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WINTERS v. RIMERSBURG COAL COMPANY. (05/23/55)

May 23, 1955

WINTERS, APPELLANT,
v.
RIMERSBURG COAL COMPANY.



Appeal, No. 53, March T., 1955, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Clarion County, Feb. T., 1943, in Equity, No. 1, in case of Charles G. Winters, William Winters and Russell Winters v. Rimersburg Coal Company et al. Decree affirmed.

COUNSEL

Vincent M. Casey, with him Merritt H. Davis and Margiotti & Casey, for appellants.

W. Davis Graham, with him E. J. I. Gannon, Charles T. Walter, Edmond C. Breene, Hazlett, Gannon & Walter, and Breene, Brewster & Breene, for appellees.

Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Chidsey, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.

Author: Jones

[ 382 Pa. Page 13]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE JONES

This is the second time that this litigation has come before us. On the earlier appeal we upheld the lower courts jurisdiction of the defendants: see Winters v. Rimersburg Coal Company, 360 Pa. 321, 61 A.2d 837. The present appeal goes to the merits of the controversy.

The plaintiffs, Charles G. Winters, William Winters and Russell Winters, have appealed from the final decree dismissing their complaint in equity for an accounting and injunctive relief. The defendants are the Rimersburg Coal Company, a Pennsylvania corporation, George Miller, John J. Miller and Harry F. Miller. The latter has been adjudged a lunatic and his interest is represented on the record by the Commonwealth Trust Company of Pittsburgh, guardian of his person and estate.

The prayer of the plaintiffs' amended complaint is that the defendants be enjoined from selling or transferring any of the capital stock of the Rimbersburg Coal Mining Company, that the defendants be ordered to deliver the capital stock of the Coal Company to the plaintiffs, that the individual defendants be directed to render an accounting of all dividends and profits from the stock, that the corporate defendant be restrained

[ 382 Pa. Page 14]

    from carrying on any business as such, and that a change of corporate name and the capital stock structure of the Coal Company be declared null and void. The defendants filed responsive answers and the matter came on for a hearing before the chancellor who filed an adjudication wherein he found the material facts from which he drew relevant conclusions of law and entered a decree nisi dismissing the complaint. The court en banc dismissed the plaintiffs' extensive exceptions to the adjudication and decree nisi as lacking merit, confirmed the chancellor's findings and conclusions and entered a consonant final decree from which the plaintiffs have appealed.

The appellants contend (1) that the evidence was insufficient to support the chancellor's findings and (2) that the chancellor erred in holding, on the basis of Section 5 of the Act of May 23, 1887, P.L. 158, 28 PS ยง 322, that the plaintiffs' principal witness (Charles C. Winters) was incompetent to testify because of the lunacy of Harry F. Miller who was a party to the transactions in suit. Bearing in mind that a chancellor's findings, if supported by evidence and confirmed by the court en banc, have the weight of a jury's verdict and will not be disturbed on appeal (Taylor v. Kaufhold, 379 Pa. 191, 197, 108 A.2d 713), the pertinent facts, drawn from the chancellor's findings, may be summarized as follows.

For some time prior to 1940, the Millers were the owners as tenants in common of the Fox Farm in Clarion County, Pennsylvania. On June 5, 1940, they executed a lease of Fox Farm to Charles G. Winters, one of the plaintiffs, for the purpose of strip-mining the underlying coal at a royalty of fifteen cents per ton. The lessee subsequently assigned the lease to the ...


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