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SLATER v. PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION ET AL. (07/14/53)

SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


July 14, 1953

SLATER
v.
PENNSYLVANIA PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION ET AL.

COUNSEL

James H. McHale, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Frank W. Hatfield, Sabato M. Bendiner, Busser & Bendiner, Philadelphia, for intervening appellee.

Albert E. Luttrell, Paul E. Beaver, Asst. Counsel, Lloyd S. Benjamin, Counsel, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, Harrisburg, for appellee.

Before Rhodes, P. J., and Hirt, Reno, Dithrich, Ross, Gunther and Wright, JJ.

Author: Ross

[ 173 Pa. Super. Page 405]

ROSS, Judge.

This is an appeal from an order of the Public Utility Commission granting a certificate of public convenience

[ 173 Pa. Super. Page 406]

    to Ray Slater, and canceling an outstanding certificate issued to Joseph and Ray Slater, co-partners, doing business as Slater Brothers.

Joseph Slater, appellant, and Ray Slater, intervening appellee, formed a partnership for the conduct of a trucking business in 1928 under the name of Slater Brothers. They were issued certificates of public convenience by the Public Service Commission on January 7, 1936, and by the Interstate Commerce Commission on August 29, 1938.

In October of 1939 they agreed to divide the firm's assets and to dissolve the partnership. Each thereafter continued his respective hauling operations as an individual, under the authority of the certificates of public convenience issued to the partnership. In 1947 they made a joint application for transfer to Ray Slater of the federal certificate, which was granted by the Interstate Commerce Commission on November 13, 1947. In February 1948 they made a similar application to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which was returned because of the omission of a statement by Joseph Slater releasing his interest in the partnership certificate. Joseph refused to supply the statement and in May 1949 he filed a bill in equity in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County alleging the continued existence of the partnership, asking for the appointment of a receiver and an accounting of the affairs of the partners inter se. The chancellor found that the partnership had terminated in 1939, that the terms of dissolution had been fair and reasonable, and that Joseph Slater had acquiesced in them at that time. He dismissed the bill by decree nisi on January 23, 1950; the decree was affirmed by a court en banc and by the Supreme Court in an opinion filed June 26, 1950. Slater v. Slater, 365 Pa. 321, 74 A.2d 179.

[ 173 Pa. Super. Page 407]

After the final disposition of that controversy, on December 7, 1950, Ray Slater applied to the Public Utility Commission for a new certificate of public convenience, requesting substantially the rights included in the 1936 certificate except for those assumed by Joseph Slater after the termination of the partnership. Several motor carriers filed protests, but at the hearing all protestants who appeared stipulated that they would withdraw objections to the new certificate if the partnership certificate were cancelled. Appellant did not file a formal protest before the hearing but he entered an appearance and took an active part in the proceeding, which was held on February 23, 1951. When the commission granted the certificate he filed a petition for rehearing, which was denied November 26, 1951, whereupon he took this appeal.

Appellant contends that the commission erred in permitting applicant to apply for a new certificate rather than for transfer of the partnership certificate; that cancellation of the partnership certificate constituted a taking of his property without due process; and that Ray Slater is not a fit person to perform the proposed services.

In his application Ray Slater made full disclosure of the circumstances under which he sought a new certificate. After the dissolution of the partnership in 1939 the certificate which had been issued to the partnership in 1936 was in effect a nullity, from which neither of the former partners could derive authority to operate either as a common carrier or as a contract carrier. Under those circumstances applicant proceeded correctly in seeking a new certificate. Appellant cites Hostetter v. Pennsylvania P. U. C., 160 Pa. Super. 94, 49 A.2d 862; but the holding there is that, upon an application for the transfer of rights under an existing certificate, applicant need not prove public necessity

[ 173 Pa. Super. Page 408]

    of insurance and tariffs, and promises in the future to comply with the rules and regulations of the Commission. In addition, each of applicant's six public witnesses described applicant as being dependable.'

This Court's statement in Highway Express Lines, Inc., v. Pennsylvania P. U. C., 161 Pa. Super. 98, 99, 100, 101, 54 A.2d 109, 110, 111, is particularly appropriate here: 'The appellant alleges that the certificate should have been refused because of prior violations of the Public Utility Law, 66 P.S. ยง 1101 et seq., by the applicant. Where the finding of the commission as to the fitness of the applicant is supported by substantial evidence of rational, probative force, we will not review the discretion statutorily vested in the commission unless exercised capriciously or arbitrarily. In Schuylkill Valley Lines, Inc., v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, 137 Pa. Super. 101, 8 A.2d 487, we did reverse a finding that the applicant was a fit person, but that was in an extreme and unusual case where the applicant, 137 Pa. Super. page 107, 8 A.2d 487, 490, 'has failed to comply with the law relative to school buses thus defeating the legislative intent of affording special consideration to the safety of school children transported therein.' (Emphasis supplied.) In that case the applicant admitted that he had not complied with the standards and regulations affording safety to school children thus transported.

'In the instant case no question of safety was involved. Applicant and his brother, as partners, had held a prior certificate of public convenience which had been cancelled by the commission. * * * Even if he had violated the Public Utility Law by operating without a certificate, we agree with the commission that this type of violation does not, ex necessitate, compel a refusal of the instant application. No question of human safety was involved in the past dereliction, and it was for the commission to determine whether the prior

[ 173 Pa. Super. Page 410]

    violation rendered him unfit. * * * The order of the commission is not clearly shown to be without support in the evidence, or so arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable as to become an error of law. The commission acted within its powers, and the question was an administrative one.'

Order affirmed.

19530714

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