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YOUNG ET AL. v. KEEFER (07/14/53)

July 14, 1953

YOUNG ET AL.
v.
KEEFER



COUNSEL

Conrad A. Falvello, Hazleton, and George J. Vanderslice, Bloomsburg, for appellant.

E. Eugene Eves, Bloomsburg, for appellees.

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

Author: Gunther

[ 174 Pa. Super. Page 27]

GUNTHER, Judge.

This is an appeal from the decree of the lower court ordering the appellant to execute and deliver a deed of conveyance to the appellees, children of Mabel C. Keefer, deceased.

Appellant and Mabel C. Keefer were tenants by the entireties of a farm situate in Fishingcreek Township, Columbia County. An action in divorce was brought in 1947 and subsequently some negotiations took place concerning the property rights to the real estate. The wife died intestate, survived by the appellees and the appellant.

It is now contended that prior to the wife's death an oral contract was made whereby appellant agreed to convey the premises to the wife upon her assuming the mortgage indebtedness and the payment of $850 to the husband. At that time, the farm was occupied by a tenant who paid rent to the husband, but when the tenant moved out, the wife and children

[ 174 Pa. Super. Page 28]

    took possession of the premises. Basing their cause of action on the oral agreement and setting forth their ability and willingness to perform their deceased mother's agreement, the appellees asked the court below to enter a decree granting to them the right and remedy of specific performance. The appellant in his answer denied that any agreement was reached between him and his wife and further set forth noncompliance with the Statute of Frauds. Hearing was held and the court below granted a decree awarding the farm to the appellees upon their compliance with the alleged agreement.

The question for us to decide primarily is what effect, if any, did the Statute of Frauds have upon the oral agreement. In order to avoid the operation of the statute, plaintiffs must prove continuous and exclusive possession under the contract and improvements by the vendees not readily to be compensated in money, or other equitable considerations which could be rectified only by a decree of specific performance. Haskell v. Heathcote, 363 Pa. 184, 69 A.2d 71. If defendant admits the oral contract in his pleadings or testimony, the statute will not apply, since its purpose of preventing perjury is avoided. Zlotziver v. Zlotziver, 355 Pa. 299, 49 A.2d 779. In this case, however, appellant has consistently denied his acceptance of the agreement formulated by the attorneys. Therefore, this principle is inapplicable. The court below, having admitted there were no improvements made by appellees, relies on the theory of 'other equitable considerations' which make it impossible to do justice save by specific performance. The learned court below fails, however, to set forth the nature of these 'equitable considerations' or the impelling motives for obviating the operation of the statute.

The exclusive character of the possession of the premises may be questioned ...


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