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SUKALA v. REDEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY (12/01/72)

decided: December 1, 1972.

SUKALA, ET UX.
v.
REDEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, in case of Condemnation of 867 Fourth Avenue, New Kensington, Pennsylvania, by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of New Kensington, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, for redevelopment purposes. William L. Sukala and Edna Mae Sukula, his wife, property owners, No. 681 January Term, 1968.

COUNSEL

David McNeil Olds, with him Roger C. Wiegand and Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, for appellants.

Aaron M. Kress, with him Thomas J. Dempsey and Luke and Dempsey, for appellee.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Wilkinson.

Author: Wilkinson

[ 6 Pa. Commw. Page 602]

Appellants seek a new trial in a case to recover damages for a condemnation of their land and building by appellee. The core of the dispute is whether the land, building and equipment, last used six and one-half years before the condemnation, qualified appellants for compensation under the Assembled Economic Unit Doctrine.

The condemned property was a two and one-half story building, a substantial portion of which was designed or converted to be used as a bakery with built-in hearth ovens, a freight elevator, a cold-storage locker, and the usual mixing, processing and packaging machinery necessary for the operation of a bakery. The land, building and equipment had been purchased by appellants in 1961 and the bakery operated by the daughter of the former owner a very short time thereafter, perhaps one or two weeks. Thereafter the bakery stood idle until the declaration of taking on February 23, 1968.

The lower court, over the objection of appellee, admitted testimony on which the court charged the jury that it could find that the Assembled Economic Unit Doctrine applied and if found to be applicable, award damages for the machinery. The jury's verdict was: ". . . you find the above plaintiff is entitled to $17,000 for the land, $50,500 for the building, machinery to go to the owner; so say you all."

[ 6 Pa. Commw. Page 603]

Neither party disputes the amount of the damages for the land or the building. Appellants seek a new trial in a second effort to recover damages for the machinery.

This Court in the last two years has had occasion to file three opinions dealing with the Assembled Economic Unit Doctrine. Redevelopment Authority v. Yee Kai Teung, 5 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 65, 289 A.2d 498 (1972); Pittsburgh National Bank v. Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, 1 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 248, 274 A.2d 567 (1971); North Side Deposit Bank v. Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, 1 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 274, 274 A.2d 215 (1971). These opinions, together with those of Justice Eagen in Singer v. Oil City Redevelopment Authority, 437 Pa. 55, 261 A.2d 594 (1970) and Gottus v. Allegheny County Redevelopment Authority, 425 Pa. 584, 229 A.2d 869 (1967) make it unnecessary to here set forth the general nature of the Assembled Economic Unit Doctrine, or its development in Pennsylvania. We may proceed at once to dispose of the relatively narrow but important questions raised in this case.

Appellants argue that the lower court erred in submitting to the jury the question of whether the Assembled Economic Unit Doctrine applied. Appellants would have the court rule that as a matter of law, the Doctrine is applicable here. If the question of whether the Doctrine is applicable is a matter of law, then surely when the unit is a bakery that has not functioned for six and one-half years, as a matter of law, the Doctrine does not apply. Since the jury has come to this conclusion on these facts, no matter which way the question would be resolved, we must affirm the lower court.

Next, appellants argue that the lower court's charge did not adequately inform the jury with regard to the tests to apply in ...


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