In the Estate of Lawrence Marra, Sr. and the Estate of Francesca Marra
Tax Claim Bureau of Lackawanna County and Robert W. Jaditz; Appeal of: Robert W. Jaditz
Submitted June 16, 2014
Appealed from No. 2011 CIV 6816. Common Pleas Court of the County of Lackawanna. Mazzoni, J.
Thomas J. Jones, Jr., Scranton, for appellant.
Bohdan J. Zelechiwsky, Bethlehem, for appellees Estate of Lawrence Marra, Sr. and Estate of Francesca Marra.
BEFORE: HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge, HONORABLE RENÉ E COHN JUBELIRER, Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge.
Robert W. Jaditz (Jaditz) appeals from the October 3, 2013 order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County (trial court), which granted the petition filed by the Estate of Lawrence Marra, Sr., and the Estate of Francesca Marra (together, Petitioners) to set aside a September 9, 1985 tax sale to Jaditz; directed Petitioners to pay to the Lackawanna County Tax Claim Bureau (Tax Claim Bureau) a sum equal to the purchase price and costs paid by Jaditz during the 1985 tax sale, plus all taxes paid by Jaditz since this sale; and further directed the Tax Claim Bureau to reimburse these sums to Jaditz. We affirm.
The underlying facts of this case are not in dispute. Lawrence Marra, Sr. and his wife, Francesca Marra, purchased property in Lackawanna County identified as parcel number 121.04-020-003 and consisting of approximately 76 acres at an upset sale on March 1, 1976 (1976 upset sale). At the time of the sale, J.H. Robertson was the record owner of the property. By deed dated June 21, 1977, the Tax Claim Bureau conveyed the property to the Marras. The Marras recorded this deed on June 29, 1977. This property was later exposed to an upset sale on September 9, 1985, but the Marras never received notice of the sale. Jaditz was the successful
bidder for the property. On June 4, 1986, the Tax Claim Bureau issued Jaditz a deed for the property, but Jaditz never recorded the deed.
In May 2011, Swinka Realty Investments, LLC (Swinka) commenced a quiet title action against Petitioners regarding a piece of property previously owned by the Marras and known as Square Top, Newton Township. Swinka acquired this property from the Tax Claim Bureau via a private sale and received a deed for the same on January 19, 2011. In July 2011, the trial court ruled in Swinka's favor and decreed that Petitioners be forever barred from asserting any right, lien, title, or interest in that property. On November 9, 2011, Petitioners filed a joint petition seeking to set aside the private sale and vacate the judgment to quiet title, naming the Tax Claim Bureau and Swinka as respondents and identifying the property purchased by Jaditz at the 1985 upset sale as the property at issue. Jaditz thereafter filed a petition for intervention with the trial court, which was granted by order dated August 14, 2012.
During the course of these proceedings, the parties discovered that the Swinka quiet title action related to a parcel of land separate and distinct from the property purchased by Jaditz. Thus, the parties agreed to dismiss Swinka from the proceedings, thereby rendering Petitioners' request to vacate the quiet title judgment moot, and to proceed with Petitioners' request to set aside the 1985 upset sale to Jaditz. The trial court conducted a hearing on April 18, 2013. At this hearing, Jaditz stipulated that the Marras never received " proper notice of [the 1985 upset] sale by any mode of service authorized pursuant to the real estate tax law" and that " the Tax Claim Bureau has no record of any service. . . ."  (Notes of Transcript, April 18, 2013, p. 20.) Jaditz also stipulated that he never recorded the deed he received from the Tax Claim Bureau on June 4, 1986.
Jaditz was the only witness to testify at this hearing, called first by the Tax Claim Bureau as if on cross-examination. Jaditz admitted that he never recorded the 1986 deed for the property. He explained that the deed had been held by his previous attorney, who had passed away and that he had difficulty obtaining his file from that attorney's office. Nevertheless, Jaditz testified that he paid all of the taxes for the property from 1986 ...