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Municipal Authority of Borough of Midland v. Ohioville Borough Municipal Authority

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

January 6, 2015

Municipal Authority of the Borough of Midland
v.
Ohioville Borough Municipal Authority, Appellant

Argued November 10, 2014

Page 133

Appealed from No. CP-04-CV-11875-2011. Common Pleas Court of the County of Beaver. Kwidis, J.

Paul A. Steff, Beaver, for appellant.

Myron R. Sainovich, Beaver, for appellee.

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge, HONORABLE JAMES GARDNER COLINS, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Page 134

BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, Judge

Ohioville Borough Municipal Authority (Ohioville) appeals from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County (trial court) that entered a judgment in favor of the Municipal Authority of the Borough of Midland (Midland) and against Ohioville in Midland's action involving a dispute over the amount of a water bill that Ohioville was obligated to pay Midland. Ohioville argues that the trial court (1) improperly considered the evidence taken at a hearing in deciding the motion for judgment on the pleadings, (2) failed to submit the dispute to compulsory arbitration pursuant to the local rules and did not have authority to enter the judgment, and (3) should have construed the ambiguous language in Midland's water rate increase notice against Midland under the construction rule of contra proferentem . We affirm.

The following relevant facts are undisputed. Since 1964, Ohioville purchased potable water from Midland and distributed it to Ohioville's customers. After the written contract between Midland and Ohioville expired in 2004, Midland continued to provide water to Ohioville. In a letter dated April 14, 2009, Midland notified its customers, including Ohioville, that the monthly water rate would be increased from $22.90 to $41.90 per 1000 cubic feet " [e]ffective with the July 1, 2009 billing." Exhibit A to the Complaint; Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 9. In a water bill dated

Page 135

June 30, 2009, Midland charged Ohioville $30,125.33 at the increased water rate. Ohioville paid only $16,074.52 and paid all subsequent bills at the increased rate.

In October 2011, Midland filed a complaint against Ohioville seeking a judgment in the amount of $14,050.81, the remaining balance on the June 30, 2009 bill, plus interest and costs. Midland based the claim on a breach of contract implied in fact (Count I) and unjust enrichment (Count II). Ohioville filed an answer and new matter, alleging that the water provided by Midland before July 1, 2009 was not subject to the water rate increase. Midland filed a reply to the new matter and served a first set of interrogatories upon Ohioville. Ohioville then served a request for admissions upon Midland.

Ohioville subsequently filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, alleging that " there are no material facts in dispute such that a trial by jury would be unnecessary." Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, ¶ 16; Certified Record (C.R.) Item No. 10. After argument, the trial court denied Ohioville's motion, stating that the language in the April 14, 2009 water rate increase notice " is not clear and unambiguous." Trial Court's August 6, 2013 Order; R.R. at 43. Ohioville filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing that the ambiguous language in the rate increase notice should be construed against Midland under the construction rule of c ...


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