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JAMES L. RANKIN v. CHESTER-UPLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT (12/13/73)

decided: December 13, 1973.

JAMES L. RANKIN, APPELLANT,
v.
CHESTER-UPLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT, ABBOTT W. THOMPSON ASSOCIATES, AND ABBOTT W. THOMPSON, INDIVIDUALLY, APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County in case of James L. Rankin v. Chester Upland School District, Abbott W. Thompson Associates and Abbott W. Thompson, individually, No. 2935 of 1973.

COUNSEL

Edward M. Seletz, for appellant.

Melvin G. Levy, with him Levy and Levy, for appellees, Abbott W. Thompson Associates and Abbott W. Thompson.

Clement J. McGovern, Jr., with him Leo A. Hackett and Fronefield, deFuria and Petrikin, for appellee, Chester-Upland School District.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Kramer.

Author: Kramer

[ 11 Pa. Commw. Page 234]

This is an appeal filed by James L. Rankin (Rankin) from an Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County dated April 27, 1973, wherein the preliminary objections of Chester-Upland School District (School District), Abbott W. Thompson Associates (Associates), and Abbott W. Thompson, individually (Thompson) were sustained on the basis of the lower court's holding that it lacked jurisdiction. The lower court's Order also dismissed Rankin's complaint, as well as the remaining preliminary objections.

From the record which was transmitted to this Court by the lower court, the subject matter of the case before the lower court is clear; however, the procedural aspects of the case are confusing. On June 19, 1972, the Board of the School District passed a resolution authorizing the execution of a contract between the School District and "Abbott W. Thompson, Architect, in the form presented at this meeting and outlined on AIA Document B231, Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Architect, effective July 1, 1972." On July 1, 1972, the School District signed a contract with "Abbott W. Thompson Associates." The agreement was signed by representatives of the School District and "Abbott W. Thompson" designated on the printed form as "Architect."

On March 26, 1973, Rankin filed a class action suit in equity against the three-named appellees in this case seeking (1) to have the contract declared void from its inception; (2) to restrain the School District from making any further payments to Thompson Associates and Thompson; (3) to obtain judgment against the three appellees in a sum sufficient to restore all payments

[ 11 Pa. Commw. Page 235]

    illegally paid. On April 12, 1973, the three appellees filed preliminary objections. On April 16, 1973, argument was held before the President Judge and Administrative Judge of the lower court sitting as the court en banc. On April 19, 1973, pursuant to Rule 1028(c) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure, Rankin filed an amended complaint. It is at this point in the record where the procedure becomes confused, for on April 27, 1973, the lower court filed an Opinion and Order stating that the case was before the court en banc above-described; however noting on its Order that three judges of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County dissented. On April 30, 1973, Rankin filed exceptions to the lower court's Opinion and Order. Finally on May 9, 1973, one of the three judges noted on the lower court's Order as dissenting filed a written dissent. The record does not establish how the three dissenting judges became involved in the decision of the lower court although one of the briefs filed in this Court alludes to a memorandum of the President Judge to the twelve judges of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County noting the dissents of two judges of the lower court. Later, the President Judge informed the judges of that court of a third dissent. Exactly how all of the judges of Common Pleas of Delaware County became involved in the decision of the two-judge court en banc is not explained. How the three dissenting judges or the remaining seven judges of the court became involved in that decision is not explained. To add to the confusion, there is no explanation on what happened to the exceptions which were filed. In any event because of the disposition of this case before this Court, as hereinafter noted, these unexplained procedural puzzles need not be answered.

In an attempt to understand the four-count complaint, we believe the following is a fair description of the appellant's ...


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