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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. STEPHEN E. PENDLETON AND JEANETTE B. PENDLETON (07/14/78)

decided: July 14, 1978.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE,
v.
STEPHEN E. PENDLETON AND JEANETTE B. PENDLETON, APPELLANTS



No. 79 January Term 1977, Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court at No. 1397 C.D. 1975, reversing the Decree of the Court of Common Pleas of Bradford County, at No. 1 April Term 1970.

COUNSEL

Davis & Murphy, Robert J. Murphy, Towanda, for appellants.

Dowd & Kocsis, Michael J. Dowd, John Kocsis, III, Athens, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ.

Author: Eagen

[ 480 Pa. Page 109]

OPINION OF THE COURT

On June 25, 1963, Stephen E. and Jeanette B. Pendleton by written agreement gave the Pennsylvania Game Commission (Commission), for a stated consideration of $1.00, an option to buy 24.3 acres of farmland at $20.00 per acre. The Commission accepted the option on October 14, 1963, thus

[ 480 Pa. Page 110]

    converting the option agreement into a contract of sale. The Commission subsequently discovered, however, that the Pendletons' title was defective because a signature was missing from their deed. Although he was notified of this defect, Mr. Pendleton was dissatisfied with the contract and made no effort to obtain the missing signature and cure the defect. Nevertheless, on November 29, 1968, the parties entered into a second written agreement wherein the Commission was given the option of buying an additional, substantially larger, tract of 667 acres at $67.00 per acre. The Commission accepted this option on January 17, 1969.

Sometime after the execution of the second agreement the parties made an oral agreement wherein the Pendletons promised to cure the defect in title affecting the first tract and the Commission promised to pay $67.00 per acre for this tract as well. On May 20, 1969, the Pendletons obtained the missing signature and thereby cured the defect relating to the first tract.

Both written agreements contained the same provision: "If this option is so accepted, then the said Commission shall have such further time as it may deem necessary to cause the titles to be examined, to obtain approval of the titles by the Attorney General, to obtain surveys and to make payment according to the usual practice." [Emphasis added.] The survey was completed on June 9, 1969. On February 10, 1969, an independent attorney in Bradford County, whose name was on a list approved by the Commission, had been asked to search the titles and prepare abstracts for the land in question. On July 16, 1969, the Commission not having received the requested abstracts, the executive director of the Commission wrote the attorney and asked for a progress report. This letter produced no response, but the Commission did nothing further at that time.

On September 2, 1969, the Pendletons wrote a letter to the Commission stating that Mr. Pendleton's health had improved and he now wished to continue farming the land, and that they therefore wished "to withdraw our offer to ...


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