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HOWARTH ET UX. v. GILMAN ET AL. (05/22/50)

May 22, 1950

HOWARTH ET UX., APPELLANTS,
v.
GILMAN ET AL.



Appeal, No. 158, Jan. T., 1949, from judgment of Superior Court, Oct. T., 1948, No. 117, reversing judgment of Municipal Court of Philadelphia County, Dec. T., 1946, No. 165, in case of John A. Howarth et ux., trading as Howarth & Co. v. George H. Gilman et al., individually and trading as Gilman Mfg. Co. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

Thomas Raeburn White, with him C. Laurence Cushmore, Jr. and White, Williams & Scott, for appellants.

Robert K. Greenfield, with him Thomas F. Devine and Sundheim, Folz, Kamsler & Goodis, for appellees.

Elmer T. Holla, Deputy Attorney General, with him T. McKeen Chidsey, Attorney General, for Commonwealth, intervening appellee.

John Y. Scott, for Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers, amicus curie.

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

Author: Drew

[ 365 Pa. Page 52]

OPINION BY MR. CHIEF JUSTICE DREW

This action in assumpsit was brought by John A. Howarth and Jennifer Howarth, trading as Howarth and Company, to recover from George H. Gilman, Martin Gilman and Alexander Brown, trading as Gilman Manufacturing Company, the sum of $1,733.13, allegedly due under two oral contracts in accordance with which Howarth and Company prepared plans and drawings for a clothes hamper and rendered engineering advice concerning the manufacture and production of wardrobe cabinets. Gilman Manufacturing Company, defendants, denied the execution of these contracts but a jury rendered a verdict for plaintiffs for $1,200.00. Defendants' motion for judgment n.o.v. was dismissed and judgment entered on the verdict. The Superior Court reversed the judgment of the lower court and this Court, upon petition, allowed this appeal.

A short time prior to March 30, 1946, plaintiffs, who are industrial designers, prepared for defendants at their request a set of plans to be followed in the manufacturing of waste baskets and metal clothes hampers and for these services plaintiffs were fully paid. On March 30th the parties met for the first time to discuss the feasibility of further altering the style of the metal

[ 365 Pa. Page 53]

    hampers and of designing tools and dies necessary for their production. After several such conferences it was agreed that plaintiffs should proceed with this work and upon its completion would receive the fair and reasonable value of their services. In May, 1946, defendants requested that plaintiffs visit their plant and inspect certain machinery and process there and give engineering advice with regard to operations, particularly spot welding and power braking, for the production of a double door waredrobe cabinet. By the end of May, 1946, plaintiffs had completed their inspection of defendants' plant and from their studies made recommendations of improvements to be effected. The preparation of the new designs requested by defendants, however, continued for several more months and were not completed until September 3, 1946, on which date they were tendered to defendants. They refused to accept the designs or to pay as agreed whereupon this action followed.

Defendants argued in the Superior Court, and again here, that, contrary to the law of this Commonwealth, plaintiffs held themselves out as an engineering firm and performed engineering services at a time when they were not licensed engineers and therefore cannot now recover the sums due under the contracts. That the courts will not lend their aid to enforcement of unlawful contracts which are founded upon transactions in violation of a public policy declared by the legislature is unquestionably true. F.F. Bollinger Co. v. Widmann B. Corp., 339 Pa. 289, 14 A.2d 81. The Superior Court found as a matter of law that plaintiffs were engaged in the practice of engineering contrary to the "Professional Engineers Registration Law" of May 23, 1945, P.L. 913, and that they therefor ...


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