Appeals from decrees of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Jan. T., 1963, No. 646, and April T., 1963, No. 1636, in cases of Dorothy A. Corace and Arthur L. Corace, her husband, v. John J. Balint and Eva J. Balint, his wife, United Savings and Loan Association et al.; and John J. Balint and Eva Jane Balint, his wife, v. Ryan Construction, Inc., Arthur L. Corace, Dorothy A. Corace, his wife et al.
Dale Cleland, with him Leonard Boreman, for appellants.
Leonard Boreman, with him Baskin, Boreman, Sachs & Craig, for appellant.
Charles D. Coll, for appellee.
Linn V. Phillips, Jr., with him Neely, Stockdale & Phillips, for appellees.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen.
This case involves three appeals from what purports to be a final decree of the lower court en banc. It also involves two appeals from an order of the lower court, entered while said three appeals were pending, purporting to vacate a prior order. This last mentioned order was also entered while the three appeals were pending and it purported to rescind a prior decree. All of the orders and decrees which are either appealed from or are collaterally involved were entered in two actions in equity which were tried together before the lower court.
The focal point of both actions was the ownership of certain realty which is hereinafter referred to as lot #203.
The actions arose out of the following situation. Prior to November 29, 1958, South Hills Homes Company (South Hills) was record owner of lots in Allegheny County set forth in Parkridge Plan No. 2, which included lot #203. On that date South Hills executed a deed, which was recorded, covering certain of the lots in the plan, to Arthur and Dorothy Corace, husband and wife. The recited consideration for said deed was one dollar. At the time, Arthur Corace was a substantial shareholder in South Hills and apparently in control of its corporate activities. On June 8, 1959, the Coraces executed a deed to these same lots, including lot #203, to South Hills. Said deed was not recorded. About two and one-half years later Arthur Corace entered into a contract with Ryan Construction Corporation (Ryan) wherein he agreed, inter alia, to convey lot #203 to Ryan. Ryan did not know about the unrecorded deed to South Hills. Several months later John and Eva Balint, husband and wife, entered into two agreements with Ryan. In the first, for valuable consideration, Ryan agreed that "it . . . shall and will . . . by deed of general warranty, will and sufficiently grant, convey and assure unto the . . . [Balints], his heirs and assigns in fee simple, clear of all encumbrances" (with certain exceptions not here relevant) lot #203. In the second, for valuable consideration, Ryan agreed to construct a home for the Balints on lot #203. After Ryan built the home for the Balints on lot #203 there was a "settlement" wherein the Balints, with the assistance of a mortgagee, completely paid their obligations to Ryan. But Ryan did not deliver the promised deed to lot #203 at the settlement; Ryan represented that said deed was in the process of being recorded. Thereafter, the Balints received a deed to lot #203,
purportedly signed by Arthur and Dorothy Corace, the record owners. Actually, Arthur Corace had signed his wife's name. Like Ryan, the Balints were unaware of the unrecorded deed to South Hills.
The first of the two actions before the lower court was brought on October 8, 1962 (No. 646 January Term, 1963, hereinafter referred to as No. 646), by Dorothy Corace against the Balints and their mortgagee, United Savings and Loan Association, alleging, inter alia, the recorded deed to lot #203 from South Hills to her and her husband and that her name was forged on the deed to the Balints. She prayed that the deed to the Balints and their mortgage to United Savings be decreed nullities. Subsequently, her complaint was amended to include her husband, Arthur Corace, as unwilling plaintiff.
The second of the two actions before the lower court (No. 1636 April Term, 1963, hereinafter referred to as No. 1636) was brought by the Balints against the Coraces, Ryan, and South Hills. In the first count, the Balints alleged, inter alia, their agreement with Ryan for the delivery of Ryan's warranty deed free of encumbrances, the breach of said agreement, and improvements to the property; they prayed that Ryan specifically perform its agreement to convey lot #203 and that it pay reasonable attorneys' fees, costs and other damages arising out of the action against them by Dorothy Corace, No. 646, and their action, No. 1636. In the second count, the Balints alleged, inter alia, that all of the above named defendants had engaged in "a deliberate plot," involving forgery, misrepresentations, and passive misconduct, to deprive them of their money and property, and they prayed that the court order the defendants to execute all instruments necessary to convey to them marketable title to lot #203, free and clear of all encumbrances (except its mortgage
to United Savings), and to pay reasonable attorneys' fees, costs, and other damages arising out of actions Nos. 646 and 1636.
The actions were tried together. An understanding of the case requires a somewhat detailed account of pertinent parts of the record below. After a hearing, the chancellor found, inter alia, that the Coraces were record owners of lot #203, that they had executed and unconditionally delivered a deed to this lot to South Hills on June 8, 1959, that said deed was not recorded, that Ryan had promised its own warranty deed to the Balints, that instead the Balints "accepted" a deed purporting to be from the record owners, Dorothy and Arthur Corace, that Arthur Corace had signed Dorothy's name to the deed, and that neither Ryan nor the Balints knew of the unrecorded deed to South Hills.*fn1 As matters of law the chancellor concluded, inter alia, that Dorothy Corace had no right, title, or interest in lot #203, that the deed to Balints of lot #203 was of no legal effect, and that Ryan failed to perform its agreement with the Balints to deliver to them its warranty deed to lot #203. It further concluded that Ryan's breach gave the Balints the right to rescind their agreement with Ryan and recover damages and reasonable attorneys' fees. Based upon these findings of fact and conclusions of law, the ...