Appeal from Order and Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Allegheny County, No. G.D. 80-5648.
Thomas M. Castello, Pittsburgh, for appellants.
Robert Palkovitz, McKeesport, for appellees.
Rowley, Wieand and Del Sole, JJ.
[ 355 Pa. Super. Page 404]
In this action involving rival claims by a brother and sister to a double house in Versailles Borough, Allegheny County, the issue is whether the trial court capriciously disregarded evidence of sufficient quantity and quality to establish a parol, inter vivos gift of real estate. We find no capricious disregard of evidence and affirm.
Peter and Mary Montrenes, husband and wife, contended in this action to quiet title that Peter's mother, Mary Montrenes, a/k/a Mary Andrikanic, had made a parol gift to them of a double house situated at Nos. 5106-5108 Oard Street, Versailles Borough, Allegheny County. The action was commenced against Peter's mother and was expanded to include, as a co-defendant, Peter's sister, Ann Bellohusen,
[ 355 Pa. Super. Page 405]
to whom the title to the property had been conveyed by deed of the mother. This deed, it was alleged, had been procured by undue influence and fraud and had also involved a forged signature. Mary, the mother, died in 1980, and the litigation continued between brother and sister to determine who had good title to the real estate.
The double home on Oard Street had been almost entirely destroyed by fire on December 26, 1945. The testimony of Peter and his wife, Mary, was that Peter's mother thereafter gave them the home on the condition that they rebuild it. With the help of others, Peter and his wife restored the two dwellings and thereafter occupied 5108 Oard Street. The other half of the double was occupied by a tenant until the mid 1950s. For the remainder of the time it was vacant. The testimony was that the mother had collected the rents for the leased dwelling, but there was conflicting testimony as to whether she had kept the rents or had turned them over to her son. Three witnesses testified that Mary, the mother, had frequently referred to the fact that she had given the home to Peter and his wife. Ann, however, testified to the contrary, i.e., that her mother had never said that the real estate had been given to Peter. Nevertheless, the evidence was clear that Peter and his family had rebuilt the double dwelling and had occupied one-half of the double home continuously thereafter. Peter and his wife had paid municipal and school taxes on the property, but his mother had paid the county taxes.
The trial court found that Peter had failed to prove a parol, inter vivos gift and denied the request to set aside the sister's deed. Exceptions were dismissed, and final judgment was entered.
[ 355 Pa. Super. Page 406]
The burden of proof in an action to quiet title is on the plaintiff. Cox's, Inc. v. Snodgrass, 372 Pa. 148, 152, 92 A.2d 540, 541-542 (1952); Grace Building Co., Inc. v. Parchinski, 78 Pa. Commw. 187, 191, 467 A.2d 94, 96 (1983). In such an action, the plaintiff can recover only on the strength of his or her own title and not upon the weakness of the defendant's title. Albert v. Lehigh Coal & Navigation Page 406} Co., 431 Pa. 600, 607, 246 A.2d 840, 843 (1968); Carratelli v. Castrodale, 185 Pa. Super. 426, 429, 137 A.2d 805, 806 (1958). Where, as here, the trial court has determined that the plaintiffs failed to meet their burden of proving title, that determination will not be reversed in the absence of an error of law or a capricious disregard of evidence. See: Piccinini v. ...