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M.C. v. Capenos

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

July 2, 2015

M.C. and E.K. Lees, Inc., a Pennsylvania Corporation
v.
W.R. Capenos, a/k/a Warren Capenos, an individual, and Tax Claim Bureau of the County of Butler, a governmental entity. Appeal of: W.R. Capenos, a/k/a Warren Capenos

Argued April 13, 2015

Page 1093

Appealed from No. A.D. No. 12-10943. Common Pleas Court of the County of Butler. Yeager, J.

Alex J. Baumler, Cranberry Township, for appellant Tax Claim Bureau of The County of Butler.

Lawrence P. Lutz, Butler, for appellants W.R. Capenos and Warren Capenos.

Ronald W. Coyer and Amy E. Molloy, Slippery Rock, for appellee M.C. and E.K. Lees, Inc.

BEFORE: HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge, HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Page 1094

BERNARD L. McGINLEY, J.

In these consolidated actions[1] Butler County Tax Claim Bureau (Tax Claim Bureau) and judicial tax sale purchaser, Warren Capenos (Capenos) (collectively " Appellants" ), appeal directly from the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Verdict entered by the Court of Common Pleas of Butler County (trial court) in favor of M.C. and E.K. Lees, Inc. (Appellee).

Appellee has filed a Motion to Quash Appellants' appeals on the grounds that they failed to file post-trial motions pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure No. 227.1(c). In the alternative, Appellee argues that the Tax Claim Bureau's appeal from the entry of judgment pursuant to Rule 903(a) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure was untimely.

Factual Background

The property at issue consists of 122 acres in Butler County and the fee is divided (Property). In 1941, the title to the oil and gas rights beneath the Property was severed from the surface and mineral rights by Deed wherein Earl H. Morris and Kelsie Morris, husband and wife, conveyed what is now known as Parcel No. 220-3F96-33-0000, to A.L. Starcher and C.B. Starcher, husband and wife, " reserving to the grantor, the said Earl H. Morris, his heirs, and assigns, all the oil and gas underlying the within described property, together with the right to use such portions of said land as may be required to operate for oil and gas." Deed at 1; Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 101a. In 1948, Earl H. Morris conveyed what is now known as Parcel No. 220-3F96-34-0000, to Porter McCandless, " Excepting and Reserving therefrom, to the said Earl H. Morris, his heirs and assigns all the oil and gas underlying the above described property." Deed at 1; R.R. at 35a.

Upon the death of Earl H. Morris, Kelsie Morris devised her oil and gas interests to her stepson, William L. Morris (Morris).

In the meantime, in 1968, the surface rights in the Property came to belong to the " Lees" family.[2]

Page 1095

The oil and gas interests were separately assessed by the Butler County Tax Assessment Office. Morris received tax bills for his oil and gas interests. However, he never paid taxes on his oil and gas interests pursuant to the provisions of the Real Estate Tax Sale Law (RETSL).[3]

The September 8, 1997, Tax Upset Sale did not result in a sale.

One year later, on September 2, 1998, the Tax Claim Bureau filed a Petition for a Judicial Sale free and clear of all liens. Morris was personally served at his residence by the Sheriff with a Rule to Show Cause why the oil and gas interests beneath the Property should not be sold. Morris did not attend or raise any objection at the hearing on the Rule.

A Judicial Tax Sale was held on December 23, 1998. Appellant Capenos purchased the oil and gas rights beneath the Property. By Deed dated December 23, 1998, the Tax Claim Bureau conveyed to Capenos the severed oil and gas interests beneath Parcel No. 220-3F96-33-0000 and Parcel No. 220-3F96-34-0000. Capenos then executed an Oil and Gas Lease with Shell/SWEPI, LP for the oil and gas rights beneath the Property (" Lease" ). The Lease was recorded.

On January 1, 1999, Morris received and signed redemption notices regarding the December 23, 1998, Judicial Sale.

The two Deeds transferring title to the oil and gas interests beneath the Property to Appellant Capenos were recorded on ...


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