Appeal from the Judgment Entered November 2, 1984 in the Court of Common Pleas of Indiana County, Civil No. 20 EQ. 1981.
George A. Conti, Jr., Greensburg, for appellants.
Wayne A. Kablack, Indiana, for appellee.
Brosky, Olszewski and Popovich, JJ. Popovich, J., files a concurring opinion.
[ 354 Pa. Super. Page 383]
This appeal arises from a final decree and judgment, entered November 2, 1984, dismissing appellants' exceptions
[ 354 Pa. Super. Page 384]
to the Findings of Facts, Conclusions of Law, and Decree Nisi of the Court of Common Pleas of Indiana County. Appellants had filed exceptions to the court's order of June 18, 1984, denying the requested injunction against appellee and refusing to grant monetary damages. A brief recital of the facts of this case will be helpful.
Appellants, Samuel R. Cronan and Dorothy A. Cronan, purchased a tract of land from Joseph M. Frye, et ux., by deed dated November 29, 1972. This deed contained the following reservation clause:
EXCEPTING AND RESERVING to M.V. Lias all of the oil and gas in, under and upon the said premises for and during the term of his natural life as excepted and reserved in the recital deed.
Similarly, the deed by which Frye had purchased this tract from M.V. Lias in 1971 contained the following reservation clause:
EXCEPTING AND RESERVING to the grantor herein all the oil and gas in, under and upon the said premises for and during the term of his natural life. Upon his death said oil and gas interest shall forthwith pass to and be vested in the grantees herein named, their heirs and assigns.
In 1963, Lias had entered into a ten-year oil and gas lease with the Manufacturer's Light and Heat Company. This lease was recorded, but no activity was conducted on the land. On September 28, 1972, Lias entered into a ten-year oil and gas lease with Columbia Gas Transmission Corporation. This lease was to take effect on April 2, 1973. On or about June 15, 1980, appellee entered appellants' land for the purpose of drilling gas wells. Appellee constructed a roadway and two well sites, one of which was actually drilled. Subsequent to the drilling, the well was outfitted and treated, the roadway was backfilled, and any trees that were disturbed were cut and stacked for the appellants. Appellants brought this action alleging damage to their land, crops and timber.
[ 354 Pa. Super. Page 385]
Initially, we are faced with the question of whether the exception and reservation clause in the subject deed excepted and reserved to the grantor/life tenant (M.V. Lias) the right to enter into a subsequent oil and gas lease and to produce oil and gas thereunder without the joinder of the remainderman. As a general rule, a life tenant cannot produce oil and gas ...