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August 16, 1949


The opinion of the court was delivered by: BARD

This case involves those principles in Pennsylvania law which are common to foreign attachment and attachment execution. It is now before me on the plaintiff's motion for judgment against the garnishee on the basis of the garnishee's answers to the plaintiff's interrogatories.

On November 18, 1947, a complaint was filed against Monmouth Products Co., New Jersey corporation, 514 Sumner Avenue, Allentown, Pennsylvania, defendant, and The Merchants National Bank of Allentown, Penna., 7th and Hamilton Streets, Allentown, Pennsylvania, garnishee. Service of the complaint was made on the defendant on November 26, 1947. A writ of foreign attachment was drawn up against the goods and chattels, lands and tenements of 'Monmouth Products Co., a New Jersey Corporation'. Copies of this writ were served on November 26, 1947 on the defendant and on the garnishee.

 The answer of the defendant, filed on December 16, 1947, showed that its correct corporate name is 'Monmouth Products Company, Inc.'

 Judgment was entered on July 9, 1948 in favor of the plaintiff for $ 6,334.40 with interest from April 7, 1947. On July 27, 1948 a writ of scire facias was served on the garnishee.

 At the time the sci. fa. was served, the garnishee did not have any funds of the defendant on deposit. However, when the writ of foreign attachment was served, the garnishee had an account in the name of 'Monmouth Products Co., Inc.' which had a balance of $ 3,698.99. Deposits were subsequently made in this account on November 26, 1947 and December 12, 1947, in the amounts of $ 191.89 and $ 229.53 respectively. On December 16, 1947 this account was closed out, presumably by the garnishee's paying over the balance to the depositor, Monmouth Products Co., Inc.

 The question presented to the court is whether this writ of foreign attachment sued out against 'Monmouth Products Co., a New Jersey Corporation' is sufficient to bind the account 'Monmouth Products Co., Inc.' so that the garnishee will be required to pay twice.

 The garnishee, upon service of a writ of foreign attachment, becomes a party to the action. His status in the litigation, however, is more like a stakeholder rather than the plaintiff or defendant. He is bound to exercise unusual diligence and caution to protect the interests of the other parties. He cannot be compelled to pay either the plaintiff or the defendant until a legal result has been reached. But if he pays the wrong party before the contest has been judicially determined, he does so at the risk of being compelled to pay the right party when this party has been ascertained by the court. Shipman v. Seiwell et al., 101 Pa.Super. 95, 101; Paul v. Johnson, 9 Phila. 32.

 But when the defendant is not known to the garnishee by the name used in the writ of attachment, payment by the garnishee in ignorance of the defendant's identity will relieve the garnishee from liability unless he has notice of facts which put him on inquiry as to the defendant's identity. Greco et ux. v. Rainal et al., 134 Pa.Super. 99, 191, 4 A.2d 232; Shipment v. Seiwell, supra; Paul v. Johnson, supra; 38 C.J.S.,Garnishment, § 186c, page 417.

 Furthermore, judgment cannot be entered against the garnishee on the basis of his answers to interrogatories unless they contain, by express or necessary implication, a clear and unequivocal admission of indebtedness to the defendant. Hagy v. Hardin et al., 186 Pa. 428, 40 A. 804; McCallum et al. v. Morris et al., 179 Pa. 427, 36 A. 231; Stewart v. Stewart 35 al., 132 Pa.Super. 290, 294, 200 A. 901; Budd Bldg. & Loan Ass'n v. Kinsella et al., 102 Pa.Super. 248, 257, 156 A. 577.

 The complaint in the instant case alleges in the first claim the purchase,

 There is an unequivocal admission by the garnishee of indebtedness to the defendant. Although it denies being indebted to Monmouth Products Co., the garnishee expressly admits that it had on deposit funds belonging to Monmouth Products Co., Inc., and that it had no set-offs or counter-demands against these funds.

 There is no doubt but that Monmouth Products Co., Monmouth Products Company, Monmouth Products Co. Inc., and Monmouth Products Company, Inc., are one and the same corporation. The person who signed an affidavit filed by the defendant was the same person who was authorized to sign checks on the Monmouth Products Co., Inc. bank account, and who signed the letters sent to the garnishee, which letters described later in this opinion.

 The question now becomes whether, under the circumstances of this case, there were sufficient facts to put the garnishee on inquiry notice as to the defendant's identity.

 The garnishee admits that it made no effort whatsoever to ascertain whether Monmouth Products Company was the same firm or corporation as Monmouth Products Co., Inc. To my mind, the garnishee did not use the due care and diligence required of it when it allowed the bank account in question to be closed out. The garnishee had sufficient facts within its own files to ascertain that Monmouth Products Co. and Monmouth Products ...

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