No. 431 January Term, 1976, Appeal from Decree entered March 25, 1976 by the Orphans' Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, No. 68625 Refusing to Vacate Decree or Permit the Filing of Exceptions
Joseph E. Lastowka, Jr., Glen Mills, Wm. C. Archbold, Jr., West Chester, for appellant.
Philip D. Weiss, Norristown, for appellee, Inez M. Banes.
Jules Pearlstine, Lansdale, for appellees, Edward F. Banes, Helen B. Harclerode, Robert C. Banes.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Manderino and Larsen, JJ. Nix, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. Roberts, J., filed an Opinion in Support of Affirmance in which O'Brien, J., joined. Eagen, C. J., would affirm the decree of the Orphans' Court. Manderino, J., filed an Opinion in Support of Reversal in which Larsen, J., joined. Pomeroy, J., would reverse the decree of the Orphans' Court.
The Court being equally divided, the decree of the Orphans' Court is affirmed. Each party pay own costs.
Opinion IN SUPPORT OF AFFIRMANCE
Appellant, Shell Oil Company, seeks to carve out an unwarranted, special exception to the doctrine of res judicata and principles of waiver and finality, contending that the Orphans' Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County erred in refusing to allow Shell Oil to
relitigate its claim of reimbursement for its reconveyance of property to the estate of J. Walter Banes, even though Shell Oil years ago had every opportunity to raise that claim in prior proceedings finally adjudicated by this Court in 1975 but failed to do so. I believe the orphans' court properly refused to vacate its decree or permit filing of exceptions and should be affirmed.
In Estate of Banes, 452 Pa. 388, 305 A.2d 723 (1973) (Banes I), the orphans' court in 1972 held that decedent's will authorized the trustee-executrix's sale of estate property to Shell Oil. Accordingly, the orphans' court never addressed Shell Oil's new matter requesting reimbursement in the event that the court found the conveyance unlawful. Concluding that the orphans' court erred in interpreting decedent's will, this Court in 1973 reversed the decree of the orphans' court and remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Banes I decided only the invalidity of conveyance to Shell Oil. The orphans' court was obliged to apply this "law of the case" in subsequent proceedings. Commonwealth v. Romberger, 474 Pa. 190, 378 A.2d 283 (1977); Haefele v. Davis, 380 Pa. 94, 110 A.2d 233 (1955); In re Vacation of Melon St., 192 Pa. 331, 43 A. 1013 (1899); see James & Hazard, Civil Procedure ...