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R & R TRUCKING CO. v. LEWIS STEEL PRODUCTS CORP. (01/20/67)

decided: January 20, 1967.

R & R TRUCKING CO., APPELLANT,
v.
LEWIS STEEL PRODUCTS CORP.



Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, May T., 1964, No. 286, in case of R & R Trucking Co., Inc. v. Lewis Steel Products Corp.

COUNSEL

Don F. D'Agui, with him Anthony Sidari, Albert Ring, and D'Agui and Del Collo, for appellant.

Martin D. Cohn, with him Laputka, Bayless, Ecker & Cohn, for appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen and O'Brien, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Musmanno.

Author: Musmanno

[ 424 Pa. Page 35]

The plaintiff, R & R Trucking Co., Inc., and Lewis Steel Products Corp., defendant, entered into a written lease agreement whereby the plaintiff leased various motor vehicles to the defendant. Attached to the agreement were eleven schedules, each referring to one of the vehicles to be leased. Each schedule represented a separate agreement pertaining to the truck involved, the schedule to run for a term of three years from the date of execution of the schedule and to be automatically renewed for an additional three year term unless written notice of termination was given 30 days prior to the expiration of the then existing term. Rental for each of the motor vehicles was set at $175 per week. In addition to payment of the rental, the lessee, Lewis Steel Products Corporation was to pay salaries, wages, social security tax, workmen's compensation for the drivers and to provide public liability insurance.

The agreement provided that if the lessee breached any of its provisions, all rentals for the entire unexpired balance of the current term due on each of the schedules and all other charges which the lessee had agreed to pay plus any arrearages were to become due and payable at once. The plaintiff was empowered to confess judgment against the lessee in any court of record in Pennsylvania.

The agreement was dated January 29, 1960. On March 13, 1964, the lessor, R & R Trucking Co., Inc., alleging default in the defendant's commitments, entered judgment against the defendant lessee in the amount of $266,164.60. The lessee then petitioned the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County to open the judgment asserting that (1) immediately after the execution

[ 424 Pa. Page 36]

    of the contract the parties abandoned the contract's terms and thus waived the provisions thereof; (2) the purpose of the execution of the contract was to avoid the applicable rules of the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission; (3) the January 1960 agreement was rescinded by mutual agreement in January of 1964 and substituted by a new informal agreement which also was later rescinded; and (4) the agreement of January 1960 called for damages which were penal in character.

The court, after hearing argument and considering defendant's depositions, granted the petition to open the judgment and made absolute the rule granted thereon. The plaintiff lessor appealed to this Court.

It is the plaintiff's contention that the court below abused its discretion in opening the judgment, arguing that (1) the defendant's testimony in depositions did not support the allegations of its petition; (2) the defendant failed to present a valid defense to the action or to show equitable reason why judgment should be opened; and (3) that, in any event, as the agreement was to circumvent the rules and regulations of the Interstate Commerce Commission and Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and therefore illegal, the court should not lend its aid to the defendant in such an illegality.

With regard to this last contention of the plaintiff, it is to be noted that it is the plaintiff who is seeking the enforcement of what he himself states is an illegal contract. This Court stated in Bredin's Appeal, 92 Pa. 241 at 248: "To hold that such a judgment entered on an immoral and illegal obligation, part of a transaction subversive of public interests, shall be deemed an executed contract, with absolute right in the plaintiff to judicial process for ...


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