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AMOCO OIL COMPANY v. ROBERT F. BURNS (07/02/81)

decided: July 2, 1981.

THE AMOCO OIL COMPANY
v.
ROBERT F. BURNS, APPELLANT



No. 80-3-566, Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court at Nos. 8 and 59.

COUNSEL

Norman P. Zarwin, Philadelphia, for appellant.

William A. DeStefano, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Kauffman, Justice. O'Brien, C.j., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Kauffman

[ 496 Pa. Page 338]

OPINION OF THE COURT

After a non-jury trial in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas, appellee, Amoco Oil Company ("Amoco"), was awarded possession of a gasoline service station by judgment in ejectment against appellant, Robert F. Burns ("Burns"), an Amoco dealer who had refused to vacate the property after the expiration of his lease. Burns' exceptions to the adjudication were overruled by the Common Pleas Court en banc and the Superior Court affirmed, 268 Pa. Super. 390, 408 A.2d 521 (1979).*fn1

Appellant contends here, as he did in the courts below, that Amoco was precluded from terminating his franchise either by this Court's decision in Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Razumic, 480 Pa. 366, 390 A.2d 736 (1978),*fn2 or by the Pennsylvania Gasoline Act.*fn3 We disagree and affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.*fn4

Amoco purchased the land in question in 1966 and thereupon constructed a two bay gasoline service station at a total cost in excess of $125,000. The property was then

[ 496 Pa. Page 339]

    leased to Burns as an Amoco dealership which was maintained pursuant to a series of written leases, the last of which was for a one-year term ending September 10, 1976, with automatic renewals for two successive one-year terms unless either party gave written notice of cancellation prior to the end of the initial or renewal term.*fn5 The lease automatically renewed itself for the first additional term, but on June 8, 1977, Amoco gave written notice of non-renewal, and directed Burns to vacate the premises effective September 10, 1977.*fn6

At trial, Amoco officials testified that they decided not to renew Burns' lease and to divest themselves of the property because Burns' steadily decreasing sales volume had made it unprofitable for Amoco to maintain the station.*fn7 In response, Burns contended that the diminishing ...


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