Appeal, No. 122, Jan. T., 1956, from judgment of Orphans' Court of Blair County, 1953, No. 732, in re estate of Frederick A. Stormer, deceased. Judgment affirmed.
Emanuel S. Leopold, with him Scheeline & Leopold, for appellants.
J. Boyd Landis, with him John H. Hemphill, Robert J. Yocum and Landis & McIntosh, for appellees.
Before Stern, C.j., Jones, Bell, Chisey, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE CHIDSEY
The question presented by this appeal is whether a contract for the construction of a sewerage system is of such nature that the obligations of the contractor thereunder are discharged by his death.
On March 18, 1952, Frederick A. Stormer entered into a contract with Shippensburg Borough Authority
for the construction of a sewerage system. Mr. Stormer died on August 12, 1953, when the work was approximately 60% complete. His executors continued the work until January 21, 1954. When they ceased work on that date, the contract was declared in default by the Authority. Until October 3, 1953 the continuance of the work by the executors was under the direction of Hugh B. Stormer (one of the executors and a son of the decedent) who had been superintendent of the work during his father's lifetime. On the same date the executors petitioned the Orphan's Court of Blair County for a declaratory judgment to determine whether said contract and the performance bond securing it had been discharged by Stormer's death. Following the default declared by the Authority when the executors ceased work in January, the Authority which had brought in as a party plaintiff Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland, the surety on the contractor's bond, moved to have the petition for declaratory judgment dismissed on the ground that the question had become moot. The court declined to dismiss the petition, holding that a number of serious controversies were contingent upon an answer to the original petition: Lifter Estate, 377 Pa. 227, 103 A.2d 670. On June 18, 1955, the lower court decreed that the contract was a binding obligation on the executors and the surety. A rehearing was ordered, following which the court affirmed its June 18th decree. This appeal by the executors followed.
The general rule is that to the extent of the assets that come into his possession, the personal representative of a decedent is responsible on all contracts incurred by decedent in his lifetime: Adelaide Stumpf's Appeal, 116 Pa. 33, 38, 8 A. 866; Young, Admrx. v. Gongaware, 275 Pa. 285, 287, 119 A. 271; Huffman v. Huffman, 311 Pa. 123, 166 A. 570. An exception to
this rule is: "... Where the agreement is for services which involve the peculiar skill of an expert, by whom alone the particular work in contemplation of the parties can be performed, or more generally, where distinctly personal considerations are at the foundation of the contract, the relation of the parties is dissolved by the death of him whose personal qualities constituted the particular inducement to the contract. ... But where a party agrees to do that which does not necessarily require him to perform in person, that which he may, by assignment of his contract or otherwise, employ others to do, we may fairly infer, unless otherwise expressed, that a mere personal relation was not contemplated. ...": Billings's Appeal, 106 Pa. 558, 560.See ...