.L. 1366, § 1, 26 P.S. 152). (Emphasis added)
Both parties engaged in certain negotiations in an effort to reach amicable agreement as to the amount payable for the taking, but all such negotiations ceased in 1962 and no further action was taken by either Condemnor or Condemnee until the filing by Condemnee of the instant Petition for Appointment of a Jury of View on March 24, 1970.
The Acts of 1907 and 1956 were specifically repealed by Section 902 of the Eminent Domain Code of 1964 (Act of June 22, 1964 (Special Session), P.L. 84, § 902, 26 P.S. § 1-902). Section 524 of the new Code contains a specific limitation on applications for Appointment of Viewers: "Section 524. Limitation Period. A petition for the appointment of viewers for the assessment of damages for a condemnation or compensable injury may not be filed after the expiration of six years from the date on which the condemnor made payment in accordance with Section 407(a) or (b) of the act where the property or any part thereof has been taken, or from the date of injury where the property has been injured but no part thereof has been taken. If such petition is not filed before the expiration of such period, such payment shall be considered to be in full satisfaction of the damages." (Emphasis added)
As Section 524 is procedural, rather than substantive, it can be applied retroactively to an eminent domain proceeding which has not yet been concluded or barred under pre-existing law. No vested right has been abridged by an extension of the time in which a claim for condemnation damages could be made. See Agostin v. Pittsburgh Steel Foundry Corporation, 354 Pa. 543, 47 A.2d 680 (1946); Seneca v. Yale & Towne Manufacturing Company, 142 Pa. ...