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NORTHVIEW MOTORS v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (08/04/89)

decided: August 4, 1989.

NORTHVIEW MOTORS, INC., APPELLANT,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, ATTORNEY GENERAL, LEROY S. ZIMMERMAN, APPELLEE



Appeal from Common Pleas Court, Allegheny County, Honorable John L. Mussmanno, Judge.

COUNSEL

Richard K. Witchko, Barrante & Barrante, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Douglas P. Yauger, Caren L. Mariani, Office of Atty. Gen., Bureau of Consumer Protection, Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Doyle, Palladino and Smith, JJ.

Author: Smith

[ 128 Pa. Commw. Page 57]

Northview Motors, Inc. (Northview) appeals from the October 20, 1988 final decree entered by the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County pursuant to a complaint in equity filed by the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Commonwealth) seeking to enjoin Northview from conduct violative of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law*fn1 (UTPCPL) and the Automotive Industry Trade Practices Regulations*fn2 (Auto Regs). The complaint also sought restitution and civil penalties for each violation of the UTPCPL. A trial in the matter was held from May 3 through May 5, 1988. The trial court issued its decree nisi on May 20, 1988. Northview requested post trial relief which was denied by the trial court on October 20, 1988. The decision of the trial court is affirmed.

In reviewing a final decree in equity, this Court's scope of review is limited to determining whether the chancellor's findings are supported by substantial evidence, whether there was an error of law committed, or whether the chancellor abused his/her discretion. Penn-Delco School District v. Schukraft, 95 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 619, 506 A.2d 956 (1986), appeal denied, 514 Pa. 644, 523 A.2d 1133 (1987).

On appeal to this Court, Northview asserts that the evidence introduced at trial does not support the trial court's findings of fact and conclusions of law.*fn3 This Court

[ 128 Pa. Commw. Page 58]

    has thoroughly reviewed the record and has determined that substantial evidence does exist to support the trial court's findings and conclusions. At trial, the Commonwealth produced the testimony of ten witnesses pertaining to seven motor vehicle transactions with Northview. Eight of the ten witnesses were the consumers involved in the seven transactions. N.T., May 4, 1988 Hearing, pp. 18-47, 61-216. One witness was an insurance representative who corroborated parts of the testimony of a consumer. N.T., May 4, 1988 Hearing, pp. 47-61. The final witness was a consumer protection agent who mediated and investigated the complaints regarding the transactions in question. N.T., May 4, 1988 Hearing, pp. 234-278, 286-291.

Northview introduced the testimony of two witnesses. One, the owner of Northview, Frank P. Cuda, Jr., testified that he had no direct knowledge of the subject transactions as he acknowledged that he did not participate in six of them and participated in the seventh only after the violative conduct had taken place. N.T., May 5, 1988 Hearing, pp. 510-511. The other witness, a new car salesman, testified that he had been involved only in parts of two of the seven subject transactions. N.T., May 5, 1988 Hearing, p. 312.

[ 128 Pa. Commw. Page 59]

The trial court repeatedly stated that while Northview could introduce evidence to rebut the testimony introduced by the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth had met its burden. N.T., May 4, 1988 Hearing, pp. 293, 300, 303, 308. In equity, issues of credibility and evidentiary weight are in the exclusive province of the chancellor. Babin v. Page 59} City of Lancaster, 89 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 527, 493 A.2d 141 (1985). Questions of credibility and the resolution of testimonial conflicts are for the trial court. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Traffic Safety v. Fullerton, 31 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 609, 377 A.2d 1024 (1977). In the instant action, the findings of fact regarding five of the seven subject transactions are supported by uncontroverted statements of the Commonwealth's witnesses. ...


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