No. 2546 October Term, 1979, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Philadelphia County, April Term, 1978, No. 4779.
Lee A. Solomon, Philadelphia, for appellants.
Barnett Satinsky, Philadelphia, for appellees.
Price, Watkins and Montgomery, JJ.
[ 289 Pa. Super. Page 325]
This appeal arises from an order of the trial court which affirmed a Decree Nisi, entered a Final Decree, and dismissed a complaint in equity. The Plaintiff-Appellants instituted this equity action to compel the imposition of either a constructive trust or a resulting trust on certain property which they had earlier transferred to the Defendant-Appellees, their daughter and son-in-law. The Plaintiff-Appellants, David Sorokin and Rose Sorokin (hereinafter referred to as the "Sorokins") alleged that prior to the conveyance of
[ 289 Pa. Super. Page 326]
the property in issue, the Defendant-Appellees, Harriet Paula Krasner and Martin Krasner (hereinafter referred to as the "Krasners"), expressly agreed to hold the property in trust for the benefit of the Sorokins. The Krasners denied any such agreement or that there was any condition attached to the transfer of the property. The lower court judge, sitting as a Chancellor in equity, held hearings and received a large volume of evidence in the matter. Subsequently, he issued a Memorandum setting forth findings of fact, discussion, and conclusions of law, and entered a Decree Nisi dismissing the Complaint.*fn1 After the filing of exceptions by the Sorokins, and argument thereon, the lower court judge issued a Final Decree dismissing the exceptions, and filed an opinion in support of its actions.*fn2
The lower court resolved the case on the basis of findings which credited the Krasners' testimony and evidence, rather than that offered by the Sorokins. On this appeal, the Sorokins contend that the lower court erred in resolving issues of credibility, and that the conclusions of the lower
[ 289 Pa. Super. Page 327]
court were not adequately supported by the record, and were based upon an incorrect interpretation of the law.
The scope of review of an appellate court in the consideration of an appeal from a final decree in an equity action is well established. A Chancellor's findings of fact, approved by the court en banc, are entitled to the weight of a jury's verdict and will not be reversed on appeal if supported by adequate evidence. See McDole v. Duquesne Brewing Co. of Pittsburgh, 281 Pa. Super. 78, 83, 421 A.2d 1155, 1158 (1980), and cases cited therein. The Chancellor's findings are afforded particular weight in cases in which the credibility of witnesses must be evaluated, as the Chancellor has had the opportunity to hear their actual testimony and to observe their demeanor on the witness stand. See Fascione v. Fascione, 272 Pa. Super. 530, 416 A.2d 1023 (1979). We should not reverse on appeal unless it is evident that the lower court abused its discretion, lacked evidentiary support for its findings, or was capricious in its disbelief of evidence submitted. See Davis v. Buckham, 280 Pa. Super. 106, 421 A.2d 427 (1980); Commonwealth ex rel. Powelson v. Powelson, 277 Pa. Super. 220, 222, 419 A.2d 741, 742 (1980). The same principles apply when a single judge, rather than a court en banc, reviews the case. Gilmore v. Northeast Dodge Co., Inc., 278 Pa. Super. 209, 420 A.2d 504 (1980). Therefore, we must examine the evidence of record in the instant case to determine whether any basis exists for a reversal of the lower court's findings and conclusions.
The record discloses that in the early 1970's Martin Krasner was employed by the Sorokins, at the request of their daughter, Harriet Krasner, in the Sorokin's surgical appliance business, which was located at 130 South 11th Street in Philadelphia. During this time Martin Krasner was trained by the Sorokins and he attended various trade seminars to learn the business. Martin Krasner worked as a salesman in the business and received pay from the Sorokins. In December, 1973, the Sorokins conveyed ...