Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in case of Averell Daniell v. Leo Sochacky, No. 3550 October Term, 1968.
Robert S. Englesberg, Assistant Attorney General, with him Robert P. Kane, Attorney General, for appellant.
Robert B. Truel, with him John R. Bowman, for appellee.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Kramer.
[ 20 Pa. Commw. Page 218]
This is an appeal filed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Public Welfare (DPW) from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County denying DPW's request for $7,656.44 retained by the Sheriff of Allegheny County from the proceeds of a Sheriff's sale of real estate of one Leo Sochacky (Sochacky).
It was stipulated between DPW and Sochacky that the factual narrations contained in the opinion of the court below are accurate, and we, therefore, adopt them for the purpose of this appeal. The procedural aspects of what transpired between the various parties involved in the claims, pleadings, judgments, executions, and sales are complicated, but for the purpose of this opinion we relate only certain pertinent facts.
On June 4, 1968, one John Belitskus entered a judgment by confession against Sochacky in the sum of $6,979.70. There followed a sheriff's sale of the real estate owned by Sochacky upon execution on that judgment. On July 5, 1968, the property was exposed for public sale by the Sheriff of Allegheny County and purchased by Averell E. Daniell*fn1 for $50,000. On August 15, 1968, a deed purporting to convey the property of Sochacky to Daniell was recorded in the Recorder of Deeds Office of Allegheny County. Despite the sale, Sochacky remained in possession of the land, and on September 19, 1968, Daniell commenced an action to quiet title against Sochacky. A jury trial was held in which the court directed a verdict in favor of Sochacky
[ 20 Pa. Commw. Page 219]
on the grounds that the sale of the real estate was not in conformity with the law. No appeal was taken from that determination. There then followed certain procedural maneuvers under which the property was for a second time made subject to a sheriff's sale on October 1, 1973, in conformance with a court decree. In this second sale the real estate was bid in by C.F. & J., Inc. for $74,664. Of this amount, $24,345.36 has been and is now being held by the Sheriff in the name of Sochacky.
For the period September 9, 1968, through October 9, 1973, Sochacky had received public assistance benefits from DPW in the amount of $7,656.44. Upon being apprised of the existence of the funds being held in Sochacky's name by the Sheriff of Allegheny County, DPW filed a petition on October 23, 1973, in which it requested a rule on Sochacky to show cause why DPW should not be substituted for his rights to the extent of the public assistance benefits paid to him. DPW's claim had been reduced to judgment. DPW made its claim under sections 4 and 5 of the Support Law, Act of June 24, 1937, P.L. 2045, as amended, 62 P.S. §§ 1974 and 1975. Sochacky was duly served, but he did not attend the hearing scheduled for December 3, 1973, nor did he file an answer to DPW's petition. The hearing was restricted to the proof of the claim under the judgment, and the only evidence offered was by DPW. No question was raised at the hearing by anyone, including the hearing judge, on any of the matters which had transpired either procedurally or on the merits prior to the claim by the Commonwealth.
On May 7, 1974 the court below filed an opinion and order in which the court examined the entire procedural matter, as a result of which it concluded that the prior orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County were erroneous and the Sheriff's sales were thereby defective. As a result, the lower ...