Newman & Co. v. City of Philadelphia

In Newman & Co. v. City of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth Court heard an appeal from the Court of Common Pleas’s order dismissing the plaintiff’s suit seeking declaratory relief. The plaintiff claimed fee simple ownership or, in the alternative, an easement in a disputed strip of property currently owned by the city but had been a railroad in the past. Pennsylvania law has historically held that, when a railway company acquires land by deed for a right-of-way or easement, once the railroad abandons use of the property, the encumbrance on the land is extinguished.  Just such a scenario existed here; the land at issue had been used as a railroad but had long since been abandoned and was set to be redeveloped as part of a parks program. The Superior Court ruled that the city’s predecessor in ownership was granted the land in fee, not as an easement or right-of-way. As a result, Plaintiff had no right to it. And the Commonwealth Court ruled that plaintiff failed to prove the element of necessity needed to establish an easement. Thus, the lower court was correct when it denied relief.

Newman-Co.