Appeal from the DECREE July 23, 1996, In the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division. Clinton County, No. 432-92. Before WILLIAMSON, J.
Before: Cavanaugh, Popovich and Olszewski, JJ. Opinion BY Cavanaugh, J.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cavanaugh
OPINION BY CAVANAUGH, J.:
Appellants, Estate of Ruth E. Pursley and Dorothy P. Messerly, appeal the Final Decree entered by the Court of Common Pleas of Clinton County. *fn1 For the reasons discussed below, we reverse.
The convoluted history of this litigation began in March of 1992 *fn2 when appellees, Calvin Roberts, Ruth Laubmier, Rosalie Regina Wilson, Ann Eleanor Long, Donald Milton Kelius, Franklin David Kelius and Ray Kelius, filed an Action to Quiet Title to certain parcels of property in Clinton County. *fn3 Appellees have been represented by counsel throughout this litigation. John Ardell Pursley and George W. Pedlow, III, two of the heirs of the Ruth Pursley Estate have acted on behalf of the estate. All Pursley heirs have acquiesced to such representation. *fn4 On May 27, 1992, Constance Messerly Kehoe filed an Answer on behalf of the Dorothy P. Messerly heirs, being herself and Anne Messerly Cooper Chen. No one has appeared since on behalf of the Messerly heirs.
After a hearing on October 2, 1995, in which extensive testimony was given by witnesses for both parties, the trial court held that appellees had established prima facie evidence that they were owners in fee simple and entitled to possession of the subject property; and that appellants would be forever barred from claiming any interest in the property unless they commenced an Ejectment Action within thirty days. Subsequently, appellants filed an Ejectment Action on November 6, 1995 to which appellees filed Preliminary Objections for failure to comply with the form required by the applicable rules of civil procedure. These Preliminary Objections were disposed of by the trial court's order dated November 30, 1995, which granted appellants the right to file a new ejectment claim.
After an amended action was filed, Preliminary Objections were again raised. Appellees asserted a collateral estoppel claim based on the order entered in the Quiet Title Action. The trial court dismissed the Preliminary Objections and ordered appellees to file a responsive pleading within twenty days. Appellants sought leave to amend their amended action and this was granted. Subsequently, the amended complaint was filed and answered.
Thereafter, appellees filed a Motion for Summary Judgment raising res judicata and collateral estoppel. Appellees also filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings whereby they alleged procedural defects in appellants' Amended Complaint in Ejectment. The trial court, on July 23, 1996, filed a final decree dismissing appellants' Amended Complaint in Ejectment with prejudice and barring appellants from claiming any interest in the subject premises. *fn5
The Estate of Ruth Pursley appeals the final decree, raising the following issues for our review:
(1) Whether the trial court exceeded its authority by deciding the merits of the Action to Quiet Title as if it were an Action in Ejectment.
(2) Whether the Appellants' Amended Complaint in Ejectment was inconsistent with the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure.
(3) Whether the trial court's October 2, 1995 Order in the Appellees' Action to Quiet Title bars the Appellants from litigating the issue of title in the Ejectment Action under the doctrine of collateral estoppel.
(4) Whether the trial court's October 2, 1995 Order in the Appellees' Action to Quiet Title bars the Appellants from litigating the issue of title in the Ejectment Action under the doctrine of res judicata.
(5) Whether the trial court erred in granting Appellees' Motion for Summary Judgment (although unclear whether or not the trial court did this).
(6) Whether the trial court erred in granting Appellees' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (although unclear whether or not the trial court did this).
(7) Whether the matters to be considered in the Ejectment Action showed that there was no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the Appellees were ...