Appeal from the Order entered March 29, 1988 in the Court of Common Pleas of Clearfield County, Civil Division, at No. 87-1615-C.D.
Michael P. Yeager, Clearfield, and Scott V. Jones, Du Bois, for appellants.
William C. Kriner, Clearfield, for appellee.
Olszewski, Del Sole and Kelly, JJ.
[ 380 Pa. Super. Page 515]
Following certification by the trial court and grant of a Petition for Allowance of an Interlocutory Appeal, Appellants have presented this appeal from an order dismissing their preliminary objections. Appellants ask us to determine whether all the necessary parties have been joined as defendant's in Appellee's quiet title action. Since we find that there exists certain indispensable parties who should have been joined as defendants, we reverse the trial court's order and dismiss Appellee's complaint without prejudice.
Appellee, who acquired property in the Treasure Lake Subdivision, filed a complaint claiming title by adverse possession to a strip of property located between her deeded premises and the lake. Named as defendants were Appellants, whom Appellee claimed in her complaint were "all previous owners in the chain of title" for the subject property. Appellants responded by filing Preliminary Objections claiming that all lot owners in the Treasure Lake Subdivision own such an interest in this property that they are necessary and indispensable parties. In support of their position Appellants presented three documents to the court which they claimed created for all the lot owners in the Subdivision a property interest in a 150 foot strip of land surrounding the lake, a portion of which is the subject of this action. The trial court found that the three documents and the restrictions contain therein, "cannot be applied to [Appellee's] property" since she acquired her property prior to the existence of the documents. The court went on to rule that even if the restrictions contained in the documents do apply in this case, they grant the lot owners no more than a privilege to use the disputed area, "but grant no specific individual ownership right . . . that would require each of them to be named as parties of this action."
Since it is important to determine the interest possessed by all lot owners in the subdivision, we will examine the documents and their applicability to the various parties before ruling on the ultimate issue of whether Appellee failed to join all necessary and indispensable parties.
[ 380 Pa. Super. Page 516]
First we conclude the trial court erred in ruling that the three documents are inapplicable. The trial court based its ruling upon the fact that these instruments were executed subsequent to Appellee's purchase of the deeded property and therefore, she was not subject to the contents of the documents. The trial court's analysis misses the point. The documents presented by Appellants must be examined to determine what rights, if any, have been granted to other lot owners in the disputed property. Whether or not Appellee is subject to the terms of these documents is irrelevant. At issue is whether these documents grant others rights to the disputed property, which rights Appellee must extinguish before prevailing in her claim of ownership.
Appellee acquired her lot in the Treasure Lake subdivision from Appellant, Recreation Land Corporation's, predecessor in title, John E. DuBois Jr. and Rene Handley DuBois. Title to the disputed property was not passed by deed and remained with the grantors. A few years later Mr. and Mrs. DuBois entered certain "Stipulations and Conditions" with Clear Run Farms Lake Rene (owned by Mr. and Mrs. DuBois) and "all subsequent purchasers of lots" in the plan. It included the following provision:
All persons who are the owners of lots as set forth in the aforementioned Lot Block Plan, and their invitees, shall have the privilege of using the lands surrounding Lake Rene (now Treasure Lake), for the purpose of boating swimming, fishing, hunting and other recreational activities, including the 150 foot wide strip of land surrounding Lake Rene as owned, and will be retained by the owners . . .
The lot owners' usage was said to be conditioned upon particular regulations, such as a prohibition against tree or shrub removal, against boat launching and picnicking on the 150 foot strip of land. An annual maintenance charge was also to be assessed to each lot owner. Mr. ...