decided: March 27, 1973.
GENRO, INC., APPELLANT,
INTERNATIONAL CHEMICAL AND NUCLEAR CORPORATION
Appeal from order of Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Allegheny County, Jan. T., 1970, No. 2841, in case of Genro, Inc., a corporation t/a/d/b/a General Roofing Company v. International Chemical and Nuclear Corporation.
Richard C. Witt, with him Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace, for appellant.
C. William Berger, with him Berger & Kapetan, for appellee.
Wright, P. J., Jacobs, Hoffman, Spaulding, Cercone, and Packel, JJ. (Watkins, J., absent.) Opinion by Jacobs, J.
[ 224 Pa. Super. Page 61]
This is an appeal from a lower court's order directing an interpleader, pursuant to Pa. R. C. P. No. 2306.
The facts are as follows: Plaintiff Genro, Inc., filed a complaint in assumpsit against defendant International Chemical and Nuclear Corporation in December of 1969. The complaint alleged that defendant had failed to pay for certain repairs which plaintiff made on a building in accordance with three contracts; it also alleged that defendant had consumed a number of hours of plaintiff's time by failing to make available on schedule the premises to be repaired. Damages were requested in the amount of $12,072.91, of which $11,756.25 was attributed to the price of repairs made and $316.66 to the value of time consumed by the delay.
[ 224 Pa. Super. Page 62]
On February 28, 1972, defendant petitioned for interpleader as provided for in Pa. R. C. P. Nos. 2301-19 and 2324-25. It alleged that one W. W. Alberts was asserting a claim inconsistent with*fn1 that of the plaintiff.*fn2 Although it appears that the claims of W. W. Alberts and of the plaintiff were not inconsistent as to all of their items, this fact would not render interpleader, as provided for in the Rules of Civil Procedure, inappropriate.*fn3 The interpleader petition requested that the court order the plaintiff, Genro, Inc.,
[ 224 Pa. Super. Page 63]
and the claimant, W. W. Alberts, to interplead. The court, acceding to the petition, ordered that W. W. Alberts be added to the record as a party plaintiff.*fn4
The basis for defendant's assertion that the claim of the plaintiff and that of the claimant were adverse, or mutually inconsistent, with respect to defendant's liability, was that it would have been impossible for plaintiff's repairs to have been properly made (and thus for its claim to be valid) and at the same time for claimant to have suffered all the damage it alleged (and thus for its claim to be valid). The damage alleged by the claimant included loss incurred by virtue of improper repairs made on the building, which claimant owned, during defendant's leasehold.*fn5 In its answer to the petition for interpleader, plaintiff admitted that claims against the defendant by the claimant were "inconsistent with the cause of action" by the plaintiff. It further admitted that the claimant was claiming substantial amounts from the defendant on the basis of improperly done work by the plaintiff.
[ 224 Pa. Super. Page 64]
From the order directing an interpleader, the plaintiff has appealed.
In Pennsylvania, an interlocutory order is not appealable, absent express statutory authorization. Winnet v. Brenner, 409 Pa. 150, 185 A.2d 318 (1962); Sullivan v. Philadelphia, 378 Pa. 648, 107 A.2d 854 (1954); H. P. Starr & Sons, Inc. v. Stepp, 206 Pa. Superior Ct. 15, 211 A.2d 78 (1965). "The purpose of this rule is to dispose of litigation by a single appeal rather than prolonging litigation by permitting a series of piecemeal appeals." Winnet v. Brenner, supra at 152, 185 A.2d at 319. In general, orders directing interpleader are considered interlocutory. Cavallo v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 186 Pa. Superior Ct. 534, 142 A.2d 393 (1958). See Goodrich-Amram § 2306(c)-6 (1972 Supp.); 4A R. Anderson, Pennsylvania Civil Practice § 2306.17 (1972 Supp.). They are so treated because of a belief that the final, determinative order in an interpleader case is that disposing of the property in issue; and a belief that an order which the trial judge may well choose to change as the facts are developed during trial should not be considered conclusive. Winnet v. Brenner, supra. However, this Court has held that an exception to the rule treating interpleader orders as interlocutory exists in the event that such orders are "definitive and determinative of substantive rights." Fisher v. Stevens Coal Co., 136 Pa. Superior Ct. 394, 397, 7 A.2d 573, 575, allocatur refused, 136 Pa. Superior Ct. xxxi (1939). Fisher held that where it appeared on the face of a petition for interpleader, or on a rule granted on the petition, that the party seeking interpleader might have incurred dual liability with respect to claims to the funds which it desired to pay into court, an order granting interpleader -- which would have precluded recovery by both parties on their claims -- was determinative of substantive rights and could be appealed.
[ 224 Pa. Super. Page 65]
In the present case, the answer of the plaintiff to defendant's petition for interpleader admits that "W. W. Alberts [claimant] has made claims upon the Petitioner [defendant] which are inconsistent with the cause of action asserted herein by Genro, Inc. [plaintiff] against petitioner."*fn6 Consequently, it does not appear on the face of the interpleader pleadings, or on the order directing interpleader, that the defendant may have subjected itself to liability to both plaintiff and claimant, with respect to the claims as to which interpleader was sought. The Fisher exception not being applicable, the general rule prevails and the order must be classified as interlocutory. Winnet v. Brenner, supra. The propriety of interpleader under the circumstances presented in this case may be raised on an appeal from a final order disposing of the claims in question.