In Re: Appeal of the Coatesville Area School District From the Decision of the Chester County Board of Assessment Appeals for the Property Located at 50 South First Avenue, City of Coatesville, Chester County, Pennsylvania Property Tax Parcel No. 16-05-0229.0000 Appeal of: Coatesville Area School District In Re: Appeal of the Coatesville Area School District from the Decision of The Chester County Board of Assessment Appeals for Property Located at 50 S. First Avenue, Coatesville, Chester County Pennsylvania Tax Parcel No. 16-05-00229.0000 Appeal of: Huston Properties, Inc.
ARGUED: June 6, 2019
BEFORE: HONORABLE RENÉE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge,
HONORABLE MICHAEL H. WOJCIK, Judge, HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE
LEADBETTER, Senior Judge
BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, SENIOR JUDGE
instant charitable property tax exemption case returns to
this Court on cross-appeal after remand to the Court of
Common Pleas of Chester County (trial court) without
an appeal in a companion case involving the same property
(Property), property owner, and issues. The companion case is
the subject of a decision and order essentially identical to
the appealed decision and order. Because the trial
court's decision and order in the companion case are
final and now, because of the passage of time, un-appealable,
we conclude that the preclusion doctrines of technical res
judicata and collateral estoppel apply and thus that these
appeals must be dismissed.
relevant factual and procedural history of this case prior to
remand is set forth in an unpublished decision, In re:
Appeal of City of Coatesville (Pa. Cmwlth., Nos. 511,
530, 607, and 608 C.D. 2016, filed February 16, 2017), slip
op., and need not be set forth at length. Briefly, the case
originated as an application for a real estate tax exemption
by Huston Properties, Inc. (Huston), which claimed that the
Property was regularly used as an institution of purely
public charity. After hearing, the Chester County Board of
Assessment (Board) granted a partial exemption of 72% for the
2014 tax year because 72% of the leasable space in Property
was let to non-profits. Both the Coatesville Area School
District (District) and the City of Coatesville (City) filed
separately docketed appeals from the Board's decision.
The District filed a notice of intervention in City's
cross-appeal. [District's Notice of Intervention, In
re: Appeal of the City of Coatesville, (C.P. Chester
Pa., No. 2013-10761, filed Dec. 31, 2013); Reproduced Record
"R.R." at 168a.] Huston responded with cross-appeals
under the two docket numbers. Upon agreement of all parties
made in open court at the call of the list, the trial court
ordered that the dual cross-appeals from the Board be
"consolidated for trial." [Order, In
re: Appeal of City of Coatesville, (C.P.
Chester Pa., Nos. 2013-10761-AB and 2013-10936-AB, filed Jan.
26, 2015) (emphasis added); R.R. at 170a.] Both the City and
District fully participated in the trial. Nevertheless,
despite the common issues and the consolidation of the
matters for hearing, the trial court did not consolidate the
cases as a single case under a common docket number either
prior to appeal or after remand. The trial court issued
identical orders under the separate trial court docket
numbers affirming the Board's decision.
review, this Court also consolidated the dual sets of
cross-appeals between City and Huston and between District
and Huston. [Order, In re: Appeal of the City of
Coatesville (Pa. Cmwlth., Nos. 511, 530, 607, and 608
C.D. 2016, filed June 17, 2016).] The designated appellants,
City and District, filed a joint brief. [Brief of Appellants,
In re: Appeal of the City of Coatesville, (Pa.
Cmwlth., Nos. 511, 530, 607, and 608 C.D. 2016, filed July
27, 2016).] We found that the trial court's initial
findings of fact and conclusions of law were insufficient to
resolve the issue of whether the Property was used as a
"purely public charity" under relevant state
constitutional and statutory provisions and case law. Thus,
we remanded the cases to the trial court for further
stated above, after remand the trial court issued two
essentially identical, but differently captioned, decisions
and orders under the separate docket numbers. District
appealed the decision and order in "its" case, that
presently is before us, and Huston again cross-appealed.
Neither City, nor District, nor Huston appealed the decision
and order in the City's companion case.
this Court, Huston filed an application to quash
District's appeal because of the un-appealed trial court
decision in the companion case. The Court, in denying
quashal, noted as follows:
[Huston] bases its motion to quash on an argument concerning
the asserted preclusive effect of an un-appealed companion
case. Whether or not this argument has merit, it does not
implicate the Court's jurisdiction to entertain
appellant's appeal or appellant's right to appeal.
Any such argument, rather, will have to be addressed to, and
decided by the merits panel which ultimately hears this case.
[Order, In re: Appeal of the Coatesville Area Sch.
Dist. (Pa. Cmwlth., 1130 C.D. 2018, filed Nov. 9,
2018).] Following argument, we now determine that
the companion decision and order that were not appealed have
preclusive effect and therefore we must dismiss these
judicata, also referred to as claim preclusion, encompasses
two related, yet distinct principles: technical res judicata
and collateral estoppel. Henion v. Workers' Comp.
Appeal Bd. (Firpo & Sons, Inc.), 776 A.2d 362, 365
(Pa. Cmwlth. 2001). Technical res judicata provides that
where a final judgment on the merits exists, a future lawsuit
on the same cause of action is precluded. Id.
Collateral estoppel acts to foreclose litigation in a
subsequent action where issues of law or fact were actually
litigated and necessary to a previous final judgment.
res judicata requires the coalescence of four factors: (1)
identity of the thing sued upon or for; (2) identity of the
causes of action; (3) identity of the persons or parties to
the action; and (4) identity of the quality or capacity of
the parties suing or being sued. Id. at 365-366.
Technical res judicata applies to claims that were actually
litigated as well as those matters that should have been
litigated. Id. at 366. Generally, causes of action
are identical when the subject matter and the ultimate issues
are the same in both the old and new proceedings.
collateral estoppel, or issue preclusion, bars a subsequent
lawsuit where (1) an issue decided in a prior action is
identical to one presented in a later action; (2) the prior
action resulted in a final judgment on the merits; (3) the
party against whom collateral estoppel is asserted was a
party to the prior action, or is in privity with a party to
the prior action; and (4) the party against whom collateral
estoppel is asserted had a full and fair opportunity to
litigate the issue in the prior action. Rue v. K-Mart
Corp., 713 A.2d 82, 84 (Pa. 1998).
the appealed decision and order in the District's case
and the un-appealed decision and order in the City's
case, there is clearly identity of the thing sued upon,
identity of the cause of action, and identity of the quality
or capacity of the parties being sued. Moreover, as noted
above, District intervened in the City's case and fully
participated in the joint trial. Our Supreme Court has long
held that in applying res judicata "[t]he thing which
the court will consider is whether the ultimate and
controlling issues have been decided in a prior proceeding in
which the present parties actually had an opportunity to
appear and assert their rights." Slater v.
Slater, 94 A.2d 750, 751 (Pa. 1953) (emphasis added)
[quoting Hochman v. Mortg.Fin. Corp. of
Pa., 137 A. 252, 253 (Pa. 1927)]. While this case
procedurally differs from Slater and