Appeal, No. 161, Jan. T., 1949, from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County, Equity Docket No. 9, p. 392, in case of Annie H. Withers v. Cloyd S. Withers et al. Decree affirmed.
John L. Hamaker, for appellant.
F. Lyman Windolph, with him M. E. Musser and Windolph & Johnstone, for appellee.
Before Maxey, C.j., Drew, Linn, Stern, Patterson, Stearne and Jones, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE ALLEN M. STEARNE
The single question raised by this appeal is whether the evidence supported the finding of a chancellor that defendant had secured title by deed to real estate through undue influence exerted upon plaintiff. Annie H. Withers (plaintiff), a widow in her eightieth year, executed and delivered a deed for real estate valued at $7000 (one of two pieces which she owned) to Cloyd Withers (defendant), a nephew of her deceased husband. The named consideration was one dollar. The deed was dated March 1, 1948. On April 16, 1948, Mrs. Withers, plaintiff, instituted a proceeding in equity against the
nephew, defendant, to cancel the deed and for a reconveyance on the ground that the deed had been procured from plaintiff by the defendant through undue influence. Defendant alleged that the consideration for the transfer consisted of his oral agreement with plaintiff to furnish her with a home and board for the remainder of her life.
The facts found by the chancellor were: Plaintiff had resided with her son near Oregon, Lancaster County, until his death on October 4, 1947. After the son's death plaintiff was required to move. On five occasions thereafter defendant visited plaintiff and offered her a home with him in Coatesville. On January 16, 1948, defendant again offered her a home, without pay, if she would convey to him one of her properties. She answered "We will see". On January 31, 1948, plaintiff moved into defendant's home and resided there until March 6, 1948. While so living with defendant and when demands by defendant for a conveyance were made, plaintiff replied "We will see". On March 1, 1948, at nigh, defendant took plaintiff to a justice of the peace's office, at Denver, Lancaster County, after defendant had previously instructed the squire over the telephone of his desire to have him prepare a deed. In the presence of plaintiff and defendant the instrument was prepared and executed and later recorded.
In testing the quality and sufficiency of testimony to establish proof of undue influence -- which is the same whether relating to wills or inter vivos documents -- Mr. Justice HORACE STERN said in Freed's Estate, 327 Pa. 572, 577, 195 A. 22: "While undue influence is subtle, intangible and merely psychic in its effects, so that its existence cannot be detected, weighed or measured by instruments of science, nevertheless human experience can -- and in a case such as the present must -- recognize it as the causative factor which linked the execution of
this highly unnatural will to the circumstances preceding and attending it, and in which appellant, the sole beneficiary, played such a ruthless and dominating part." This statement was quoted with ...