Appeals from the Order of Court of Common Pleas, Bucks County, Civil Division, No. 76-6085-09-5.
Charlotte Thurschwell, Plymouth, for appellants.
Hyman Lovitz, Philadelphia, for appellee.
Montemuro, Watkins and Hoffman, JJ.
[ 327 Pa. Super. Page 101]
This matter is before this court on the consolidated appeals of Vernon D. Cox and Co., Inc.; Edwin Boyer and Frank Fleming; and Neshaminy Valley Beer & Soda Center, Inc.; defendants below. Plaintiff/appellee, Village Beer and Beverage, Inc., brought this action in equity alleging that it had an exclusive lease with defendant/appellants, Boyer and Fleming, and requesting that all defendant/appellants be enjoined from entering into a separate lease which would violate the exclusivity agreement of appellee's lease. A non-jury trial was held before the
[ 327 Pa. Super. Page 102]
Honorable William H. Rufe, III, and an adjudication primarily in the nature of equitable relief, and an amended adjudication in the nature of a monetary award, were rendered.*fn1 The lower court, en banc, dismissed the exceptions of appellants,*fn2 and a final decree was entered on March 24, 1982. Timely appeals were filed from this final decree.
Our scope of review of an adjudication in equity is well established. A chancellor's findings of fact, affirmed by the court en banc, have all the force and effect of a jury's verdict and will not be disturbed on appeal if there is sufficient evidence to sustain such findings. Piercing Pagoda, Inc. v. Hoffner, 465 Pa. 500, 351 A.2d 207 (1976). This rule is particularly applicable to findings which are predicated upon the credibility of witnesses, whom the chancellor has had the opportunity to hear and observe. Herwood v. Herwood, 461 Pa. 322, 336 A.2d 306 (1975). It is equally well settled that a chancellor's conclusions, whether of law or ultimate fact, are always reviewable as they are no more than his reasoning from the underlying facts. Chambers v. Chambers, 406 Pa. 50, 176 A.2d 673 (1962).
We do not disturb the findings of fact of the chancellor, there being sufficient evidence to support them. Those findings are extensive and we paraphrase their essence: In the fall of 1975, appellee, Village Beer and Beverage, Inc., (hereinafter "Village Beer") became interested in renting space at the Village Center Shopping Center, which was then under construction in Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania. Village Beer desired to operate a beer distributor business at Village Center Shopping Center, and in order to do so, it first had to purchase a beer distributor license and then get approval of transfer of the license from the Pennsylvania
[ 327 Pa. Super. Page 103]
Liquor Control Board. The parties were aware that for one to apply for approval of a license transfer, the applicant had to have a location for his business. The Village Center Shopping Center is owned by appellants, Boyer and Fleming. Appellant, Vernon D. Cox & Co., Inc. (hereinafter "Cox & Co.") is the exclusive rental agent for the Village Center Shopping Center.
On December 18, 1975, Village Beer entered into a five year lease for rental of stores Nos. 21 and 22 in the Village Center Shopping Center. The parties stipulated that the lease was their total effective agreement, and the lease was made part of the record below. The parties to the lease ratified a handwritten change in the term of the lease, moving the commencement of the term back to February 1, 1976. The lease provides that monthly installments of rent in the amount of $1,266.66, were to be paid in advance on the first day of each month, said rent to begin on the first day of the term of the lease. The lease further provides:
7. Place of Payment. All rent shall be payable without prior notice or demand at the office of the Lessor . . . .
8. Affirmative Covenants of Lessee (a) Payment of Rent. Lessee covenants and agrees that he will without demand
(a) Pay the rent . . . at the times and at the place that the same are payable, without fail . . . .
14. Remedies of Lessor. If the lessee
(a) Does not pay in full when due any and all ...