Citation:

McDonald v. Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County, 952 A.2d 713 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2008)

Summary:
An amendment to a statue of limitations was applicable because a statute relating to procedural matters is applicable to cases filed after the effective date of the statute.
Case Details:

Condemnees owned property in a redevelopment area.  The Redevelopment Authority issued a Declaration of Taking and also offered to purchase the property for $26,207.  Condemnees did not accept the offer. The Authority proceeded with the taking. On June 25, 2002, the Authority sent a check to Condemnees for $3,000, which they cashed.

On October 2, 2002, the General Assembly amended the Redevelopment Law.  Prior to such amendment, the statute of limitations to challenge a taking was five years after the payment of the estimated just compensation.  The amendment changed the time period to one year.  In 2006, Condemnees filed a challenge arguing that because the property was taken prior to the amendment, the five year statute of limitations applied.  The Authority filed objections arguing that the challenge was untimely, and that because the amendment’s effect was procedural, the one year statute of limitations applied.  The trial court agreed with the Authority, finding that the shorter statute of limitations applied retroactively as long as a party had a reasonable amount of time to pursue his or her rights.

Condemnees then appealed to the Commonwealth Court.  The Commonwealth Court found that where a statute relates to a party’s substantive right, courts must apply the law that was in effect at the time that the cause of action arose; however, statutes relating to procedural matters are applicable to cases filed after the effective date of the statute. Condemnees filed their Petition after the effective date of the amendment, and thus were subject to the one year statute of limitations.

Condemnees argued that even if they were subject to the one year statute, they did not have a reasonable amount of time between the effective date of the amendment and the expiration of the statute of limitations.  However, Condemnees had eight months after the amendment.  Further, Condemnees did not file a challenge until two years and eight months after the expiration of the statute of limitations.

Next, Condemnees argued that they were deprived of a fundamental right without due process of law. The Commonwealth Court held there was no vested right in a statute of limitations. The Condemnees did not lose a remedy, the time period was just shortened.

Date of Decision: 6/6/08

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