No. 3642 Philadelphia, 1982, Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Columbia County, No. 1604 of 1980.
Felix DeGuilio, Pittsburgh, for appellants.
Gailey C. Keller, Bloomsburg, for appellees.
Wickersham, Wieand and Cercone, JJ.
[ 330 Pa. Super. Page 269]
Van Camp Lodge No. 140, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, an unincorporated association (Lodge 140) and The Odd Fellows Hall Association of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation (Hall Association) sold Lodge 140's meeting hall without the approval and consent of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, Independent Order of Odd Fellows (Grand Lodge). The Grand Lodge thereupon caused Lodge 140 to be suspended and commenced an action in equity to impose a trust upon the proceeds of the sale. When the trial court held that the
[ 330 Pa. Super. Page 270]
Hall Association was not bound by the by-laws of the governing body and that the Grand Lodge was not entitled to assert any rights to the proceeds of the sale of the meeting hall, this appeal followed. We reverse.
The meeting hall had been acquired in 1928. Title to the real estate was immediately placed in the Hall Association. The first floor of the building was leased for commercial purposes; the second floor was leased as residential apartments; and the third floor was used as a meeting hall and for miscellaneous purposes by the members of Lodge 140. On September 29, 1979, the building was conveyed to Dennis and Cynthia Williams. When, in June, 1980, the Grand Lodge learned that the building had been sold without its prior approval and suspected that the proceeds were to be distributed to and among the remaining members of Lodge 140, the Grand Lodge suspended the local lodge's charter on July 3, 1980. The books, records, rituals, etc. of Lodge 140 were surrendered to the Grand Lodge, but the members of Lodge 140 determined to deliver the proceeds of the sale to the Bloomsburg Hospital. This action was commenced to recover those proceeds.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows is an international benevolent association structured in a three tiered hierarchy of lodges. The Sovereign Grand Lodge is the international governing body which has promulgated the General Laws of Odd Fellows under which all subordinate lodges exist. The Sovereign Lodge chartered the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, which has jurisdiction over local lodges in Pennsylvania. Lodge 140, in turn, was chartered as a subordinate lodge by the Grand Lodge.
The Code of General Laws adopted by the Sovereign Grand Lodge on September 15, 1915, as revised in 1925, was in existence at the time the meeting hall was purchased by Lodge 140. Relevant sections of Chapter 12, entitled "Property," provided as follows:
Sec. 853. The subordinate bodies of the Order shall have the right to own and hold, for the uses and purposes of the order, both ...