Case Involving Notice of Condemnation In Pennsylvania

In Captline v. County of Allegheny, 662 A.2d 691, 692 n.1 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1995), a land owner acquired title to a property from a coal company in 1955. In the deed, the coal company reserved the mineral rights underlying the land. In 1958/59, the county condemned the land to build an airport and petitioned for a board of viewers. The landowner received notice of condemnation, but the coal company did not. In 1961, the landowner received compensation, but the coal company did not. In 1965, the landowner acquired the mineral rights. In 1979, the County entered a contract for the construction of a taxiway that provided the contractor with the right to take possession of any coal excavated. Subsequently, the land owner filed a petition for appointment of viewers and an action in trespass. The two issues presented to this court were: (1) what was the extent of the 1958/59 condemnation, and; (2) whether the statute of limitations barred recovery for the loss of coal. With regard to the first issue, the Court considered the language of the condemning document and determined that the county intended to condemn the entire estate, including the mineral estate. Id. at 1301. With regard to the question of whether the statute of limitations barred recovery, the Court found the evidence presented was not sufficient to show that the notice provided to the coal company complied with the notice mandated by the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. Id. at 1301-02. The Court explained that "principles of fairness dictate that a person who was never notified of a condemnation and whose interest was not protected in the proceedings must later be permitted to seek compensation from the condemning authority." Id. at 1302. The Court remanded the matter to the trial court to consider the question of notice. When the case returned to this Court, the Court held that the statute of limitations did not bar the land owner's recovery because the county never gave the coal owner notice of the condemnation of the mineral estate. Captline v. County of Allegheny, 662 A.2d 691 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1995). The Court explained that the statute of limitations did not begin to run until 1979 when the owner of the mineral estate had notice of the condemnation. Id. at 696.