Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Landis v. Wilt

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

October 23, 2019

JAMES M. LANDIS AND DONETTA M. LANDIS
v.
LUTHER H. WILT
v.
ORCHARD GLEN CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, INC. Appellants

          Appeal from the Judgment Entered November 14, 2018 In the Court of Common Pleas of York County Civil Division at No(s): 2016-SU-002182-93

          BEFORE: BOWES, J., OLSON, J., and STABILE, J.

          OPINION

          BOWES, J.

         Orchard Glen Condominium Association, Inc. ("the Association") appeals from the judgment entered upon the trial court's order quieting title in a strip of land in favor of James and Donetta Landis (collectively "the Landises"). We affirm.

         Luther and Helen Wilt owned land in York County, Pennsylvania, which they proposed to develop as a residential neighborhood. In 1967, the Wilts' revised subdivision plan for Smith Gardens was approved by the East Manchester Township Board of Supervisors and recorded. The recorded plan included 50-foot-wide Orchard View Drive among the proposed roadways of the subdivision. The instant action arose from the fact that most of Orchard View Drive was never opened as a roadway.

         The Stonesifers, Donetta Landis's parents, purchased Lot 45 in Smith Gardens in 1967. They built a house on the lot, which was known as 55 Lincoln Place. In 1976, they acquired the lot behind the home: Lot 41 of the Smith Gardens subdivision plan, which abutted unopened Orchard View Drive. In 2012, the Landises acquired Lots 45 and 41 from the Stonesifers.[1] From 1976 onward, the Stonesifers and Landises mowed and fertilized the twenty-five-foot-wide strip of land behind their property that was to have been one half of Orchard View Drive (hereafter "Disputed Area"). The Landises also installed a fence along their property line, separating their yard from unopened Orchard View Drive.

         Meanwhile, although additional lots and streets were developed according to the Smith Gardens plan, more than a dozen lots along unopened Orchard View Drive were not. Instead, these lots were consolidated[2] and converted into a new subdivision plan for the Orchard Glen Residential Development. The Orchard Glen plan was reviewed by the York County Planning Commission in 1997, approved by the East Manchester Township Board of Supervisors in 1998, and recorded with the Recorder of Deeds. This new Orchard Glen subdivision entirely subsumed Orchard View Drive in some places where it combined lots that were on opposite sides of that proposed street. Where Smith Gardens lots remained on the opposite side of Orchard View Drive, the Orchard Glen subdivision plan incorporated only the half of Orchard View Drive abutting its land. Condominiums were constructed according to the Orchard Glen plan, and the Association's half of what would have been Orchard View Drive was paved and named Yarrow Court.

         For ease of visualization, we offer the following diagram showing the land occupied by the Orchard Glen condominiums superimposed on the Smith Gardens plan.

         (Image Omitted)

         Landises' Trial Exhibit GG (modified). We also present a modified photograph of the land at issue.

         (Image Omitted)

         Association's Trial Exhibit A.[3]

         Residents of Orchard Glen condominiums began to use the Smith Gardens' half of unopened Orchard View Drive, including the Disputed Area, for activities such as dog walking and playing ball. N.T. Trial, 2/7/18, at 163-64. The Association's landscaper also plowed snow onto the Disputed Area when there were significant snowfalls. Id. at 172-73.

         Although the Landises acknowledged that their predecessors had never complained or interfered with anyone's use of the Disputed Area during the time they owned lot 41, after they acquired the Stonesifers' property, they began to take steps "to exclude people from the disputed land ... to exert their . . . dominion and control over the property." Findings of Fact, 2/13/18, at 4-5. For example, the Landises planted bushes, placed "no trespassing" signs along the edges of the Disputed Area, yelled out the window at people to stay off the land, called the police when snow was plowed onto the Disputed Area, [4] picked up dog feces that was left in the area and left it at the residence of an Association board member, and set up motion-activated cameras to monitor the Disputed Area. N.T. Trial, 2/7/18, at 42, 45-46, 49, 51-52, 134.

         In 2016, the Landises filed a complaint to quiet title, naming the successors, heirs, and assigns of Smith Gardens developer Luther Wilt as the defendants. Therein, the Landises alleged that they and their predecessors exercised exclusive, visible, notorious, distinct, and hostile possession of the Disputed Area for an uninterrupted period of more than twenty-one years. Complaint, 8/18/16, at 2. The Association filed a petition to intervene in the action, claiming that it had used and maintained all or a portion of the Disputed Area, and that determination of the action could adversely affect its legal interests. Petition to Intervene, 12/13/16, at 2. Following a hearing, the trial court determined that the Association showed a prima facie case that it had an interest in maintaining access to the Disputed Area, and permitted it to intervene. Order Allowing Intervention, 10/18/17, at 2-3. The court also scheduled a trial on the matter, and provided that the Landises were permitted to assert a claim that they obtained title to the Disputed Area through the failure of Orchard View Drive to have been opened as a public road, in addition to their adverse possession contentions. Order Scheduling Trial, 10/18/17, at 2.

         At trial, the parties offered testimony and exhibits to establish the facts detailed above regarding the ownership and use of the land at issue. After the parties' submission of post-trial briefs, the trial court entered an order indicating that its verdict was in favor of the Landises, and directing them to prepare a deed describing the Disputed Area. Order, 4/19/18. The Association filed a timely post-trial motion seeking judgment notwithstanding the court's order/verdict, or modification of the order to acknowledge an easement in favor of the Association. The trial court denied the motion after entertaining oral argument and briefing by the parties. The Association filed a premature notice of appeal from the order denying its post-trial motion, which we treat as an appeal from the judgment upon the trial court's verdict subsequently entered on November 14, 2018. See Pa.R.A.P. 905(5) ("A notice of appeal filed after the announcement of a determination but before the entry of an appealable order shall be treated as filed after such entry and on the day thereof."). Both the Association and the trial court complied with Pa.R.A.P. 1925.

         The Association presents two questions for this Court's consideration, which we have ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.