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DOUGLAS WASTE PAPER COMPANY v. REDEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY CITY PHILADELPHIA (10/05/78)

SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: October 5, 1978.

DOUGLAS WASTE PAPER COMPANY, APPELLANT,
v.
REDEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA

No. 36 January Term, 1977, Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, No. 1081, C.D. 1975, Reversing the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, February Term, 1971, No. 1151.

COUNSEL

Leon W. Silverman, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Dennis L. Friedman, Peter A. Galante, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Larsen, JJ. Manderino, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Roberts

[ 481 Pa. Page 636]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellee, Redevelopment Authority of the City of Philadelphia, has condemned the realty upon which appellant Douglas Waste Paper Company conducts its scrap metal and paper business, but has not yet taken possession of the premises. Unable to obtain special permits authorizing operation of its business, Douglas has not relocated in the immediate area. It has also found the cost of property outside the immediate area too expensive for its type of business. Douglas therefore has remained on the condemned premises as the Redevelopment Authority's tenant.

A jury awarded Douglas general damages of $30,000 for real property and $10,000 for machinery and equipment taken by the Redevelopment Authority.*fn1 The jury also awarded Douglas $10,000 for special dislocation damages under Section 601-A(b)(3) of the Eminent Domain Code.*fn2

[ 481 Pa. Page 637]

The trial court denied the Redevelopment Authority's motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and new trial, on the issue of dislocation damages. The Commonwealth Court reversed, concluding that Douglas may not receive the award of special dislocation damages while it still occupies the premises. We granted Douglas's petition for allowance of appeal.*fn3

The question here is whether Douglas, before surrendering the premises, is entitled to special dislocation damages under Section 601-A(b)(3) of the Code. Though we agree with the Commonwealth Court's determination that Douglas is not entitled to dislocation damages while in possession of the premises, we believe that the court of common pleas properly exercised its discretion in submitting the question of dislocation damages to the jury. We hold that, upon surrendering the condemned premises, Douglas is entitled to receive payment of the jury's award of $10,000 for dislocation damages. We therefore vacate the order of the Commonwealth Court and remand the case to the court of common pleas with directions to modify the judgment accordingly.

The Commonwealth Court correctly concluded that a "condemnee" like Douglas cannot recover special dislocation

[ 481 Pa. Page 638]

    damages under Section 601-A(b)(3) until moving occurs.*fn4 Section 201(8) of the Code provides:

"'displaced person' means any condemnee or other person not illegally in occupancy of real property who moves or moves his personal property as a result of the acquisition for a program or project of such real property, in whole or in part, or as the result of written notice from the acquiring agency of intent to acquire or order to vacate such real property; . . ."

Thus, both a "condemnee" and a "person not illegally in occupancy of real property" must "move or move personal property" before either satisfies the statutory definition of "displaced person."*fn5 Section 601-A(b)(3) of the Code further demonstrates this legislative intent. Under Section 601-A(b)(3), Douglas may recover special dislocation damages only if it is a "displaced person who is displaced from his place of business."*fn6

[ 481 Pa. Page 639]

Nonetheless, we believe that, on this record, the court of common pleas properly submitted to the jury the question of Douglas's entitlement to special dislocation damages. The purpose of the Eminent Domain Code is to "provide a complete and exclusive procedure and law to govern all condemnations of property for public purposes and the assessment of damages therefor . . . ." Eminent Domain Code, § 303, 26 P.S. § 1-303. Provisions throughout the Code demonstrate the Legislature's goal of simplified, fair, and speedy condemnation proceedings.*fn7

Instead of postponing determination of Douglas's right to receive special dislocation damages, the court of common pleas permitted the jury to decide whether Douglas is entitled to dislocation damages, and, if so, the amount. The jury resolved these issues together with the amount of general damages caused by the Redevelopment Authority's taking. Thus, consistent with the objectives of the Eminent Domain Code, the trial court's submission to the jury of all issues properly avoided repetitive and prolonged eminent

[ 481 Pa. Page 640]

    domain proceedings and unnecessary additional burdens on the judicial process. Cf. Richette v. Pennsylvania Railroad, 410 Pa. 6, 29, 187 A.2d 910, 922 (1963) ("Good judgment . . . dictates that, considering the clogged conditions of the trial calendars, new trials should not be required unless the interests of justice imperatively require them").

While exhibiting an appropriate regard for the efficient use of judicial, professional, and other resources, the trial court also ensured the fair adjudication of the rights of the litigants. The Redevelopment Authority did not demonstrate that Douglas's inability to relocate without substantial loss of existing patronage is likely to change.*fn8 Nor did it show that the amount of dislocation damages is inestimable or excessive.*fn9 In these circumstances, we conclude that the trial court soundly exercised its discretion.

Accordingly, we need only direct modification of the judgment against the Redevelopment Authority to provide that payment of the jury's award of dislocation damages be made upon Douglas's surrender of the premises.

Order of the Commonwealth Court vacated, case remanded to the court of common pleas with directions to modify the judgment in accordance with this opinion, and as modified the judgment is affirmed.


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