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777 L.L.P. v. Luzerne County Tax Claim Bureau

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

March 30, 2015

777 L.L.P.
v.
Luzerne County Tax Claim Bureau
v.
Vito Mannino, Appellant

Submitted March 9, 2015.

Appealed from No. 15887 of 2012. Common Pleas Court of the County of Luzerne. Pierantoni, J.

Andrew J. Katsock, III, Wilkes-Barre, for appellant.

Thomas Mosca, Kingston, for appellee 777 L.L.P.

BEFORE: HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge, HONORABLE JAMES GARDNER COLINS, Senior Judge. OPINION BY JUDGE McCULLOUGH.

OPINION

Page 293

PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge

Vito Mannino (Mannino) appeals from the May 6, 2014 order of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County (trial court) that vacated its April 16, 2014 order denying and dismissing 777 L.L.P.'s petition to set aside the judicial tax sale and granted the petition.

Facts/Procedural History

777 L.L.P. is a limited liability partnership with its principal place of business located at 777 South Franklin Street, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. 777 L.L.P. owns a property located at Horton and Barney Street, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

Page 294

(Property). The Luzerne County Tax Claim Bureau (Bureau) conducted an upset tax sale of the Property due to delinquent real estate taxes. Because the upset price[1] was not met at the upset tax sale, the Bureau filed a petition with the trial court seeking permission to conduct a judicial tax sale pursuant to section 610 of the Real Estate Tax Sale Law (Law).[2] Prior to the judicial tax sale, the trial court granted the Bureau's motion for publication of notice of the judicial tax sale. The judicial tax sale was conducted on August 23, 2012, at which time Mannino purchased the Property. (Trial court op. at 1-2.)

On November 16, 2012, 777 L.L.P. filed a petition to set aside the judicial tax sale of the Property. On August 28, 2013, the trial court issued a rule to show cause why the relief requested in the petition to set aside the judicial tax sale should not be granted. On February 4, 2014, the parties appeared before the trial court and presented a joint request to have the matter determined upon briefs and the deposition transcript of Nadine Emel (Emel), the Bureau's representative, which the trial court granted. (Trial court op. at 1-2.)

In her January 10, 2014 deposition, Emel testified that she is an employee of Northeast Revenue Service (Northeast Revenue), the entity that assumed management of the Bureau's office in May 2010, and she was employed by the Bureau for the preceding fifteen years. Emel stated that Northeast Revenue attempted to serve 777 L.L.P. with the notices of tax delinquency and the notices of the tax sales by certified mail and through sheriff's personal service, but neither method was successful. Emel testified that notice was sent to 777 L.L.P. at 72 Park Avenue, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the address of record with the tax assessment office. She explained that service was made at this address on the widow of the former owner of 777 L.L.P., who sold the business in 2007. Emel testified that after Northeast Revenue received this return of service, Northeast Revenue determined that additional efforts needed to be made in order to locate 777 L.L.P.'s correct address. (Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 79a-80a, 83a, 115a, 138a-40a.)

Emel stated that Northeast Revenue attempted to personally serve 777 L.L.P. through sheriff's service at " 77" South Franklin Street, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the address that was on file with the Pennsylvania Department of State, but was again unsuccessful. Emel testified that in attempting to locate 777 L.L.P.'s correct address, Northeast Revenue searched the dockets and indices of the county tax assessment office by using only the property identification number (PIN) for the Property. She stated that it is Northeast Revenue's policy to search only by PIN for each property. Emel also stated that the Bureau did not search the current telephone directory for the ...


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