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FLORENCE A. TODD KNAUER v. LEWIS E. KNAUER (12/16/83)

filed: December 16, 1983.

FLORENCE A. TODD KNAUER, A/K/A FLORENCE A. TODD, APPELLEE
v.
LEWIS E. KNAUER, JR., APPELLANT



No. 1918 Philadelphia, 1982, Appeal from the Order entered May 25, 1982 In the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, Civil Division, No. 79-5091.

COUNSEL

Edward J. Carney, Jr., Media, for appellant.

Rodger L. Mutzel, Media, for appellee.

Cercone, President Judge, and McEwen and Hoffman, JJ.

Author: Cercone

[ 323 Pa. Super. Page 209]

Defendant-appellant, Lewis E. Knauer, Jr., takes this appeal from the jury verdict and accompanying order and judgment of the court, awarding plaintiff-appellee, Florence A. Todd a/k/a Florence A. Todd Knauer, the sum of $30,000.00 in her action in assumpsit. Appellant raises numerous issues in his appeal. Finding these issues to have no merit, we affirm.

[ 323 Pa. Super. Page 210]

Appellee and appellant first met in 1969 when appellant, a building contractor, was hired to build a home for appellee and her first husband, Robert Todd. At that time, appellee was living with her husband and two teenaged children in Swarthmore, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, while appellant and his first wife, Pearl, and their four children lived in Upper Chichester, also in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Gradually, the parties fell in love and in the summer of 1971 both parties separated from their respective spouses. A year passed, and in the summer of 1972 appellant began work on the construction of an apartment building in Dover, Delaware. Then, in August of 1972, appellant, tired of commuting from Pennsylvania to Delaware, decided to take up residence in Delaware. According to the testimony of appellee, it was at this time that appellant said to appellee:

[Y]ou come with me. I will take care of you the rest of your life. We will share everything together. And at the end of one year, if we are still compatible, we would plan to marry.

Appellant denies ever making such a statement. Appellant contends that appellee announced that she was moving in to live with appellant in Delaware which she did on October 15, 1972. Once in Delaware, appellee began working as a waitress. At trial appellant testified the parties didn't discuss expenses before they moved, and he further stated:

I assumed when Florence [appellee] went down there, she would at least be able to carry her own. I assumed that I wasn't taking on a liability or a dependent. I assumed we were going down there and just coexist.

In any event, appellee did not make very much money as a waitress, so the parties then decided she should quit her job, which she did, and she then went to work for appellant's corporation, known as Lekco, Inc., a Pennsylvania corporation. Appellee was employed in a supervisory capacity with Lekco and her duties were to oversee the various subcontractors at a new construction project begun by appellant on Governor's Avenue in Dover, Delaware. According to appellee's testimony, before appellant began

[ 323 Pa. Super. Page 211]

    the new project, he brought appellee to see the property and told her that he would like to build two duplexes on the two lots. He asked appellee to quit her waitress job and oversee the construction of the duplexes. In exchange, appellant promised to pay appellee a salary of $200.00 per week, gross pay, ($150.00 net pay) plus he would give her a share of the profits from the sale of the units. Appellee agreed. According to appellee, in addition to going to the construction site and overseeing the work of the subcontractors, appellee also assumed the office of secretary of the corporation and was responsible for keeping the books and records. However, while appellant admitted at trial that appellee worked for Lekco, Inc., he denied either that he promised appellee a share in the profits or that appellee became an officer in the corporation. All this time appellant and appellee lived together. Thereafter, each of the four units was sold at a price of $21,900.00. Another tract of land was purchased and the corporation began construction of five more duplexes (10 more units). During this time, appellee's work for Lekco continued. Also, while the parties were living together, appellee did all of the shopping, cooking, cleaning, and household duties.

Then, in spring of 1974, appellant announced that he was going back to his wife, Pearl. However, before he left, he wrote the following will:

To Whom It May Concern: In the event of accidental and/or natural death of Lewis E. Knauer, Jr., president of Lekco, Inc., a Pennsylvania corporation, the then existing assets and liabilities and land, improvements, equipment and stock of the company, Lekco, Incorporation, shall be immediately transferred to Miss Florence A. Todd, a single woman, who shall then be the sole owner of Lekco, Incorporated, and who shall continue or terminate its existence as she may decide is in her best interest.

This has been written with a free mind and without reservation and shall remain in effect until such time as I personally revise or terminate its existence. Such revisions

[ 323 Pa. Super. Page 212]

    or terminations shall be recorded in the company minutes.

After an absence of three weeks, appellant returned to appellee. Appellee testified that when appellant returned he made these declarations:

When he [appellant] came back he told me that he did what he thought he had to do. But there was no way that he could go back to Pennsylvania, that he loved me very much. And he had to come back to me. And this is where he wanted to be, to share life with me and to share everything we had together. And now it was time for us to get a home.

Whereupon, the parties began living together and went looking for a lot upon which to build a house.

But despite their apparently amicable personal relationship, the parties thereafter had disagreements at work, and in August of 1974 appellee was laid-off from Lekco, Inc., although she continued to be called upon on occasions to work on the books. Notwithstanding this turn of events, the parties continued their search for a house and in the winter of 1974 they purchased a site in Cecil County, Maryland. Both appellant and appellee signed the agreement of sale, however, afterwards appellant asked appellee to sign a separate agreement transferring her interests in the property to appellant. When appellee asked for an explanation, appellant said "because of tax reasons and business purposes." Appellee agreed, and both parties signed the following document:

THIS AGREEMENT made this 27th day of December, 1974, by and between LEWIS E. KNAUER, JR., Party of the First Part, and FLORENCE A. TODD, Party of the Second Part.

IN CONSIDERATION of the party of the second part assigning her interest in the Lot which the parties agreed to purchase from Harlan S. Young to the party of the first part. The parties agree that should either party die before the property is titled in joint names, that the

[ 323 Pa. Super. Page 213]

    survivor's interest shall be the net equity in the property as of the date of death.

It is the intent of the parties hereto that the party of the first part upon the preparation of a partnership agreement or similar arrangement will transfer this property unto both parties names hereto. This property will be subject to a Note and Mortgage with the Bank of Delaware and eventually to a regular mortgage with a standard amortization.

Appellee testified that she invested no money into this property and did not sign a mortgage nor made any mortgage payments. Eventually, a house was constructed on the property, at a cost of $146,058.00. When it was sold, the house only brought $130,000.00.

Then in August of 1978, appellant decided to buy two undeveloped lots on Amosland Avenue in Prospect Park, Pennsylvania. Appellee lent appellant $9,200.00 towards the purchase price. When appellant said that he would repay appellee, appellee replied, "I don't need your money to pay me back with interest. This is my part of sharing with you." Appellant answered, "Okay, fine. We will share this as we have done other things."

On March 2, 1979, appellant terminated the relationship with appellee and left the parties' home in Maryland. Appellant then married another woman, and brought his new wife with him when he returned to the Maryland house in April of 1979. Appellee was still in the house at the time, but she vacated the premises in May of 1979.

I.

The first issue which appellant raises is a choice of law question. Appellant asserts that the lower court erred when it applied the law of Pennsylvania, rather than the law of Maryland, to the instant case. The rule to be applied to choice-of-law issues is set forth by our Supreme Court in Griffith v. United Air Lines, Inc., 416 Pa. 1, 203 A.2d 796 (1964). In an exhaustive discussion on the subject, the

[ 323 Pa. Super. Page 214]

(c) the relevant policies of other interested states and the relative interests of those states in the determination of the particular issue,

(d) the protection of justified expectations,

(e) the basic policies underlying the particular ...


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