Israel Packel, Atty. Gen., Raymond C. Miller, Deputy Atty. Gen., Benjamin B. Solomon, Asst. Atty. Gen., Norman Watkins, Harrisburg, for appellant.
Charles B. Zwally, John Havas, Shearer, Mette, Hoerner & Woodside, Harrisburg, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Roberts, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Jones, C. J., joins.
This appeal arises from an order of the Commonwealth Court which granted the request of appellee, Pocono Pines Corporation, to compel appellant, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, to execute the necessary instruments to confirm appellee's interest in land claimed by appellant. We granted Petition for Allowance of Appeal.
The facts surrounding this appeal are as follows. Appellant claims title to an interest in the disputed land through a deed recorded in Monroe County on December 28, 1949, from the United States of America to appellant for use of the land as a wildlife preserve. The deed left the mineral rights in the United States and provided that title would revert to the United States whenever the President or other governmental official declared the land was needed for defense purposes. The United States' title was derived from a 1918 condemnation proceeding against Frank C. Miller, the original owner of the disputed land. Appellee claims title to the land through Frank C. Miller, and further claims that the United States' condemnation of Miller's property was ineffective for lack of notice to Miller. The Commonwealth Board of Property found the condemnation to be valid; this decision was appealed to the Commonwealth Court, which reversed the board, holding that the United States' condemnation was invalid, and ordered the execution of the necessary documents to confirm appellee's interest in the land. This appeal followed.
Initially, we must point out that while the action filed by appellee before the Board of Property carried no technical designation, it is, in our opinion, an action to quiet title, as defined in Pa.R.C.P. No. 1061(b)(3), 12 P.S. Appendix, which provides:
". . . to compel an adverse party to file, record, cancel, surrender or satisfy of record, or admit the validity, invalidity or discharge of, any document, obligation or deed affecting any right, lien, title or interest in land . . . ."
In the instant case, appellee brought suit to compel appellant to execute necessary documents in order to confirm a deed in favor of appellee. Based on this request, we must treat the petition filed by appellee as, in fact, an action to quiet title.
Having found that the action filed before the Board of Property is, in essence, one to quiet title, we are of the opinion that both the Board of Property and the Commonwealth Court lacked jurisdiction to hear this action for want of an indispensable party, the United States government.
The issue before the Board of Property was whether Pocono had a right to have a deed executed in its favor from the Pennsylvania Game Commission. This relief, as requested by Pocono, in turn centered on whether the deed to the Game Commission from the United States government in 1948, which left a reversionary interest in the property, as well as title to the mineral rights, in the United States government was valid based on the United States government's acquisition of the property in a 1918 condemnation proceeding. If the condemnation was valid, Pocono could not prevail. It therefore becomes apparent that any decision ...