Gregory J. Dean, R. Merle Heffner, Huntingdon, for appellants.
Henry, Corcelius, Gates & Gill, John R. Gates, Huntingdon, for appellees.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ.
This appeal challenges the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Huntingdon County, sitting in equity,
granting appellees' motion for judgment on the pleadings and dismissing appellants' action for specific performance of an alleged oral contract to sell land. The judgment was based on appellees' defense that the Statute of Frauds, Act of March 21, 1972, 33 P.S. 1, barred enforcement of any such contract. This defense was raised in appellees' answer under "new matter."
Because a motion for judgment on the pleadings is in the nature of a demurrer, the trial court must accept all of the well pleaded allegations of the party opposing the motion as true, while only those facts specifically admitted by the party opposing the motion may be considered against him. Furthermore, the court may consider only the pleadings themselves and any documents properly attached thereto in reaching its decision. In order to succeed on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the moving party's right to prevail must be so clear that "a trial would clearly be a fruitless exercise." Bata v. Central-Penn National Bank, 423 Pa. 373, 378, 224 A.2d 174, 178 (1966), cert. denied 386 U.S. 1007, 87 S.Ct. 1348, 18 L.Ed.2d 433 (1967). See also Goldman v. McShain, 432 Pa. 61, 247 A.2d 455 (1968).
With these principles in mind we look to the appellants' complaint in the instant action. The complaint alleged that on September 4, 1972, plaintiffs, William and Cecelia Keil, had entered into an oral agreement with the defendants for the purchase of a certain plot of ground located in Huntingdon County. The complaint also alleged that a mobile home located on the property was to be included in the sale. The property was to be sold for the sum of $2,500.00, and in addition, appellants were to loan appellees the sum of $1,000.00. Sometime after September 4, 1972, according to the complaint, appellees arranged for appellants to pick up the deed to the property and the title certificate for the mobile home from a third party in order that appellants might have the title searched, a new deed drafted, and a certificate of title to
the mobile home completed prior to settlement. Appellants thereafter caused the title search to be made and caused the deed to be drafted conveying the property from appellees to appellants.
The complaint also alleged that on September 23, 1972, appellants gave the deed to appellees in order that it might be executed prior to settlement, and that thereafter appellants were informed that the deed had in fact been executed by appellees. Financial arrangements were made by appellants so that the purchase price could be paid, and a note to be executed by appellees at the time the settlement was drafted guaranteeing payment of the proposed $1,000.00 loan. Appellees were notified that settlement on the proposed sale of the property was to be held on October 18, 1972, in the office of the appellants' attorney. Sometime thereafter appellants were informed by appellees that appellees had entered ...