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CHARLES G. ROSS AND MILDRED G. ROSS v. GULF OIL CORPORATION (03/13/87)

filed: March 13, 1987.

CHARLES G. ROSS AND MILDRED G. ROSS, HIS WIFE, APPELLANTS,
v.
GULF OIL CORPORATION



Appeal from the Order entered May 30, 1986 in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, Civil Division, at No. 1755-C of 1981.

COUNSEL

Joseph J. Musto, Wilkes-Barre, for appellants.

Ronald V. Santora, Wilkes-Barre, for appellee.

Wickersham,*fn* McEwen and Beck, JJ.

Author: Beck

[ 361 Pa. Super. Page 230]

The issue on appeal is whether a lessor may eject a lessee when the lessee engages in unlawful activity on the leased premises and the lease is silent as to the remedy available. The lower court held that the lessor could not prevail in an action for ejectment. We affirm.

There is no dispute as to the material facts in this case. In 1966 the Rosses, who are the appellant-lessors, entered into a lease with Gulf Oil Corporation ("Gulf"). Gulf leased the premises in question for a term of fifteen years. The lease included three five-year renewal options. Under the lease, Gulf made substantial improvements which included the building of a service station. With certain exceptions, all improvements made by Gulf revert to the lessors upon termination of the lease. Under the lease Gulf agreed to hold the lessors harmless for damages caused by the negligence or fault of Gulf, its sublessees or assigns, in the operation of the service station. The issue before us arises because the lease is silent as to rights and remedies available to the lessor in the event that lessee engages in unlawful activity on the leased premises.

In 1978, Gulf drilled a bore hole into an abandoned coal mine beneath the surface of the premises in order to discharge sewage accumulated at the service station. The Rosses repeatedly requested that Gulf cease this method of discharge and offered an alternative means of sewage disposal

[ 361 Pa. Super. Page 231]

    on their adjacent property. Gulf continued to dump the sewage into the mine.

In 1981, the Rosses commenced this action in ejectment. They averred that Gulf's method of sewage disposal was unlawful, and that they suffered damages including embarrassment and exposure to potential liability for the cost of cleaning up the pollution which may occur in public waters as a result of Gulf's sewage disposal method. At trial, the Rosses produced evidence showing that Gulf's sewage disposal activity was unlawful. Gulf did not present contradictory evidence. Without specifying the statutes violated the trial court determined that Gulf's activity was unlawful. The court, nevertheless concluded that the Rosses could not prevail in an action based on ejectment. We agree.

The Rosses alleged that Gulf's conduct amounted to a misdemeanor violation of the Pennsylvania Anthracite Coal Mine Act, 52 Pa.Stat.Ann. § 70-524 (Purdon 1966); and a violation of the sewage permit requirement, Pa.Stat.Ann. tit. 35 § 750.7(a) (Purdon 1977). They also allege that the sewage pollution affects public waters in violation of Pa.Stat.Ann. tit. 35 § 691.401 (Purdon 1977). These violations result in a public nuisance. Id., Pa.Stat.Ann. tit. 35 § 750.14 (Purdon 1977); Pa.Stat.Ann. tit. 35 § 691.602 (Purdon Supp.1986). None of these statutes provide a lessor with the remedy of ejectment against a lessee who violates them.

Noting that the lease is silent on the question and that the statutes do not provide an ejectment remedy for the lessor, we examine the law applicable to the instant case. A lease is in the nature of a contract and is controlled by principles of contract law. Pugh v. Holmes, 486 Pa. 272, 405 A.2d 897 (1979). If the rights, duties and remedies of the lease are to be extended beyond the clear meaning of the lease, the burden is on the party so claiming to show that the parties intended such extension either by provisions of the ...


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