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GRAHAM FARM LAND COMPANY v. COMMONWEALTH (01/03/50)

January 3, 1950

GRAHAM FARM LAND COMPANY
v.
COMMONWEALTH, APPELLANT



Appeal, No. 139, March T., 1949, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Oct. T., 1947, No. 93, in case of Graham Farm Land Company v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Judgment reversed.

COUNSEL

Harry F. Stambaugh, Special Counsel, with him Thomas P. Trimble, Jr., and Thomas C. Evans, Counsel for Department of Highways, Phil H. Lewis, Deputy Attorney General and T. McKeen Chidsey, Attorney General, for appellant.

James M. Arensberg, with him Patterson, Crawford, Arensberg & Dunn, for appellee.

Before Maxey, C.j., Drew, Linn, Stern, Patterson, Stearne and Jones, JJ.

Author: Drew

[ 363 Pa. Page 572]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE DREW

In order to construct a highway known as the Penn-Lincoln Parkway, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, defendant, condemned certain lands owned by Graham Farm Land Company, plaintiff. A Board of Viewers awarded plaintiff the sum of $10,800 as compensation for the land thus taken. Plaintiff appealed that award to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County and on trial of that appeal, the jury returned a verdict of $18,000 plus 6% per annum per detention of thirty-one months, or a total verdict of $20,790. Judgment was entered on the verdict and defendant now seeks a new trial.

Prior to June 13, 1946, plaintiff owned approximately eleven acres of undeveloped ground in the Borough of Churchill, Allegheny County. On that date, defendant condemned slightly less than two acres of that land for use in the construction of the Penn-Lincoln Parkway, a limited access highway. Part of the remaining portion was rendered inaccessible to plaintiff and the balance greatly depreciated in value. It is for those losses that damages were awarded.

George R. McNary, president and sole shareholder in plaintiff corporation, did not testify on direct examination as to the value of the land. On cross-examination he stated that plaintiff owned, in addition to this tract of land, fifty or sixty building lots in Wilkinsburg, Allegheny County. As a part of its own case, defendant recalled McNary for further cross-examination and attempted to question him concerning the Capital Stock Report of plaintiff filed with the Commonwealth of

[ 363 Pa. Page 573]

Pennsylvania for the year 1946. That report was sworn to by McNary and showed $20,000 to be the actual value of the land here in question together with the Wilkinsburg lots. On objection, the learned court below refused to allow questions based on that report or to admit the report in evidence on the theory that Section 731 of The Fiscal Code*fn1 rendered the information contained therein confidential and therefore inadmissible. It is that ruling upon which defendant primarily predicates that appeal.

Section 731 was added to The Fiscal Code in order to protect the taxpayer from unnecessary disclosures of the information contained in his tax return. "It is not intended to defeat justice by prohibiting the production of necessary records in judicial proceedings.": Commonwealth v. Mellon Nat. Bk. & Tr. Co., 360 Pa. 103, 110, 61 A.2d 430. In that case we held that Section 731 did not prohibit the introduction into evidence of tax returns of other banks in a case involving the question of unequal assessment of capital stock of National Banks as compared to State Banks.

There can be no question that prior to the enactment of Section 731, tax returns were admissible against the corporation making the return (Mifflin Bridge Co. v. Juniata Co., 144 Pa. 365, 22 A. 896) and it is quite clear that the disclosure which defendant here sought to make was not the type intended to be prohibited by that section. The primary ...


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