Appeal, No. 301, Jan. T., 1954, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, March T., 1952, No. 628, in case of Department of Public Assistance, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Samuel Sharago et ux. Judgment reversed.
Edward F. Muller, Jr., with him Guy W. Davis, for appellants.
Jacob L. Aaron, Special Deputy Attorney General, with him Samuel M. Tollen, M. Louise Rutherford, Deputy Attorney General and Frank F. Truscott, Attorney General, for appellee.
Before Stern, C.j., Jones, Bell, Chidsey and Musmanno, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania seeks in this case, through the Department of Public Assistance, to collect from Mrs. Sallie Sharago, a 72-year-old widow, $1,181.74 which admittedly she never received, never contracted to pay, and benefits from which never entered her sphere of enjoyment. For the State to impose such a palpable injustice requires specific authority in law which cannot be found in all the books of Pennsylvania.
The untoward situation arose as follows: In March, 1947, Samuel Sharago, who was living apart from his
elderly wife, made application for public assistance and, by August, 1951, received the total sum of $1,181.74. He died on May 6, 1952. Through an action in assumpsit begun prior to Mr. Sharago's death, the Commonwealth obtained a judgment against his widow in the sum of $1,181.74. She appealed.
In paragraph 2 of the plaintiff's Complaint in Assumpsit, the Commonwealth states: "Under Section 4 of the Act of June 24, 1937, P.L. 2045, known as 'The Support Law' the real and personal property of a public assistance recipient is liable for the expenses of his support, maintenance, assistance and burial, incurred by any public body or public agency, if such property was owned during the time such expenses were incurred or if the right to ownership of such property existed or was acquired during the time such expenses were incurred."
By this statement the Commonwealth admits that it is the real and personal property of the "public assistance recipient" that is to be held accountable for the moneys paid by the Department. But Mrs. Sharageo was not a public assistance recipient.
In speaking of property liable for repayment of public assistance, Section 4 of The Support Law specifically refers to the real and personal property of an indigent. Mrs. ...