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HALFWAY COAL YARD v. COUNTY CENTRE (01/29/88)

decided: January 29, 1988.

HALFWAY COAL YARD, INC., APPELLANT
v.
COUNTY OF CENTRE, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County in the case of County of Centre v. Halfway Coal Yard, Inc., No. 85-2176.

COUNSEL

Darryl R. Slimak, with him, John W. Blasko, McQuaide, Blasko, Schwartz, Fleming & Faulkner, Inc., for appellant.

Thomas K. Kistler and Robert K. Kistler, Miller, Kistler & Campbell, Inc., for appellee.

Judges MacPhail and Palladino, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.

Author: Macphail

[ 113 Pa. Commw. Page 193]

Halfway Coal Yard, Inc. (Appellant) has appealed from a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County which ordered that four of five affirmative defenses raised by Appellant in response to an action filed by Centre County (County) for the collection of unpaid taxes be stricken. We affirm.

We must preliminarily address the issue of whether the instant appeal should be quashed as interlocutory.*fn1

[ 113 Pa. Commw. Page 194]

The order appealed from resolved several matters including the County's preliminary objections to Appellant's New Matter. It would appear on initial review that the order is, in fact, interlocutory since it does not end the litigation or dispose of the entire case. Nevertheless, the order may be determined to be final for purposes of appeal if, as a practical matter, it effectively puts Appellant out of court. See Upper Allen Township v. Zoning Hearing Board of Upper Allen Township, 77 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 582, 466 A.2d 292 (1983).

The order of the common pleas court in the instant case precludes Appellant from asserting the following defenses to the County's action for collection of unpaid taxes on mineral rights allegedly owned by Appellant: (1) that the assessment was not made in accord with statutory procedures relating to real estate assessments; (2) that Appellant is not the owner of the mineral rights in question; (3) that the Board of Assessment Appeals did not meet in a duly advertised public meeting to authorize the subject assessments and (4) that the County lacks authority to levy the taxes at issue. Thus, we must determine whether the common pleas court's action in striking these defenses effectively puts Appellant out of court. We conclude that it does.

In the case of Department of Environmental Resources v. Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp., 473 Pa. 432, 375 A.2d 320, cert. denied, 434 U.S. 969 (1977), our Supreme Court was presented with an issue similar to that involved here. The matter involved an action brought by the Department of Environmental Resources (DER) in Commonwealth Court to enforce a prior unappealed DER order. Wheeling-Pittsburgh

[ 113 Pa. Commw. Page 195]

Steel Corporation (Wheeling) sought to challenge the validity of the existing DER order. By way of preliminary order, this Court refused to hear evidence regarding the underlying validity of the DER order and Wheeling appealed. The Supreme Court ruled that our order was not interlocutory since it denied Wheeling the right to present evidence regarding what could potentially be a complete defense to the enforcement action. See also Posternack v. American Casualty Co. of Reading, 421 Pa. 21, 218 A.2d 350 (1966). As a result, the Court ...


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