No. 81-1-74, Appeal from the Superior Court of Pennsylvania at No. 313, Pittsburgh, 1980, Affirming in part, Reversing in part, and Modifying in part the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County, Pennsylvania at No. 54-E-1975, Civil Division.
Eugene J. Brew, Jr., Erie, for appellant.
Gary V. Skiba, Colussi, Yochim, Skiba & Vogel, Erie, for appellee.
O'Brien, C.j., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott and Hutchinson, JJ. Roberts, J., filed a concurring opinion.
In January 1974, appellant Gail Malanecki, and appellee, William Banko, began living together in Malanecki's home. Banko then moved some new and used furniture valued at $4,000 into Malanecki's home. Banko also satisfied Malanecki's outstanding car loan and house mortgage.*fn1 On April 26, 1974, Banko deposited $3,300 into a joint bank account. The deposit contract with the bank was signed by Banko and Malanecki as husband and wife.*fn2 Banko made two more deposits in this account totaling $1,900. In July, 1974, the relationship ended. After Banko departed, Malanecki withdrew all of the funds in the bank account for her own benefit and retained possession of the furniture placed in her home by Banko.
On May 29, 1975, Banko filed a complaint in equity in which he sought reimbursement for the following: the money that he deposited in the joint bank account; the money he expended to satisfy Malanecki's debts; and the furniture that he put in Malanecki's home. On February 11, 1980, the chancellor ordered that Malanecki return one-half the money deposited in the joint bank account to Banko. The chancellor further ordered that Malanecki return one-half the furniture or one-half its value to Banko plus interest from July 1974.*fn3 On March 31, 1980, the equity court en banc denied the exceptions filed by both parties, and Banko filed a direct appeal to the Superior Court. The Superior Court reversed the chancellor's order concerning the bank account and awarded Banko the full amount of money that he deposited. Further, the Superior Court affirmed the chancellor's decision concerning the furniture but modified the award to
reflect that Banko is entitled to one-half the value of the furniture plus interest from July, 1974. Banko v. Malanecki, 291 Pa. Super. 11, 435 A.2d 194 (1981). This Court granted Malanecki's petition for allowance of appeal on December 2, 1981.
The first issue raised in this appeal is whether Banko made a gift to Malanecki of a joint interest in the bank account. The Superior Court held that Banko did not make such a gift to Malanecki because a confidential relationship existed between them. We disagree.
When two parties sign a contract with a bank that creates a joint interest in a bank account with the right of survivorship, there is prima facie evidence of the intent of the party funding the account to make an inter vivos gift to the other joint tenant. Estate of Gladowski, 483 Pa. 258, 396 A.2d 631 (1979). In this case, Malanecki and Banko signed a contract with the bank that created a joint interest in the account with the right of survivorship,*fn4 and this bank account was funded entirely by Banko. Consequently, prima facie evidence exists that Banko intended to make an inter vivos gift to Malanecki of a joint interest in the bank account.
Once prima facie evidence of a gift is established, a presumption arises that the gift is valid, and the burden is then on the contestant to rebut the presumption by clear, precise and convincing evidence. Estate of Clark, 467 Pa. 628, 359 A.2d 777 (1976). The presumption is rebutted if it is established that a confidential relationship existed ...