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Fidelity and Deposit Co. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT


decided: February 9, 1971.

FIDELITY AND DEPOSIT COMPANY OF MARYLAND
v.
THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, LINDA BARKER, A MINOR, BY CECIL BARKER, HER PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN ET AL., APPELLANTS

Hastie, Chief Judge, and Staley and Gibbons, Circuit Judges.

Author: Per Curiam

Opinion OF THE COURT

Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland ("Fidelity") initiated this action by filing a complaint in interpleader under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1335, naming as defendants the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and certain individuals. The individuals were students and their parents who had paid tuition at two private schools operated by Pittsburgh Careers, Inc. The complaint alleged that Fidelity was surety for Pittsburgh Careers, Inc., on two bonds, which had been issued pursuant to Pennsylvania law for the protection of contractual rights of the students enrolled at the schools.*fn1 The Commonwealth was the named obligee on each bond.

The complaint further alleged that Fidelity had become obligated on the bonds when Pittsburgh Careers, Inc., had ceased operation at the two schools and had failed to refund tuition payments to its students in violation of their contracts. Each bond was in the amount of $10,000. Fidelity, however, averred that the total amount of the claims asserted against it pursuant to these bonds would greatly exceed $20,000. Fidelity paid the sum of $20,000 into the registry of the district court and requested that the defendants and all other claimants be required to interplead and settle among themselves their rights to the money due under the bonds and that Fidelity then be discharged from further liability.

The defendants-appellants denied that Fidelity's total liability was limited to $20,000. Their answer averred that $20,000 was the limit of liability as to each individual student's claim. Counterclaims were filed on behalf of each defendant for the amount of money each had lost. Fidelity petitioned the district court for summary judgment since there was no genuine issue as to any material fact. The district court construed both bond agreements in favor of Fidelity and entered judgment in the amount of $20,000.*fn2

Appellants argue that the district court erred in its construction of the bonds. They reassert their contention that the bonds created a separate liability running to each student.

We have given careful consideration to appellants' argument. We conclude, however, that Fidelity's obligation on these bonds ran to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the named obligee, and is limited to the face amount of each bond.*fn3

The judgment of the district court will, therefore, be affirmed.

Disposition

The judgment of the district court will, therefore, be affirmed.


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