No. 1584 Philadelphia, 1982, Appeal from the Decree of April 28, 1982 in the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division of Philadelphia County at No. 2343 January Term, 1968.
Robert J. Kupits, Doylestown, for appellants.
Aaron C.F. Finkbiner, III, Philadelphia, for appellees.
Cavanaugh, McEwen and Cirillo, JJ.
This case comes to us on appeal from the Final Decree of April 28, 1982, dismissing appellant's Exceptions to the Order of June 16, 1981*fn1 and denying appellant's Petition for Specific Performance.
Appellants, executors of the estate of the decedent, Ibrahim Kazanjian, (one of the parties to the alleged settlement agreement at issue herein), sued in equity to compel specific performance of an alleged oral settlement agreement entered into by the expressly authorized counsel of Kazanjian and appellees. In their exceptions to the Order of June 16, 1981, appellants contest the factual determination that the parties did not intend to be bound by any settlement agreement until it was reduced to writing, and the consequent legal conclusion that there was no legally binding agreement created by the oral agreement of the parties' counsel. The lower court found that appellants' exceptions had no merit, and thus entered the Final Decree of April 28, 1982, dismissing said exceptions and denying appellant's Petition for Specific Performance. We reverse.
The chancellor found that the parties to the oral settlement agreement did not intend to be legally bound until the agreement was reduced to writing and executed by both parties. He therefore concluded that the oral settlement
agreement was unenforceable. The sole issue raised on appeal is whether the chancellor's findings of fact were supported by competent evidence or whether his conclusion was unreasonable, an abuse of discretion or contrary to the law.
The appellate courts of Pennsylvania have consistently held that the scope of review of equity matters is limited and the chancellor's findings of fact will not be disturbed unless they are unsupported by adequate evidence. The chancellor's conclusion, being his reasoning from the facts, is reviewable, but only to determine whether or not the conclusion is reasonable, not contrary to law and not an abuse of discretion. Krosnar v. Schmidt Krosnar McNaughton Garrett Co., 282 Pa. Super. 526, 423 A.2d 370 (1980). See, e.g., Sack v. Feinman, 489 Pa. 152, 413 A.2d 1059 (1980); Curtis v. Redevelopment Authority of City of Philadelphia, 482 Pa. 58, 393 A.2d 377 (1978); Felmlee v. Lockett, 466 Pa. 1, 351 A.2d 273 (1976); In re Thomas' Estate, 463 Pa. 284, 344 A.2d 834 (1975).
This appeal evolves from a long and detailed history, most of which is not relevant for appellate review of the instant issue. The pertinent and undisputed chronology of events in the record may be summarized as follows.
Ibrahim Kazanjian originally brought an equity action against the defendants-appellees in 1968, alleging that they had wrongfully deprived him of his interests and proceeds in a Libyan oil concession. After a protracted series of legal proceedings, and an aborted settlement attempt in 1977, Kazanjian's counsel, Burton Spear, withdrew from the case in September 1977, but reentered it about a month later when Kazanjian contacted Spear and communicated a desire to settle the case. Spear then agreed to re-enter the case on the express stipulation that he would be authorized to negotiate and settle the matter.
In October, 1977, Kazanjian wrote Judge McDevitt, who had presided over all the proceedings in this matter since October, 1968, advising him that he authorized Spear to
achieve a settlement on his behalf. In November, 1977, Spear wrote Kazanjian setting forth specific terms of settlement that he proposed to negotiate with appellees' counsel, Matthew Broderick. Spear then contacted Broderick, told him of Kazanjian's desire to settle and proposed the aforementioned terms of settlement. Broderick refused this proposal and Spear then prepared a revised proposal in accordance with Broderick's willingness to renegotiate a settlement. Spear and Broderick orally agreed to these terms*fn2 with the exception of the amount of cash that would be paid by appellees to Kazanjian. Spear communicated the proposed terms to Kazanjian and relayed that appellees were willing to pay him $75,000 cash as part of the settlement agreement. Kazanjian then asked Spear to try to get $80,000 instead of $75,000. This counter offer of the cash term was communicated to Broderick, and in January, 1978, Broderick phoned Spear and told him that the $80,000 figure was agreeable to his clients as well as all additional terms remaining as discussed on November 12, 1977. ...