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EXXON CORPORATION v. ROBERT J. WILSON (09/24/81)

decided: September 24, 1981.

EXXON CORPORATION, APPELLEE,
v.
ROBERT J. WILSON, APPELLANT



No. 132 January Term, 1979, Appeal from the Judgment dated November 22, 1978 of the Superior Court at No. 318 Oct. Term, 1978, affirming Order dated November 4, 1977 of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County at No. 77-05391.

COUNSEL

Norman P. Zarwin, Martin J. Resnick, Philadelphia, for appellant.

E. Barclay Cale, Jr., Kell M. Damsgaard, John M. Phelan, Kell M. Damsgaard, Philadelphia, for appellee at Nos. 131 and 132.

William A. DeStefano, Philadelphia, for appellee at 80-3-566.

Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, Kauffman and Wilkinson, JJ. O'Brien, C. J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Kauffman

[ 495 Pa. Page 554]

OPINION

The issue presented by this appeal is whether a lessor oil company is entitled to regain possession of its gasoline service station from a lessee dealer who refuses to vacate

[ 495 Pa. Page 555]

    the premises at the expiration of his lease term despite failure of the parties, after extensive negotiations, to agree upon a new lease. Appellant, Robert J. Wilson, seeks to open a judgment in ejectment confessed against him by appellee, Exxon Corporation ("Exxon"), after he refused to vacate a leased gasoline service station at the end of the lease term. In his timely petition to open the judgment filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, appellant contended that Exxon had failed to negotiate a renewal lease in good faith and that termination therefore was in violation of Section 3(c)(1) of the Pennsylvania Gasoline Petroleum Products and Motor Vehicle Accessories Act ("Gasoline Act")*fn1 and in breach of fiduciary duties allegedly owed to him by Exxon. After depositions were taken and argument held, the court en banc entered an order refusing to open judgment. The Superior Court affirmed, 260 Pa. Super. 560, 394 A.2d 1288; we granted allocatur, consolidated this case for argument with Witmer v. Exxon Corp., et al., 495 Pa. 540, 434 A.2d 1222 (1981), and now affirm.*fn2

The last retail service station lease executed by Exxon and appellant, which expired on February 6, 1976, provided for a monthly rental of 1.7 cents per gallon of gasoline sold, up to 60,000 gallons, and one-half cent on each gallon over 60,000, with a minimum monthly rental of $1,050. Because of the Economic Stabilization Act of 1970, however, the rentals under the lease were modified to provide for payment of 1.5

[ 495 Pa. Page 556]

    cents per gallon up to 60,000 gallons and one-half cent per gallon over 60,000, with a minimum rental of $810.00 per month.*fn3 Near the end of the lease term, Exxon submitted a proposed new lease to appellant which, while otherwise virtually identical to the old lease, contained a "rental reopener" clause authorizing Exxon to increase the service station rental by no more than one cent per gallon once during the term of the lease.*fn4 Anticipating the ...


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