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JAMES E. BELL v. E. B. PROVANCE ET AL. E. B. PROVANCE ESTATE (06/08/81)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: June 8, 1981.

JAMES E. BELL, EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF IKE C. BELL, ALSO KNOWN AS I. C. BELL, DECEASED
v.
E. B. PROVANCE ET AL. E. B. PROVANCE ESTATE, APPELLANT. JAMES E. BELL, EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF IKE C. BELL, ALSO KNOWN AS I. C. BELL, DECEASED V. E. B. PROVANCE ET AL. JAMES E. BELL, EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF IKE C. BELL, DECEASED, APPELLANT

Appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County in case of James E. Bell, Executor of the Estate of Ike C. Bell, also known as I. C. Bell, deceased v. E. B. Provance, a/k/a Ernest B. Provance, a/k/a Earnest B. Provance, Horace M. Wallace, Yolanda Lazell McClernan, Olive Weley Moss and Dorothy Dean Lee and Their Heirs and Assigns Generally, No. 976 of 1978.

COUNSEL

Joseph P. Rygiel, for E. B. Provance Estate.

William M. Radcliffe, Coldren & Coldren, for James E. Bell, Executor of the Estate of Ike C. Bell, deceased.

Judges Mencer, Rogers and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino. Judge Wilkinson, Jr. did not participate in the decision in this case.

Author: Palladino

[ 59 Pa. Commw. Page 523]

The Executor of the Estate of E. B. Provance (Provance) and the Executor of the Estate of I. C. Bell (Bell) each filed an appeal from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County which found title to acreage situated in Wharton Township, Fayette County, to be lawfully and regularly vested in the Estate of Bell. We consider these appeals collectively and affirm the order of the court of common pleas.

The Executor of Bell brought an action to quiet title to the acreage, claiming that Bell acquired title to

[ 59 Pa. Commw. Page 524]

    the property through a series of deeds and conveyances that originated with a tax sale in 1928 from the County Treasurer to the Commissioners of Fayette County for the amount of taxes owing for the year 1926. The Executor of Provance contested the validity of the tax sale, arguing that Provance, the property owner of record at the time of the sale, was not notified of the sale pursuant to the provisions of the Act of June 1, 1915 (Act), P.L. 660.*fn1*fn2

The law is well settled that the existence of a Treasurer's Deed establishes prima facie lawful title in the grantee by a rebuttable presumption of the regularity of the acts of public officials in accordance with the duties of their offices and the applicable laws. Albert v. Lehigh Coal and Navigation Co., 431 Pa. 600, 246 A.2d 840 (1968); Curtis Building Co. v. Tunstall, 21 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 81, 343 A.2d 389 (1975).*fn3 Therefore, a person challenging title obtained through a Treasurer's Deed has the burden of proving a defect or irregularity in the proceedings which produced the deed. Clark v. Weinberg, 38 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 300, 393 A.2d 507 (1978).

[ 59 Pa. Commw. Page 525]

In the instant case the parties were unable to proffer a Treasurer's Deed evidencing the tax sale from the County Treasurer to the County Commissioners. Nevertheless, we agree with the ably drafted opinion of President Judge Toothman sitting by designation on the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County, that the record contains reliable indicia of such a sale comporting with the terms of the Act. Mrs. McLuckey, director of the Tax Claim Bureau of Fayette County, testified as custodian of the county tax sales records that the records showed that the acreage was sold in 1928 to the County Commissioners for the taxes owing for the year 1926. In addition, the deed from the County Commissioners to G. R. Lenhart et ux., Bell's predecessors in title, was entered into evidence. This deed recites that the acreage in question was "advertised and sold at public sale by the County Treasurer on June 12, 1928, to the County Commissioners . . . after notice thereof as required by law. . . ."

In the absence of any evidence which renders doubtful or untrustworthy either the deed from the County Commissioners or the testimony of Mrs. McLuckey, we conclude that Bell is entitled, despite the unavailability of the Treasurer's Deed, to the presumption that the public officials of Fayette County properly conducted the tax sale to the County Commissioners. Therefore, title to the subject acreage vests in the Estate of Bell since Bell is the successor in title from the grantees of the County Commissioners.*fn4

[ 59 Pa. Commw. Page 526]

Accordingly, we will enter the following

Order

And Now, June 8, 1981, the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County, Docket No. 976 of 1978 G.D., dated January 18, 1980, is hereby affirmed.

Judge Wilkinson, Jr. did not participate in the decision in this case.

Disposition

Affirmed.


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