Appeal, No. 321, Oct. T., 1957, from decree of Court of Common Pleas No. 2 of Philadelphia County, Dec. T., 1952, No. 290, in case of Allen George Braun v. Mary Dorothy Steacher Braun. Decree affirmed.
Harry D. Sporkin, with him Jacob B. Abrams, for appellant.
David E. Pinsky, with him David J. Salaman, for appellees.
Before Rhodes, P.j., Hirt, Gunther, Wright, Woodside, Ervin, and Watkins, JJ.
[ 186 Pa. Super. Page 261]
In his complaint filed in December 1952 the plaintiff, as grounds for divorce, charged cruel and barbarous treatment, and indignities to his person. The action was vigorously defended on behalf of the respondent wife at the numerous and extended hearings before the master. The master filed his first report on December 14, 1954 in which he recommended a decree of divorce on the ground of indignities. Exceptions were filed by defendant's counsel and while they were pending the defendant's father petitioned to intervene in the action on behalf of his daughter alleging that she was suffering from a mental disorder and for that reason was incapable of further defending the action. Thereupon the court referred the case back to the master for specific findings as to the defendant's mental condition. Notwithstanding the testimony of two qualified neuro-psychiatrists to the contrary, the master in his supplemental report found the defendant chargeable with responsibility for her conduct and again recommended a divorce for indignities. The
[ 186 Pa. Super. Page 262]
lower court however sustained the defendant's exceptions to the supplemental report of the master and on October 24, 1956 dismissed the complaint; this disposition of the case was affirmed, after argument and reargument on plaintiff's motion, in the final order entered on May 1, 1957 from which the plaintiff appealed.
The parties had been friends for a number of years when they were married on June 24, 1944. But the plaintiff did not know that defendant had been a patient in a hospital for mental and nervous disease for two and one-half months in 1936. Her condition at that time was diagnosed as dementia praecox although there is no evidence that she was informed of the fact; for that reason, perhaps, she did not inform plaintiff of the hospitalization before marrying him. After the marriage they lived in the home of plaintiff's mother who ran the household. From 1944 until 1951 the union apparently was a normally happy one, with only one untoward occurrence which took place when defendant, in the latter stages of her first pregnancy and after a dispute with plaintiff's mother, left plaintiff and returned to the home of her parents. We agree with this comment of Judge LEWIS on this incident: "The testimony as to the responsibility of either party for this separation is inconclusive, and, though we accept plaintiff's version, it must be considered an isolated incident not forming part of a pattern of conduct as encompassed by the charge of indignities." During the period from 1951 to January 1953 there is testimony, and it for the most part is uncontradicted, of a succession of bizarre, incongruous, irrational and at times violent acts which are almost completely out of character of the wife of the first years. During the period the circumstances, under which she again left her husband and went to her parents to live, do not justify the frequent separations. From an examination
[ 186 Pa. Super. Page 263]
of the entire record in this case the conclusion is inescapable that if the defendant's conduct was volitional or within her control, the resulting indignities suffered by plaintiff were clearly sufficient to entitle him to a divorce. Our independent judgment, however, based upon all of the testimony coincides with that of Judge LEWIS of the court below. We are convinced that because of a most serious mental disease she is not to be charged with responsibility for her abnormal conduct. For that reason this record may be spared a recital of the acts upon which plaintiff relies, as unseemly and immaterial under the circumstances.
The plaintiff testified that in 1951 he first noted that "she just didn't act right." Nevertheless despite this circumstance and the fact that defendant's bizarre conduct, from 1951 on, should have confirmed his suspicion that she was in need of medical care, plaintiff did nothing about it. He did not provide the services of a psychiatrist for either diagnosis or treatment. Defendant's father testified that his daughter behaved in a highly abnormal manner as early as September 1951 and that she became violent in 1952. A neighbor and an aunt of the defendant similarly characterized her conduct as violent and strange behavior. Early in January 1953, through the combined efforts of the plaintiff and the defendant's father, she was admitted to Friends Hospital for Mental and Nervous Diseases where she was confined for about four months. She was pregnant at the time and on March 17, 1953 was transferred to the psychiatric ...