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[U] Jones v. Brown

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

March 10, 2014

NORMAN A. JONES Appellant
v.
TINA L. BROWN Appellee

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Judgment Entered July 3, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Franklin County Civil Division at No(s): 2011-1900

BEFORE: PANELLA, OLSON and PLATT, [*] JJ.

MEMORANDUM

OLSON, J.

Appellant, Norman A. Jones, appeals from the judgment entered on July 3, 2013. After careful consideration, we affirm.

We summarize the facts and procedural history of this case as follows. Appellant and Tina L. Brown (Brown) were involved in a romantic relationship since the mid-1990s. At all relevant times, Appellant knew that Brown was married to another man. Appellant and Brown never married. They cohabitated at Brown's inherited residence in McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania from 1996 until they separated in 2010. At some point after the parties began living together, they started collecting antiques as a hobby. In 1998, Appellant and Brown decided to build a two-story garage, in part, to store their antique collection. Appellant assisted in the construction of the garage. Brown took out various home equity loans for construction. Appellant borrowed approximately $5, 000.00 from his father. The parties agreed that Brown would give Appellant's father a truck in satisfaction of that debt.

After separating in 2010, the parties agreed to divide the antiques collection between them and to sell some items at auction. In November 2010, the parties entered into a contract for the sale of selected items with Carl Ocker (Ocker) of Kenny's Auction. The contract specified that, after Ocker received his commission, Appellant would receive 40% of the proceeds and Brown would receive 60%. Three auction sales were scheduled. The first sale was held in January 2011 and the net proceeds were distributed according to the contract with Kenny's Auction. The second sale was conducted in February 2011 and the net proceeds were mistakenly distributed with 60% going to Appellant and 40% to Brown. The third sale was held on March 9, 2013 and the proceeds were held in escrow.

On May 3, 2011, Appellant filed an action in replevin against Brown, seeking to recover antiques worth approximately $292, 000.00. The trial court held a three-day bench trial. On April 17, 2013, the trial court issued an opinion and order ruling in Brown's favor. Appellant filed a motion for post-trial relief that the trial court denied on May 17, 2013. Brown praeciped to enter judgment on July 3, 2013. This timely appeal resulted.[1]On appeal, Appellant presents the following issues for our review:

1. Whether the failure of [Brown] to produce any corroboration of her testimony at trial as to the change in the written contract and the valid consideration for the change in any pleading, answer to discovery, deposition, or any exhibit or other witness testimony is fatal to an amendment of the written consignment agreement to dispose of the collection.
2. Whether the trial court erred as a matter of law by giving [Brown] rights in portions of the collection purchased by [Appellant] because of the long period of cohabitation in her house at her expense.
3. Whether the trial court's decision was against the weight of the evidence, given [Brown's] admitted false statements relating to her marital status on tax returns and bank loan applications, as well as her grossly inconsistent testimony at trial compared with her other trial testimony and deposition testimony.

Appellant's Brief at 3-4.

In a non-jury case such as this, our review is

limited to a determination of whether the findings of the trial court are supported by competent evidence and whether the trial court committed error in the application of law. Findings of the trial judge in a non-jury case must be given the same weight and effect on appeal as a verdict of a jury and will not be disturbed on appeal absent error of law or abuse of discretion. When this Court reviews the findings of the trial judge, the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the victorious party ...

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