Appeal from the Order entered November 1, 1976, of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Civil Division at No. 743 July Term, 1974.
Michael J. Seymour, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
John Sughrue and Samuel R. Sciullo, Pittsburgh, submitted a brief for appellee.
Watkins, President Judge, and Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price and Spaeth, JJ. Van der Voort, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. Spaeth, J., concurs in the result. Price, J., dissents.
[ 249 Pa. Super. Page 90]
Appellant contends that the lower court erred in refusing to impress a constructive trust on residential property which she had transferred to her sister and brother-in-law. We affirm the decree of the lower court.
Spiridon P. Bubush and Marie P. Bubush, appellant's parents, owned a dwelling house at 353 Semple Street, Oakland, Pittsburgh. The Bubushes raised their two daughters at this site. In 1969, Spiridon Bubush died, and in 1970, Marie Bubush died. Appellant and her older sister inherited the property and became tenants in common of the family
[ 249 Pa. Super. Page 91]
home. At the time of Mrs. Bubush's death, appellant's daughter and family lived in the home. In May, 1971, appellant's daughter and family moved out of the house, and in July 1971, appellant's sister and brother-in-law, Alice and Michael Metrovich, moved into the house. On July 20, 1971, appellant conveyed her undivided one-half interest in the property to her sister and brother-in-law in fee simple for a consideration of $1.00 and love and affection. On July 30, 1971, the Metroviches recorded the transaction. When Alice Metrovich died on April 4, 1974, her husband became the sole title-holder to the Semple Street property.
On October 18, 1974, appellant filed a complaint which requested that the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas, sitting in equity, declare and enforce a constructive trust on the Semple Street property against Michael Metrovich.*fn1 The complaint alleged that appellant transferred the property to her sister and brother-in-law because of an express understanding between the parties that when the Metroviches died, appellant would regain her interest in the family property. She allegedly made the transfer in order to alleviate marital strife between the Metroviches. The complaint also alleged that Michael Metrovich was attempting to sell the Semple Street property in violation of the express understanding.
On June 23, 1975, trial commenced. Appellant testified*fn2 as follows: she and her sister had always shared a very close relationship. They loved and trusted each other and went everywhere together. Appellant asserted that: ". . . I was the baby of the family, and I was treated as a baby all
[ 249 Pa. Super. Page 92]
the time. And I did what [my mother and sister] would tell me to do." Appellant was, in fact, seven years younger than her sister. The Metroviches had a stormy marriage because of Mr. Metrovich's drinking problem and abusive behavior. Her sister begged appellant to transfer her undivided one-half interest in the family home so that Mr. Metrovich would stop his cruel behavior. Appellant asked for an assurance that she, or her daughter in the event of appellant's untimely demise, would recover the property upon the death of both Metroviches;*fn3 Mr. and Mrs. Metrovich gave her the requested assurance orally. After deliberating for sixteen months, appellant decided to make the transfer. She engaged an attorney and transferred the property in fee simple to her sister and brother-in-law.*fn4 The deed stated a consideration of $1.00 and love and affection. Appellant never informed her attorney that she really wanted to transfer a life estate.
Appellant introduced two documentary exhibits into evidence. Appellant stated that she found these documents when her sister, just before she died, told her to remove a strongbox from the Semple Street ...