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DONALD D. DAWSON v. SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY TAX CLAIM BUREAU AND MRS. THOMAS LOPATOFSKY (01/12/82)

decided: January 12, 1982.

DONALD D. DAWSON, APPELLANT
v.
SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY TAX CLAIM BUREAU AND MRS. THOMAS LOPATOFSKY, A/K/A CAROL LOPATOFSKY, APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Susquehanna County in the case of Donald D. Dawson v. Susquehanna County Tax Claim Bureau and Mrs. Thomas Lopatofsky a/k/a Carol Lopatofsky, No. 1980-142.

COUNSEL

Raymond C. Davis, for appellant.

Robert G. Dean, for appellee, Susquehanna County Tax Claim Bureau.

Kenneth W. Seamans, for appellee, Mrs. Thomas Lopatofsky a/k/a Carol Lopatofsky.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges MacPhail and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino. This Opinion, authored by Judge Palladino prior to the expiration of her term of office, is adopted as the Opinion of the Court.

Author: Palladino

[ 64 Pa. Commw. Page 107]

This is an appeal by Donald D. Dawson (Appellant) from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Susquehanna County denying Appellant's petition to set aside a tax sale by the Susquehanna County Tax Claim Bureau (Bureau) to Carol Lopatofsky. We affirm.

Appellant, who can neither read nor write and who depends on relatives to carry on his business, purchased the property in question herein in 1976. On August 25, 1977, the Bureau sent Appellant notice of a tax claim for 1977 taxes on the property by certified mail. This notice was sent to Appellant at the

[ 64 Pa. Commw. Page 108]

    address appearing on the certificate of residence for the property and the notification to the Susquehanna County Tax Assessment Office, i.e., R.D. No. 1, Elverson, Pennsylvania. The notice was returned to the Bureau unclaimed, however, after having been forwarded to P.O. Box 161, St. Peters, Pennsylvania.*fn1 Subsequent delinquent tax notices were sent by the Bureau to Appellant at an address obtained, pursuant to customary practices, from the local tax collector. This address was R.D. No. 2, Pottstown, Pennsylvania. These notices were also returned to the Bureau and Appellant made no payment of taxes for three years. Because of Appellant's failure to pay his taxes, the Bureau sent him notice of a pending tax sale, again at the Pottstown address. The Bureau also published notice of the pending sale for three consecutive weeks in four newspapers of general circulation in Susquehanna County and posted a notice of the sale on the property in question. The property was subsequently sold at a public sale in September, 1979.

Appellant petitioned the court of common pleas to set aside the tax sale on the grounds that notice of the tax claims and pending tax sale were sent to the wrong address*fn2 and there was thus noncompliance with the requirements of Sections 308 and 602 of the Real Estate Tax Sale Law (Law), Act of July 7, 1947, P.L. 1368, as amended, 72 P.S. § 5860.308 and 72 P.S. § 5860.602. The lower court, after holding a hearing on the matter, ruled that the Bureau had acted properly with respect to the mailing of the notices to Appellant and denied the petition. The appeal to this Court followed.

[ 64 Pa. Commw. Page 109]

"[I]t is a generally accepted principle in tax cases that decisions by the trial court on issues where it had the opportunity to weigh the evidence firsthand [as here] will not be disturbed on appeal absent proof of an abuse of discretion, a lack of supporting evidence, or clear error of law." Scott Township Tax Assessment Case, 31 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 505, 508, 377 A.2d 826, 827 (1977). Resolutions of conflicting testimony and determination of evidentiary weight and witness ...


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