Appeal from the final decree of June 27, 1988, of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Allegheny County, No. GD87-15446.
James F. Grenen, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
Christopher J. Richardson, Pittsburgh, for Pittsburgh Nat. Bank, Participating Party.
Rowley, Kelly and Hester, JJ.
[ 385 Pa. Super. Page 538]
This is an appeal by Equibank, from a final decree of distribution of proceeds from a sheriff's sale awarding the proceeds to appellee, Pittsburgh National Bank (PNB). Both Equibank and PNB had obtained independent judgments against defendants Philip and Patricia Joyce, Equibank's having been obtained first in time. PNB has never commenced any execution proceedings against the Joyces to obtain satisfaction of its judgment. Equibank, on the other hand, was the successful bidder (for costs alone) on property being sold on January 9, 1987, with regard to its judgment against the Joyces. However, before taking legal title to the property on which it successfully bid, Equibank assigned its interest in the property to Clinical Pathology Facility, Inc. (Clinical Pathology) for $125,000. On March 12, 1987, the sheriff's deed conveying the property to Clinical Pathology was recorded. No petition for deficiency judgment has ever been filed by Equibank.
In the present case, Reliable Savings and Loan Association of Bridgeville foreclosed on the mortgage on the home of the Joyces. At issue in the present case is the distribution of the proceeds from the sale of the Joyces' home. The sheriff proposed distribution of the assets of the sale of the property to PNB. Equibank filed exceptions to the proposed schedule of distribution on the basis that its judgment
[ 385 Pa. Super. Page 539]
against the Joyces has priority over PNB's because it was prior in time. The trial court denied the exceptions on the theory, asserted by PNB in its response to Equibank's exceptions, that Equibank's judgment against the Joyces was deemed to be satisfied as a matter of law when the six month period for filing a petition for deficiency judgment under 42 Pa.C.S. § 5522(b) had expired following its successful, January 9, 1987, bid against property of the Joyces, and no petition had been filed. This appeal followed.
The primary argument raised by Equibank is that the requirements of the Deficiency Judgment Act, 42 Pa.C.S. § 8103 et seq. are inapplicable to it because the Act applies only to purchasers at a sheriff's sale, and it was not a purchaser but only a successful bidder which, before taking either legal or equitable title to the property, assigned its successful bid to a third party. We agree with the trial court's discussion of and conclusion that Western Flour Co. v. Alosi, 216 Pa. Super. 341, 264 A.2d 413 (1970), supports the rule that even a successful bidder at a sheriff's sale who assigns his right to possession of property to a third party must comply with the Deficiency Judgment Act. See trial court opinion p. 9 footnote 9.
We do not agree with Equibank's assertion that because of the procedural rules unique to sheriff's sales in Allegheny County, Equibank cannot be labelled the "purchaser" from the moment the sheriff "knocked down" the property like the assignor in Western Flour was characterized. Appellant argues that a successful bidder at a sheriff's sale in Allegheny County does not obtain equitable title to the property and therefore does not obtain the right to sell the property until it pays to the sheriff the amount of its bid before the first Monday of the month following the sale. Because Equibank assigned its right to the successful bid to Clinical Pathology without ever paying the amount of its bid to the sheriff's office, and because the sheriff gave Clinical Pathology the deed to the property, Equibank claims that it never had legal or equitable title to the property and therefore cannot be considered the purchaser.
[ 385 Pa. Super. Page 540]
Between the time of Equibank's successful bid (for costs) and the time that it assigned its right to the successful bid (for the sum of $125,000), it was exclusively within the control of Equibank either to pay the amount of its bid and thereafter acquire legal title to the property, or convey the right to the bid as it did in this case, for presumably a much larger sum than its bid, thereby acquiring the full benefit of having technically purchased the property insofar as satisfaction of its judgment against the judgment debtor is concerned without having to take legal title to the property. Because this choice was exclusively within the control of ...