The opinion of the court was delivered by: MAURICE COHILL JR., Senior District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Garnishee Yarborough Development has filed a Petition to
Strike/Open the judgment by admission entered against it by the
Clerk of Court on February 16, 2005. Plaintiff Laborers Combined
Funds of Western Pennsylvania ("Funds") has filed a brief
opposing the petition.
This action grows out of a construction contract for a
development in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, known as Monroe
Meadows. Yarborough Development ("Yarborough") was the general
contractor on the project. Yarborough and Huntar Development
Corporation ("Huntar") entered into a contract requiring Huntar
to perform site work and earth work, to install storm and
sanitary sewers, and to provide inspections and certifications of
Funds sent interrogatories to the garnishees, including
Yarborough. Yarborough's answers to interrogatories in this case
show that it is holding $38,000.00 as retainage.
The interrogatories at issue are numbers 1 and 2. Interrogatory
1 is as follows:
1. At the time you were served, or at any subsequent
a. did you owe defendant any money?
b. were you liable to defendant pursuant to any note
or agreement? c. did defendant claim that you owed him any money or
were liable to defendant for any reason?
Yarborough denied any liability to the defendant by answering
"no" to parts (a), (b) and (c) of Question 1.
Interrogatory 2 states:
2. If the answer to interrogatory No. 1 is "yes",
state for each account:
a. Parties to the instrument/agreement;
b. Date of the instrument/agreement;
c. Nature/description of the instrument/agreement;
d. Amount of the payments due thereunder;
e. Frequency of payments;
f. Amount of the payments made to date;
g. Balance due under the instrument/agreement.
Although Yarborough answered "no" to interrogatory No. 1, it
answered interrogatory No. 2 by stating:
2. (a)-(g) As a result of a construction project
known as Monroe Meadows, Yarborough Development is
holding $38,000.00 in retainage.
Funds filed a Praecipe for Judgment by Admission against
Yarborough, pursuant to the answer to interrogatory 2. On
February 18, 2005, the Clerk of Court entered judgment by
admission in the amount of $15,200.00 in favor of Funds and
against Yarborough. Yarborough now petitions to strike or open
that judgment. Funds opposes the petition.
The parties agree that Pennsylvania law governs this action.
Pa. R. Civ. P. 3146(b) provides for judgment against a garnishee
by admissions contained in answers to interrogatories as follows:
The prothonotary on praecipe of the plaintiff, shall
enter judgment against the garnishee for the property
of the defendant admitted in the answer to
interrogatories to be in the garnishee's possession
subject to any right therein claimed by the
garnishee, but no money judgment entered against the
garnishee shall exceed the amount of the judgment of the plaintiff
against the defendant together with interest and
costs. . . .
Pa. R. Civ. P. 3146(b).
Under Pennsylvania law, the admissions of a garnishee, made as
answers to a judgment creditor's interrogatories, will support
the entry of judgment "only in a clear case, where there is a
distinct admission of liability by the garnishee to the
defendant." Ruehl v. Maxwell Steel Co., Inc. 474 A.2d 1162
(Pa.Super. 1984), quoting Bartram Building and Loan Association v.
Eggleston, 6 A.2d 508, 510 (Pa. 1939). If there is any doubt
regarding the garnishee's admission, judgment should not be
entered. Ruehl, 474 A.2d at 1164, quoting Goodrich-Amram 2d §
3146(b): 1.1. Indeed, courts and commentators have emphasized
that judgment on admission "cannot be entered unless some part of
the plaintiff's claim is `unequivocally and unqualifiedly
admitted to ...