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RAUENZAHN v. SIGMAN (01/04/56)

January 4, 1956

RAUENZAHN
v.
SIGMAN, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 310, Jan. T., 1955, from decree of Court of Common Pleas No. 7 of Philadelphia County, June T., 1949, No. 3811, in case of Raymond K. Rauenzahn, Executor of Estate of Emma F. Waggaman, also known as Emma S. Waggaman, dec'd., et al. v. Ethel M. Sigman. Decree affirmed.

COUNSEL

J. Kennard Weaver, with him Weaver, Knauer & Miller, for appellant.

Robert Boyd, Jr., for appellee.

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

Author: Stearne

[ 383 Pa. Page 440]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE ALLEN M. STEARNE

The appeal is from a decree of the Court of Common Pleas No. 7 of Philadelphia County, ruling that appellant had failed to establish the validity of a written document, under the terms of which appellant was named as the recipient of an alleged inter vivos gift of cash and corporate stock. At the former trial the document was erroneously excluded. That decree was reversed. The record was remanded to the court below "... limited solely and exclusively to a determination judgment ..." and, if admissible, its effect on the ultimate result": Rauenzahn v. Sigman, 376 Pa. 26, 31, 101 A.2d 688.

Detailed recitation of the facts may be found in the reported case and, therefore, will not be repeated. It law provides, computed from March 26, 1939 ..." Emma F., his wife, upon admission into a fraternal home, fraudulently concealed their assets. A niece of the wife, Ethel M. Sigman, appellant, came into possession

[ 383 Pa. Page 441]

    of the concealed assets. She claims title to the assets under an alleged inter vivos gift from Mrs. Waggaman. The validity of the written document, described in the reported case, is the sole issue now before us. We are not here concerned with any testamentary disposition alleged to have been made by Mrs. Waggaman in favor of Mrs. Rauenzahn, another niece. Neither is the disposition of the estate of James L. Waggaman now before us.

Appellant sought to prove the validity of the questioned writing by (a) offering it in evidence and establishing the authenticity of the signature (b) by the testimony of appellant. To establish the genuineness of the signature, appellant relies upon comparison of handwriting made by a handwriting expert. The specimen or standard used in such comparison must be sufficiently proved. To accomplish this, appellant offered in evidence four checks endorsed by the alleged donor, all of which the bank had paid. Mr. M'Cool, appellant's handwriting expert, testified that he had no means of knowing whether or not it was Mrs. Waggaman, the payee, who had endorsed the checks. He expressed, however, an opinion that the signatures were those of the payee. Appellee's handwriting expert, Mr. Melcher, considering the above evidence and from other writings in the record bearing Mrs. Waggaman's purported signature, testified that he likewise was unable to form an opinion that the signature in question was genuine. It is a well settled principle of law that in order to authorize a comparison of handwritings, the genuineness of the document offered as a standard for comparison must be sufficiently established. Nothing short of evidence by a person who saw the party sign the standard, or of an admission by such party of its genuineness, or evidence of equal authority, is sufficient: Baker v. Haines, 6 Wh. 284, 292; Depue v. Place,

[ 383 Pa. Page 4427]

Pa. 428, 430; Travis v. Brown, 43 Pa. 9, 12; Groff v. Groff, 209 Pa. 603, 59 A. 65; Fuller's Estate, 222 Pa. 182, 184, 70 A. 1005; Shannon v. Castner, 21 Pa. Superior Ct. 294, 329. While it may be surmised that Mrs. Waggaman did endorse the checks, that fact was not proved. Neither was the genuineness of the other signatures offered in evidence as standards sufficiently established. The learned ...


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