Edith Benson, Legal Services for Northwestern Pa., Meadville, for appellants.
Douglas W. Ferguson, Meadville, for appellees.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ.
Appellants, George H. Nirmaier and Dorothy J. Nirmaier, filed a complaint in equity seeking to enforce an oral agreement with the appellees, Keith L. Hamilton and Jean A. Hamilton concerning a sixty-three acre farm on which appellants lived. The trial court denied relief and this appeal followed.
Appellees offered no testimony at trial. Based upon the testimony of appellant George H. Nirmaier, the trial court found the following. Appellants had purchased the farm which is the subject of the controversy in 1969, and have lived there continuously since that time. In 1971, appellants were financially distressed and faced a mortgage
foreclosure on their farm. A day or two before the scheduled sheriff's sale, the appellants approached the appellees for assistance and appellees agreed to "bail . . . out" the appellants until the appellants "got on their financial feet again." The parties agreed that the appellees would secure a mortgage loan of $12,500.00 for the purchase of the farm. The appellants agreed to pay all closing costs, taxes, and attorney's fees connected with the purchase. The appellants also agreed to pay all taxes, insurance, and repairs on the property and to pay the appellees $168.00 per month to cover the necessary mortgage payments. It was further agreed that when the appellants were financially able, they would assume the mortgage in their own name and, at that time, appellees would deed the property to the appellants.
Pursuant to the agreement of the parties, appellees purchased the property six days after the sheriff's sale from a third party who had purchased the property at the sheriff's sale. The appellees obtained the $12,500.00 mortgage in their name and appellants, as agreed paid all closing costs, taxes, and attorney's fees. Since that time appellants have paid the $168.00 monthly payment to the appellees and have also paid for the taxes, insurance, and repairs on the property.
In 1974, the appellees notified appellants that they had to move because the property had been sold. In fact, the property had not been sold but it had been listed for sale by the appellees with a real estate broker. Upon learning these facts, appellants filed this complaint in equity seeking to enforce the oral agreement between the parties.
The trial court denied relief concluding that the oral agreement was unenforceable because of the statute of frauds, Act of March 21, 1 Sm.L. 389, § 1, 33 P.S. § 1 (1967). Appellants contend that the oral agreement is enforceable in equity. They argue that the ...