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BOWLES v. VANCE

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT OF THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


February 26, 1946

BOWLES, Price Administrator,
v.
VANCE

The opinion of the court was delivered by: GOURLEY

Chester Bowles, Administrator, Office of Price Administration, filed action for an injunction and damages against Jessie Vance because of violations of Section 4(a) of the Emergency Price Control Act of 1942, as amended by the Stabilization Extension Act of 1944, 50 U.S.C.A.Appendix ยง 901 et seq . It was more particularly claimed that the defendant violated the Rent Regulations for Housing in the Pittsburgh Defense-Rental Area (8 Fed.Reg. 14663) issued under the authority vested in the Administrator in accordance with Section 2(b) of the Act, and pursuant to Section 205(a) of said Act.

The case was tried before a jury who, under proper instructions from the court, made specific findings of fact that the actions of the defendant in making the overcharges for rent were not willful, but they were the result of failure to take practicable precautions.

 On the basis of the findings of fact made by the jury, the court directed the entry of judgment against the defendant for either three times the amount of the overcharge, or for the amount of fifty dollars, whichever amount was the greater.

  The defendant has filed a motion to strike off the judgments which have been entered for each specific overcharge, and the total judgment which comprises the four separate overcharges; and contends in connection therewith that although the defendant failed to exercise the practicable precautions intended by the law, the court in its discretion should not have entered judgment for treble damages or fifty dollars, which ever was the greater.

 From the evidence introduced at the trail and for the purposes of determining the instant motion, it appears that the defendant was the owner of an apartment house which had available accommodations for four different families. In one instance the defendant petitioned the Office of Price Administration for authorization to increase the rental being charged for one of the four apartments, and set forth in the petition her desire to file a petition for the rental increase of the other three apartments at a later date.

 Authorization was given to increase the rental for the apartment referred to in the petition from $ 52 a month to $ 53 a month but, notwithstanding this fact, the defendant charged $ 55 a month for the apartment.

 The defendant endeavored to justify her actions by claiming that she had talked with a representative in the Office of Price Administration who had advised her in substance that it was satisfactory to make the additional increases in rental charges for the apartment although the exact amount was not stated.

 The defendant did not press her demands with the Office of Price Administration for the increase in monthly rental values of the other three apartments, and no authority was, therefore, granted by the Office of Price Administration in connection therewith. Notwithstanding this fact, the defendant charged and received in excess of the maximum legal rents permitted for the four apartments as follows: Legal Monthly Monthly Total Maximum Charge Over- Over- Tenants Rent Made charge Period charge A. Harry Siegal $ 53.00 $ 55.00 $ 2.00 5 1/2 mos. $ 11.00 B. Margaret Mullaney 40.00 45.00 5.00 4 mos. 20.00 C. Edward Balmer 53.00 55.00 2.00 2 mos. 4.00 D. R. C. Nicol 52.00 55.00 3.00 1 mo. 3.00

19460226

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