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MARGARET ANN LAWSON v. JAMES W. SIMONSEN (07/03/80)

decided: July 3, 1980.

MARGARET ANN LAWSON, APPELLEE,
v.
JAMES W. SIMONSEN, APPELLANT



No. 166 March Term, 1979, Appeal from the Order Dated May 23, 1979 of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, at No. 1126 April Term, 1978, Affirming the Decrees of the Court of Common Pleas of Warren County, Pennsylvania, Civil Division, at No. 110 of 1978.

COUNSEL

P. Ronald Cooper, Reding, Rea & Cooper, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Samuel F. Bonavita, Warren, for appellee.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ. Eagen, C. J., and Larsen, J., note their dissent.

Author: Nix

[ 490 Pa. Page 512]

OPINION

James Simonsen appeals from a decree of the Warren County Court of Common Pleas granting a permanent injunction in favor of appellee Margaret Ann Lawson. Appellant filed exceptions which were denied by the court en banc, as was his request for a rehearing. The Superior Court affirmed without opinion. We granted allocatur pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S.A. ยง 724(a), and now reverse.

Appellee Lawson is the fee simple owner of land in Glade Township in Warren County, it having been conveyed to her by her parents on January 31, 1963. The prior owners, Henry and Ann Cobham, had executed a "release" dated June 16, 1881, in favor of the Buffalo, Pittsburgh & Western Railroad Co., and its successors, concerning a strip of land 66 feet wide extending through a portion of appellee's land. The Buffalo, Pittsburgh & Western laid track and other equipment along this land and operated a railroad thereon for a number of years. The Penn Central Transportation Co., as the successor to the Buffalo, Pittsburgh & Western, abandoned the line in the mid-1960s after the construction of the Kinzua Dam by the federal government. On May 26, 1977, the trustees in bankruptcy for Penn Central conveyed by quit claim deed to appellant all right, title and interest held by Penn Central to the strip of land, although Penn Central reserved the right to salvage the track and other material within six months of the conveyance. Penn Central failed to salvage the track within the six months and appellant began his own salvage operations. Appellee, believing the track and equipment to be hers, sought and obtained an injunction preventing appellant from removing the track and equipment and ordering him to replace and repair that which he already had taken away.

[ 490 Pa. Page 513]

The trial court held that the 1881 "release" granted the Buffalo, Pittsburgh & Western a mere easement in the strip of land and that this easement was extinguished when the successor company abandoned the line. It further held that since the track and other equipment were affixed to the land, they became part of the land and became appellee's when the easement terminated. While we agree that the "release" conveyed only an easement, we disagree with the trial court over the disposition of the track and other equipment.

The parties and the trial court are in agreement that the question of whether the "release" conveyed a fee interest in the land or merely an easement may be answered by an examination of this Court's decision in Brookbank v. Bendum-Trees Oil Co., 389 Pa. 151, 131 A.2d 103 (1957), although each party would read that decision to support its own position. In Brookbank, the Court was presented with the question of what rights, if any, a railroad had to drill for natural gas under an abandoned railroad bed. To decide this question, the Court was called upon to interpret a written agreement which the railroad argued gave it a fee interest, but which the landowner claimed only gave the railroad an easement.*fn1 There we held the agreement conveyed only an easement to the railroad.

[ 490 Pa. Page 514]

The agreement in the present case ...


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