Appeal from the Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, Schuylkill County, No. S-6 7-1980, dated February 18, 1986.
Mark Barket, Pottsville, for appellant.
McEwen, Del Sole and Tamilia, JJ.
[ 362 Pa. Super. Page 386]
The Appellees, Andrew and Evelyn Panko, husband and wife, and their son, Nicholas Panko, brought this action in equity to enforce specific performance of a land sale agreement. The chancellor entered a decree which ordered the Appellant Vincent Alessi to convey his interest in the land at issue, with the exception of a parcel he owns jointly with his wife, who did not sign the agreement of sale.
The parties have been friends for most of their lives. The Pankos, father and son, are regular customers in Mr. Alessi's gun shop. It was at the gun shop on May 23, 1975, that the parties executed an agreement of sale, whereby Mr. Alessi agreed to sell a plot of land known as "Diener's Hill" to the Pankos for $2,000. Andrew Panko gave Vincent Alessi a $500 down payment. Mr. Alessi subsequently refused to complete the transaction*fn1 and after repeated attempts to resolve the matter failed, the Pankos filed suit. When the chancellor found for the Pankos, Mr. Alessi filed this appeal.
Appellate review of equity matters is limited to a determination of whether the chancellor committed an error of law or an abuse of discretion. The scope of review of a final decree is limited and will not be disturbed unless it is unsupported by the evidence or is demonstrably capricious. Rosen v. Rittenhouse Towers, 334 Pa. Super. 124, 482 A.2d 1113 (1984).
The first argument raised by the Appellant is that the Statute of Frauds was not complied with because the Appellees' evidence of an agreement of sale was a carbon copy. The document in question is an agreement whereby Vincent P. Alessi agrees to sell a specified parcel of land to Andrew, Evelyn and Nicholas Panko for $2,000 and acknowledges
[ 362 Pa. Super. Page 387]
the receipt of $500 as 25% of the payment. The agreement states that time is of the essence and that closing will take place as soon as the Buyers' attorney completes the title search and paper work. Both the typewritten text and the signatures are in carbon. The Pankos offered the carbon copy into evidence because the Appellant was in possession of the original and failed to produce it for trial. The Appellant argues it was error for the trial court to order specific performance when the agreement of sale lacks the original signature of the vendor.
This issue raised by the Appellant calls for a discussion of the original document rule. That rule provides that in proving the terms of a writing, where the terms are material, the original writing must be produced unless it is shown to be unavailable for some reason other than the serious fault of the proponent. MCCORMICK ON EVIDENCE, § 230, (3d ed. 1984). In this case the original document was unavailable to the proponents of the evidence because it was in the hands of their adversary. Secondary evidence, such as a carbon copy, may be admitted by the trial court in these circumstances. The proponent must prove that (1) the original is in the hands of the adversary and (2) the proponent has given notice to produce the document at trial and it has not been produced. MCCORMICK, § 239; see also Estate of Reuss, 422 Pa. 58, 61, 220 A.2d 822 (1966).
The chancellor in this case heard testimony from the Appellees that this was a carbon copy of the original agreement of sale, and that the original was in the hands of Mr. Alessi. The chancellor chose to believe this testimony. The record supports the Appellees' testimony that they sought to have Mr. Alessi bring the original to trial. Having heard the testimony, the chancellor admitted the document into evidence and found that the parties had entered into a sales contract on May 23, 1975. The admission of secondary evidence should not ...