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April 14, 1964


Appeal, No. 179, Oct. T., 1964, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County, Dec. T., 1962, No. 28, in case of General Mills, Inc. v. L. M. Snavely. Judgment reversed.


Mark R. Eaby, Jr., with him Eaby and Eaby, for appellant.

John T. Barber, with him Barley, Snyder, Cooper & Mueller, for appellee.

Before Rhodes, P.j., Ervin, Wright, Woodside, Watkins, Montgomery, and Flood, JJ.

Author: Wright

[ 203 Pa. Super. Page 164]


In this assumpsit action the court below entered judgment on the pleadings in favor of the plaintiff, General Mills, Inc., and against the defendant, L. M. Snavely. The latter has appealed. It will be necessary to set forth the procedural situation in some detail.

In its complaint, General Mills sought to recover on a book account for poultry feed sold and delivered to Snavely. The exhibit attached to the complaint contains entries of debits and credits from May 31, 1961 to July 17, 1962, and shows a balance due of $3,323.72. Snavely filed an answer containing new matter and

[ 203 Pa. Super. Page 165]

    two alternative counterclaims. The new matter alleged was that, on May 25, 1962, the parties had executed a mutual release.*fn1 The first counterclaim alleged that, excluding items prior to the date of the release, the book account showed a balance due Snavely of $388.99.The alternative counterclaim alleged that, disregarding the release, the feed was not as warranted; and that, due to its inferior quality, Snavely was required to feed seven thousand capons for twenty instead of fifteen weeks, during which additional period the market

[ 203 Pa. Super. Page 166]

    dropped ten cents a pound causing a loss of $4,900.00 in sales price, plus $2,500.00 for extra feed, total claim $7,400.00. General Mills then filed preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer to the new matter and a motion for judgment on the pleadings, asserting (1) that the release in question discharged only its liability to Snavely; (2) that the general denials in the answer constituted admissions under the provisions of Pa. R.C.P. No 1029; and (3) that both causes of action pleaded by Snavely were barred by the release.

We will first consider the sufficiency of Snavely's denials in the affidavit of defense.*fn2 The position of General Mills in its preliminary objections was that Snavely's counterclaims manifested knowledge or information sufficient for him to form a belief as to the truth of the averments in the complaint, wherefore his denials did not come within the purview of subsection (c) of Pa. R.C.P. No. 1029, and consequently must be given effect as admissions under subsection (b) of said rule. The court below reasoned that, while alternative pleadings are permitted under Pa. R.C.P. No. 1020(c), a pleading containing inconsistent averments must have the special verification required by Pa.

[ 203 Pa. Super. Page 167]

R.C.P. No. 1024(b), and therefore Snavely's answer "in the formal language of Rule No. 1029(c), is not sufficient". We are not in accord with this reasoning.

Although the answer, new matter and counterclaim were not drawn with particular nicety, we are impelled to heed the admonition in Pa. R.C.P. No. 126, as follows: "The rules shall be liberally construed to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action or proceeding to which they are applicable. The court at every stage of any such action or proceeding may disregard any error or defect of procedure which does not affect the substantial rights of the parties". Courts should not be astute in enforcing technicalities to defeat apparently meritorious claims: West Penn Sand & Gravel Co. v. Shippingport Sand Co., 367 Pa. 218, 80 A.2d 84. The procedural rules are not ends in themselves, but means whereby justice, as expressed in legal principles, is administered; they are not to be exalted to the status of substantive objectives: Esso Standard Oil Co. v. Taylor, 399 Pa. 324, 159 A.2d 692. It should be noted that General Mills did not question the propriety of the verification. This defect was first noticed and raised by the court below in its opinion. Under Pa. R.C.P. No. 1032, a party waives all defenses and objections which are not presented either by preliminary objection, answer or reply.

We come next to a consideration of the release. The court below took the position "that the consideration in the release is moving from the plaintiff to the defendant and that there is no recital of any consideration moving to the plaintiff from the defendant". However, we are not persuaded that, as to General Mills, there was a lack of consideration for the release. Consideration is defined as a benefit to the party promising, or a loss or detriment to the party to whom the promise is made: Stelmack v. Glen Alden Coal Co., 339 Pa. 410, 14 A.2d 127; Hillcrest Foundation, Inc. v.

[ 203 Pa. Super. Page 168]

    all obligations of each party up to the date of its execution. Cf. Filler Products v. Corriere, 381 Pa. 394, 113 A.2d 219; Wathen v. Brown, 200 Pa. Superior Ct. 620, 189 A.2d 900.

Since we have decided that the release was a valid instrument binding both parties as to transactions between them prior to the date of its execution, Snavely's second counterclaim is clearly barred. Indeed, the opinion below states that this was conceded by Snavely's counsel at the time of argument. However, the book account reveals transactions between the parties subsequent to the date of the release, which indicate a balance in Snavely's favor. This balance was the basis of his first counterclaim, which remains to be adjudicated.


Judgment reversed, and the record is remanded to the court below for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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