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COMMONWEALTH TRUST COMPANY v. SZABO (11/22/57)

November 22, 1957

COMMONWEALTH TRUST COMPANY, ADMR.,
v.
SZABO, APPELLANT.



Appeal, No. 179, March T., 1957, from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Oct. T., 1954, No. 953, in case of Commonwealth Trust Company v. Stephen Szabo et al. Decree affirmed; reargument refused February 3, 1958.

COUNSEL

Sidney Baker, with him Daniel Krause and Krause & Boreman, for appellants.

Francis Taptich, for appellee.

Before Jones, C.j., Bell, Chidsey, Musmanno, Arnold, Jones and Cohen, JJ.

Author: Jones

[ 391 Pa. Page 274]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BENJAMIN R. JONES

This appeal presents a dispute between a decedent's estate and decedent's three children concerning the ownership of certain money.*fn1

Stephen Szabo, a resident of Allegheny County, died, testate, on February 5, 1953, survived by his wife, Marie Szabo, and three children, Stephen Szabo, Irene Hayek and William Szabo. By his will decedent left his entire estate to his wife. Letters of administration c.t.a. were originally granted to Marie Szabo; after her removal as administratrix, letters of administration d.b.n.c.t.a. were granted to the Commonwealth Trust Company.

During her tenure as administratrix c.t.a. Marie Szabo instituted an equity action*fn2 against the three children and the Mellon National Bank and Trust Company

[ 391 Pa. Page 275]

(herein called Mellon Bank). The basis of this equity action*fn3 is that decedent had $10,000 in cash in his room prior to his removal to the hospital - approximately two weeks before his death; Stephen Szabo, without decedent's knowledge or consent, removed this money; upon discovery that the money was missing, William Szabo and Irene Hayek, the two other children, demanded a return of the money whereupon Stephen Szabo turned over to them $7000; on January 22, 1953, William Szabo and Irene Hayek rented a safe deposit box in the Mellon Bank (Braddock Branch) wherein they placed $7000; despite the fact that the safe deposit rental contract provided only for joint access, the Mellon Bank permitted Irene Hayek alone to enter the box on January 8th and January 11th, 1954, without William Szabo's knowledge or consent; the box was changed from the names of Irene Hayek and William Szabo to Irene Hayek and Carl Hayek, her husband, and now contains $6000 the return of which to the estate has been refused. The relief requested in this action was three-fold: (1) that Stephan Szabo be declared trustee of $3000 and directed to return it to the estate, (2) that Irene Hayek and William Szabo be declared trustees of $7000 and directed to return it to the estate and (3) that the Mellon Bank be restrained from permitting access by anyone to the safe deposit box.

With the exception of William Szabo, all the defendants filed answers. The Mellon Bank's answer, in substance, admitted the impropriety of allowing Irene Hayek to enter the safe deposit box, disavowed interest in the money in the box, averred that it was in the position of a stakeholder and requested that the money be paid into court to await the determination of the controversy.

[ 391 Pa. Page 276]

The answers of Irene Hayek and Stephen Szabo, although separate, were substantially the same: that Stephen Szabo did not take any money without decedent's authority; that decedent, prior to his hospitalization and in his own room, delivered to Stephen Szabo an undetermined sum of money, wrapped in a package, with instructions that he hold the package for decedent until his return from the hospital, or, in the event of his death, "to divide it as he, Stephen Szabo, saw fit"; shortly after receiving this package Stephen Szabo informed his brother and sister that he was holding this money and the three children agreed that it should be kept in a safe deposit box in the names of William Szabo and Irene Hayek and for that purpose a safe deposit box was rented at the Mellon Bank and the money placed therein; almost a year later Irene Hayek had the box transferred into the names of her husband and herself and the money, now amounting to $6000, is in that box; they categorically deny plaintiff's right to this money, alleging that decedent made a gift causa mortis of this money to Stephen Szabo.

After a hearing, the chancellor found that decedent had not made a gift causa mortis to Stephen Szabo of this money amounting to $6000 but had delivered it to him as a bailee for safekeeping and concluded that the money belonged to decedent's estate, that defendants', William Szabo and Irene Hayek, possession of the money was in trust for the estate and he directed the Mellon Bank to deliver the money to the estate. ...


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