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JOSEPH SOFFER AND VIOLET SOFFER v. JAMES L. BEECH AND SUN OIL COMPANY (12/21/79)

decided: December 21, 1979.

JOSEPH SOFFER AND VIOLET SOFFER, HIS WIFE, APPELLANTS,
v.
JAMES L. BEECH AND SUN OIL COMPANY, A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION



No. 199 March Term, 1978, Appeal from the Order of Superior Court of Pennsylvania, sitting at Pittsburgh, at No. 102 April Term, 1978, Affirming the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, at No. G.D. 76-11945.

COUNSEL

Paul A. Love, DeCello, Manifesto, Doherty & Love, P. C., Pittsburgh, for appellants.

Jerome W. Kiger, Grogan, Graffam, McKinley & Solomon, Pittsburgh, for Sun Oil Co.

Robert Ivan Johnston, Pittsburgh, for James L. Beech.

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

Author: Roberts

[ 487 Pa. Page 258]

OPINION OF THE COURT

At common law a lessee who had never entered into possession of his leasehold was prohibited from bringing an action in ejectment to gain possession. The issue before us is the continued validity of this rule. We are satisfied by considerations of reason and fairness and by the weight of modern case law that the ancient rule now serves no useful purpose, and, accordingly, we refuse to permit its continued use.

I

On August 15, 1951, George and Mary Beech leased property they owned in Allegheny County to appellee Sun Oil Company for a term of fifteen years with two additional five-year options. The lease was recorded. In 1956 George and Mary Beech conveyed the property to appellee James Beech. The lease to Sun Oil was not affected.

On September 17, 1962, appellee James Beech and his wife leased the same property to appellants Joseph and Violet Soffer for a fifty-year term.*fn1 This lease specifically recited that it was "subject to" the prior lease to Sun Oil.*fn2 This lease was also recorded.

[ 487 Pa. Page 259]

In July of 1974, as Sun Oil's term was approaching an end, James Beech and Sun Oil executed what they styled an "amendment and ratification" to the original 1951 lease. This "amendment and ratification" would allow Sun Oil, at its option, to remain in possession until at least 1997.*fn3

In March of 1976, the Soffers sent written notice to Sun Oil of their intention to take possession on October 1, 1976, the expiration date of Sun Oil's original fifteen year lease plus the original options. Sun Oil replied that it would remain in ...


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