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STAHL v. HILDERHOFF (11/12/68)

decided: November 12, 1968.

STAHL, APPELLANT,
v.
HILDERHOFF



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, July T., 1965, No. 825, in case of Nancy J. Stahl v. Edwin Hilderhoff.

COUNSEL

C. Donald Gates, Jr., with him Brandt, Riester, Brandt & Malone, for appellant.

Lisle A. Zehner, for appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Eagen and O'Brien, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Jones. Mr. Chief Justice Bell concurs in the result. Mr. Justice Musmanno did not participate in the decision of this case. Mr. Justice Cohen and Mr. Justice Roberts took no part in the consideration of this case.

Author: Jones

[ 432 Pa. Page 181]

On March 19, 1963, a collision occurred between two motor vehicles, one owned and operated by Nancy Stahl (plaintiff) and the other operated by Edwin Hilderhoff (defendant), wherein the plaintiff suffered both property damage to her motor vehicle and, allegedly, injuries to her person. The property damage to plaintiff's motor vehicle amounted to $193.51, which was covered by collision insurance carried with General Motors Insurance Corporation (plaintiff's insurance carrier).

On April 30, 1963, an action in trespass to recover property damage only was instituted in the name of Nancy Stahl against the defendant before a justice of the peace and a default judgment was entered in favor of Nancy Stahl and against defendant. This judgment was paid and satisfied. Thereafter, plaintiff's insurance carrier tendered to plaintiff the check received from defendant's insurance carrier, but plaintiff refused to endorse the check.

On April 22, 1965, plaintiff instituted a trespass action in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County against defendant to recover damages for personal injuries received in the accident.*fn1 The defendant, reciting the prior action and resulting judgment before the justice of the peace, averred under "New Matter" in his "Answer" the defense of res judicata. Upon reply filed to the "New Matter" by plaintiff, defendant moved for judgment on the pleadings which was granted by the court below. From that judgment, the instant appeal was taken.

[ 432 Pa. Page 182]

In passing upon the propriety of the entry of this judgment on the pleadings, we must look to the pleadings which constitute the only record before us and accept as true, for the purpose of this appeal, such facts as are well pleaded. See: Woodyatt v. Bank of Old York Road, 408 Pa. 257, 258, 182 A.2d 500 (1962); Robinson v. Philadelphia, 400 Pa. 80, 82, 161 A.2d 1 (1960).

In Stevenson v. Silverman, 417 Pa. 187, 190, 208 A.2d 786 (1965), we stated: "For the doctrine of res judicata to prevail, there must be a concurrence of four conditions: (1) Identity in the thing sued upon; (2) Identity of the cause of action; (3) Identity of persons and parties to the action; and (4) Identity of the quality or capacity of the parties suing or sued." If these conditions are met in the case at bar, the fact that the prior judgment was entered in an action before a justice of the peace does not preclude invocation of the doctrine of res judicata. See: Marsteller v. Marsteller, 132 Pa. 517, 523-24, 192 Atl. 344 (1890).

The challenge which plaintiff makes to the entry of the instant judgment on the basis of res judicata is that, in the action before the justice of the peace, she was not a party thereto or in privity with the parties therein; therefore, one of the prerequisites for the invocation of res judicata is lacking, i.e., identity of parties.

The record indicates that the prior action was instituted in the name of the plaintiff. However, plaintiff's "Reply" to the "New Matter" of defendant avers: (a) that the action before the justice of the peace was instituted at the "instance and at the request of [plaintiff's insurance carrier]" through one Attorney W. J. Ivill "to recover the property damage due and owing to ...


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