NO. 2187 Philadelphia, 1981, Appeal from the Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Civil Action, Law, No. 78-09783.
Timothy O. Nolen, Norristown, for appellants.
Rubin Mogul, Ardmore, for appellees.
Wickersham, Rowley and McEwen, JJ.
[ 312 Pa. Super. Page 196]
We here consider an appeal brought by defendants from a judgment entered in the amount of $4,487.97 against defendants and in favor of plaintiffs who had purchased from defendants a residential property in Plymouth Township, Montgomery County, in October of 1977. We affirm.*fn1
The amended complaint of the buyers, filed both in trespass and assumpsit, alleged that the sellers were aware that there were substantial and material damages to the premises and that the sellers deliberately, intentionally and deceitfully hid and concealed this damage so that it would not be ascertainable by the buyers. The complaint further alleged that as a result of the damages to the property, the buyers sustained damages for necessary repairs and replacements to the premises. The court found that the buyers proved that the sellers had taken affirmative measures to conceal structural defects in the garage wall and extensive water damage in the basement and further found that the sellers had removed a number of valuable electrical fixtures and curtain rods from the home prior to settlement.
The sellers now argue that the trial court committed error when it found that they were liable to the buyers and when it computed the amount of damages. Our appellate role is to determine whether the findings of the trial
[ 312 Pa. Super. Page 197]
court are supported by competent evidence and whether the trial court committed error in any application of the law. Brenna v. Nationwide Insurance Co., 294 Pa. Super. 564, 567, 440 A.2d 609, 611 (1982); Metz Contracting, Inc. v. Boxer Heights, Inc., 261 Pa. Super. 177, 180, 395 A.2d 1373, 1375 (1978). The findings of the trial judge in a non-jury case must be given the same weight and effect on appeal as the verdict of a jury, and the findings will not be disturbed on appeal unless predicated upon errors of law or unsupported by competent evidence in the record. Eddystone Fire Co. No. 1 v. Continental Insurance Cos., 284 Pa. Super. 260, 263, 425 A.2d 803, 804 (1981). When an appellate court reviews the findings of the trial judge, the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the victorious party below and all the evidence and proper inferences favorable to that party must be taken as true and all unfavorable inferences rejected. Brenna v. Nationwide Insurance Co., supra 294 Pa. Super. at 567-68, 440 A.2d at 611; Courts v. Campbell, 245 Pa. Super. 326, 331, 369 A.2d 425, 428 (1976).
The sellers assert that the trial court erred in its ultimate conclusion that sellers were liable to the buyers by reason of (1) a failure of that court to properly apply the parol evidence rule, and (2) the determination of the trial court that there was sufficient evidence to support a finding that the sellers had engaged in fraudulent conduct. The evidence at the trial established that approximately two and one-half months expired between the date that the agreement to purchase was executed and the date of the settlement and that the buyers inspected the house on but two occasions, first, on the day prior to the date of execution of the agreement to purchase and second, immediately preceding the settlement. The buyers on the first visit inspected both the basement and the garage, the two areas of the house where the court found that the sellers had concealed defects. Although the buyers detected a musty odor in the basement, they could not see any water stains on either the floor or walls of the basement since: (1) most of the floor was covered by a large area rug; (2) there were approximately
[ 312 Pa. Super. Page 198]
eight posters which measured 36" X 36" on the basement walls; and (3) numerous large boxes of ceiling tiles were lined along the perimeter of the basement floor. The buyers also inspected the garage on the occasion of this first visit and found it to be in a generally cluttered condition; in addition, the one wall of the garage, the back wall where a structural defect was discovered after settlement, was paneled, ...