Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, June T., 1961, No. 1429, in case of Funds for Business Growth, Inc. v. Woodland Marble and Tile Company, Angelina Maraldo, James P. Woodland, Sherry A. Woodland.
Howard Wallner, for appellant.
John M. Gallagher, Jr., with him Richard, Brian, DiSanti & Hamilton, for appellee.
Bell, C. J., Jones, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy and Barbieri, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Barbieri. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Bell.
This is an appeal from a final order dismissing a petition to open judgment which had been entered in 1961 by confession on a warrant of attorney contained in a non-negotiable judgment note. Appellant, Angelina Maraldo, averred, and it was found as a fact by the lower court, that her signature on the note as maker or
surety was a forgery. Nevertheless, the lower court refused to open the judgment because appellant had executed a written agreement by which she ratified the forged signature on the note as her own and waived her right to petition to open the confessed judgment.
In 1961, Woodland Marble & Tile Co., Inc. (Woodland), whose principals were James F. Woodland and Louis Maraldo, sought a business loan from appellee. After investigation appellee forwarded loan documents to Woodland's accountant in which the Woodland corporation was named the borrower and the principals and their wives, sureties. Among the documents was a non-negotiable installment judgment note for $20,000. Appellant, Angelina Maraldo, the wife of Louis Maraldo, testified that she knew nothing of this loan. Bernard Granor, an officer of appellee, testified that he visited the Maraldo residence in order to determine its value as security for the loan; and the lower court stated that appellant was present on that occasion and knew about the loan.
Subsequently, Woodland defaulted on the loan and filed a bankruptcy petition. Appellee had recorded the note on January 20, 1961, immediately after its execution on January 19, 1961, so that judgment was confessed against all parties prior to any default.*fn* In October, 1962, appellee caused a writ of execution to issue against the Maraldos' home. Angelina Maraldo's testimony is that this was when she first heard of the loan, i.e., when the premises were posted for sale by the sheriff, and this was also when she learned that
her husband had forged her name to the note. She was, at all relevant times, a housewife with no interest in the corporation and had a severe sight handicap (which has now worsened), being unable to read because of the condition of her eyes and barely able to see people and objects. Mrs. Maraldo also has a severe hearing handicap such that she is almost totally deaf. For practical purposes, she is blind and deaf.
When appellant confronted her husband about this matter, he retained an attorney. Another attorney, asked by her husband to represent her, advised appellant that if the judgment was not paid, despite her forged signature on the note, her home would be sold and her husband would be imprisoned for forgery. While this attorney did prepare a petition to open judgment based on the forgery, it was never filed because of appellant's fear that she would lose her home and that her husband would go to jail. In addition appellant was fearful of family disgrace from her husband's threatened criminal conviction. She also felt that she had to clear him because of the economic circumstance, if he were imprisoned, that she could not work due to her impaired eye-sight and hearing, and because she was 48 years of age. Counsel for appellee was aware of the forgery claim of appellant at this time. Under the influence and pressure of the family disasters envisioned by appellant she was induced to join in another agreement prepared by appellee, dated January 28, 1963, which contained the following paragraph: "8. Maraldo hereby releases and discharges Corporation [Appellee] of and from any and all claims, suits, causes of action and judgments which they ...