Harrison v Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., 2015 Pa LEXIS 355 (Pa. 2015)
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania rejects the Aequitable tolling@ doctrine B at least where a declaratory judgment is sought. Cabot secured a 5 year lease from the Harrisons who, halfway through the primary term, commenced a declaratory judgment case seeking a determination that the lease was invalid. Cabot responded by seeking a declaratory judgment that the doctrine of equitable tolling would continue the primary term for period of time equal to the duration of the litigation. The federal district court awarded summary judgment for Cabot on the Harrison=s claim but ruled for the Harrisons on Cabot=s equitable tolling claim. Cabot asked the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to certify the question to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which the Third Circuit did.
Cabot cited a long line of cases in other jurisdictions as well as Aprominent treatises@ that a suit claiming termination of a lease during its primary term would extend the primary term of lease for a period of time equal to the duration of the litigation. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court disagreed. In what would appear to be a narrow holding, the Court held that a suit under Pennsylvania=s declaratory judgment act is merely a contest of the Avalidity or scope of an agreement and does not entail such an unequivocal refusal to perform@ as would amount to the required Aabsolute and unequivocal refusal to perform or a distinct and positive statement of an inability to do so@ that Pennsylvania law requires for equitable tolling to apply.