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JESSE G. HOYMAN AND LILLIAN HOYMAN v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (03/07/77)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: March 7, 1977.

JESSE G. HOYMAN AND LILLIAN HOYMAN, PLAINTIFFS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, ACTING THROUGH THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES, DEFENDANT

Original jurisdiction in case of Jesse G. Hoyman and Lillian Hoyman v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, acting through the Department of Environmental Resources.

COUNSEL

Joseph B. Mitinger, with him Mitinger and Mitinger, for plaintiff.

David E. Lehman, with him Harvey Freedenberg, and McNees, Wallace & Nurick, for defendant.

Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr. and Mencer, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Wilkinson.

Author: Wilkinson

[ 29 Pa. Commw. Page 132]

Plaintiffs bring this action to quiet title against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, acting by and through the Department of Environmental Resources (DER), invoking the original jurisdiction of this Court under Section 401(a)(1) of the Appellate Court Jurisdiction Act of 1970, Act of July 31, 1970, P.L. 673, as amended, 17 P.S. ยง 211.401(a)(1). Preliminary objections questioning this Court's jurisdiction and in the nature of a demurrer were filed by the Commonwealth grounded upon sovereign immunity and the exclusive jurisdiction of the Board of Property (Board). Plaintiffs contend that the Board's jurisdiction is limited to cases arising from the operation of the Land Office and, alternatively, that the Commonwealth Court has concurrent jurisdiction over this matter. We sustain the Commonwealth's demurrer and transfer the action to the Board.

In Stair v. Commonwealth ex rel. Pennsylvania Game Commission, 28 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 457, 368 A.2d 1347 (1977), we concluded that the 1953 amendment to Section 1207 of the Administrative Code of 1929*fn1 expanded the jurisdiction of the Board by granting it power "to hear cases involving title or interest in all lands held by the Commonwealth." Id. at 460 n.4, 368 A.2d at 1348 n.4. (Emphasis in original.) Under

[ 29 Pa. Commw. Page 133]

    against the Commonwealth, our decision is in accord with the result reached in a majority of jurisdictions. E.g., State ex rel. Rheinfrank v. Gienow, 20 Ohio St. 2d 17, 252 N.E. 2d 163 (1969).

The fact that the Commonwealth has waived its immunity to quiet title actions before the Board cannot be construed as a waiver of immunity in any other forum. "Where a State through its Legislature consents to be sued, the modes, terms and conditions of the statute conferring such privilege . . . must be strictly construed and followed [Citations omitted.]" Land Holding Corporation v. Board of Finance & Revenue, 388 Pa. 61, 65, 130 A.2d 700, 703 (1957).

Accordingly, we will enter the following

Order

Now, March 7, 1977, the preliminary objection of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the nature of a demurrer is sustained and it is ordered that the record be transferred to the Board of Property for further proceedings.

Disposition

Preliminary objections sustained. Case transferred to the Board of Property.


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