Appeal from the orders of the Court of Common Pleas -- Civil Action -- Law, of Luzerne County, No. 894 October Term, 1968, No. 97 May Term, 1968, and No. 1366 July Term, 1968, in case of Redevelopment Authority of the City of Hazleton v. Frank Hudock et al. Appeal transferred September 14, 1970, to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
Cletus M. Lyman, with him Thomas L. Kennedy, for appellant.
Philip F. Hudock, with him Robert P. Hudock, for appellees.
President Judge Bowman, and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Manderino, Mencer and Rogers. Opinion by President Judge Bowman. Judge Manderino dissents.
A record unnecessarily complicated by charges and accusations that have characterized every stage of this case, and the lower court's imperspicuous opinion, will require a full recital of its history and the critical facts which have led us to conclude that the lower court erred and must be reversed.
The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Hazleton initiated plans for an urban renewal project covering approximately twenty city blocks in the early 1960's. The Hazleton City Council adopted a resolution on April 25, 1966 approving the plan which included some one hundred and seventy separately owned parcels of land. The resolution authorized the Redevelopment Authority to obtain financial assistance from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and to acquire and redevelop the subject real estate.
The redevelopment plan, known as "Downtown South Urban Renewal Area, Project No. Pennsylvania
R-211", included a lot owned by Frank and Mary Hudock. Their lot contained (a) a two and one-half story four-unit apartment, (b) a two and one-half story double house, and (c) a one and one-half story seven car garage. Negotiations between the Authority and HUD for Federal funds to finance the acquisition and redevelopment of the area resulted in a grant of necessary funds by agreement dated March 22, 1967. The Authority then proceeded to negotiate with the Hudocks and other affected property owners to acquire their premises.
There is significant dispute as to the course of these negotiations between the Authority and the Hudocks which is not clarified by the discussion of the lower court. All that is certain from the record before us is that some negotiations did go on and that no written agreement as to a sale was reached. The lower court's opinion does state that a "final order" was made by the negotiator for the Authority to the Hudocks on February 3, 1968.
On February 14, 1968, according to the lower court's findings, ". . . the subject property was extensively damaged in a fire." The Hudocks "accepted" the "final offer" on February 16, 1968, two days after the premises were substantially destroyed. The lower court found, however, that there was no binding contract between the parties because ". . . the impossibility of performance arising from the destruction of the property ends all contractual obligations relating to the property. West v. Peoples First Nat'l. Bk. & Trust Co., 378 Pa. 275; 106 A.2d 427."
The Hudocks therefore claim the proceeds of a fire insurance policy on the property but argue that they are further entitled to the full pre-fire value of the land and structures from the Authority under a theory of constructive "taking" prior to the time of ...