Appeals from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Oct. T., 1957, No. 3290, in case of W. C. Hurtt, trustee in bankruptcy of estate of William G. Rider, individually and trading as Rider Supply Company and as Rider Construction Company, bankrupt, v. Nicholas A. Stirone.
David McNeil Olds, with him Blair S. McMillin, and Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, for plaintiff.
Lloyd F. Engle, Jr., with him Wilner, Wilner & Kuhn, for defendant.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen and O'Brien, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Musmanno. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen.
This case presents two appeals from a judgment entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County.
The factual background is as follows:
The plaintiff, Trustee in Bankruptcy of the Estate of William G. Rider, individually and trading as Rider Supply Company and Rider Construction Company, bankrupt, brought this action of assumpsit in his capacity as trustee to recover a sum of money paid by Rider to the defendant as the result of extortionate threats.
Rider was engaged in construction work, and also in the business of supplying building materials to general contractors in western Pennsylvania. He became
involved with the defendant, a "labor leader" in the same area, during the course of negotiations for the award of a sub-contract to supply ready-mix concrete to a construction company, Ragnar Benson, Inc. (Ragnar), for incorporation into a steel mill to be built by that company. Rider was awarded this sub-contract on a bid of $11.75 per cubic yard of concrete delivered, and, pursuant thereto and to subsequent additions delivered in excess of 60,000 cubic yards of concrete. Rider then paid $31,274.13 to the defendant, calculated on the basis of $.50 per cubic yard of concrete which Rider had delivered to Ragnar.
It is the recovery of this money that forms the basis of this action. Plaintiff's evidence established that the money was paid to the defendant by Rider as the result of extortionate threats made by the defendant, to the effect that unless Rider complied, the defendant, by virtue of his position as labor leader, would cause Rider to lose the sub-contract with Ragnar, and other business which the defendant could influence. Defendant admitted receiving the money, but denied making the alleged threats and asserted that the payments were consideration for efforts on his part to secure the Ragnar contract for Rider.
At the conclusion of the testimony, the trial court directed the jury to return a verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the sum of $31,274.13, plus interest not to exceed 6% from January 1, 1954. The jury returned a verdict in the total sum of $38,779.92 ($31,274.13 plus interest not to exceed $7505.79), which included the principal sum plus interest at the rate of 3%.
The defendant filed a motion for a new trial based upon alleged trial errors. The plaintiff filed a motion to mould the verdict, contending that, under the circumstances, he was entitled to recover interest at the rate of 6%. Both motions were dismissed by the court en banc, and from the judgment entered upon the verdict, both parties appealed.
Defendant's Appeal (No. 219)
As a result of the money payments involved herein, the defendant was twice tried and convicted in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania for violation of the Hobbs Anti-Racketeering Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1951: United States v. Stirone, 168 F. Supp. 490 (W.D. Pa. 1957), aff'd 262 F. 2d 571 (3d Cir. 1958), rev'd 361 U.S. 212 (1960); and, United States v. Stirone, 311 F. 2d 277 (3d Cir. 1962), cert. denied 372 U.S. 935 (1963). At the trial on the criminal ...