Appeal, No. 286, Oct. T., 1954, from decree of Court of Common Pleas No. 7 of Philadelphia County, Dec. T., 1952, No. 8195, in case of Walter A. Schaufler v. Natalie J. Kountz Schaufler. Decree affirmed.
William A. Gray, with him Barry H. Hepburn and Gray, Anderson & Schaffer, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Roy Martin Boyd, Philadelphia, for appellee.
Before Rhodes, P.j., Hirt, Gunther, Wright, Woodside and Ervin, JJ. (ross, J., absent).
[ 177 Pa. Super. Page 516]
This is an appeal of the defendant from a decree in divorce a.v.m. entered in favor of plaintiff on the ground of indignities. Does the evidence clearly establish that such indignities were inflicted upon the plaintiff that made his life burdensome? Is the plaintiff the innocent spouse?
The parties were married on November 3, 1951, and separated on February 11, 1953. The plaintiff is a partner in an old brokerage house, and a member of well known clubs in Philadelphia. Defendant was 32 years of age at the time of the trial and plaintiff was almost 70. The master who found the jurisdictional facts ascertained that there was a contest on the merits and referred the matter to the court. Judge CRUMLISH saw the witnesses and heard the testimony consisting of 455 pages. His decision is based upon credibility of the parties and their witnesses. He disbelieved the testimony of the defendant and believed the testimony of the plaintiff and his witnesses. The trial judge passed upon the credibility of the witnesses and his judgment is worthy of the highest consideration in this Court. As Judge RENO, whose opinion we value highly, said in Smith v. Smith, 157 Pa. Superior Ct. 582, 584, 43 A.2d 371: "The spontaneous gesture, the lifting of an eyebrow, the shrug of the shoulders, the intonation of the voice, the flash of the eye, the facial expression, - these are a few of the vital and influential indicia of credibility which the master observes and by which he is guided."
[ 177 Pa. Super. Page 517]
We have examined the evidence de novo. It is unnecessary to discuss all the evidence in detail. Plaintiff, according to his testimony, was compelled to move from their apartment at the Hotel Warwick because of indignities which he alleged occurred during the fifteen months of their married life; that she made his life burdensome by hiding important personal belongings, his front dentures, reading glasses, keys, watch and wallet. She admitted taking his watch and did not return it to him until compelled to do so by a court order. He further testified that she called him, his father and mother vile names. Many specific instances were cited which led to suspension of her rights at the Union League in Philadelphia and the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia.
Plaintiff called a number of witnesses, all of whom corroborated much of his testimony, particularly the vile names and contemptuous references. H. Powell Patchett, one of the plaintiff's witnesses, testified that he met the defendant in October 1951 shortly before the marriage; that soon after the marriage, she said to him: "That cheap old bastard over there doesn't give me any money." The above descriptive titles "cheap old bastard" applied to anyone are per se epithets of opprobrium. In this case they were applied to a spouse who, according to testimony, enjoyed social and business standing in this community. Are such appellations clear and strong enough to inflict indignities? An indignity may consist of various acts and, as defined by our courts, is disrespect for the personality of another. The trial judge who evaluated the evidence is an experienced jurist and his finding, in this respect, is entitled to much weight.
Another witness, James P. Junkin, Esq., testified that he was invited to meet the bride early in 1952 at the Union League; that ...