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Bollard & Associates, Inc. v. H & R Industries, Inc.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

April 24, 2017

BOLLARD & ASSOCIATES, INC. Appellant
v.
H & R INDUSTRIES, INC. AND HARRY SCHMIDT AND WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A.

         Appeal from the Order May 23, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County Civil Division at No(s): No. 2016-01222

          BEFORE: OTT, J., RANSOM, J., and FITZGERALD, J. [*]

          OPINION

          RANSOM, J.

         Appellant, Bollard & Associates, Inc., appeals from the May 23, 2016, order determining that $188, 536.31 in a Wells Fargo Bank account was exempt from garnishment. We reverse and remand for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.

         We adopt the following statement of facts from the trial court's opinion, which in turn is supported by the record. See Trial Court Opinion, 8/2/16, at 1-5. In February 2016 judgment was entered in favor of Appellant and against H&R Industries, Inc. and Harry Schmidt ("Appellee") in the amount of $405, 984.07 plus interest at 6% per annum. Appellant commenced execution on the judgment and served interrogatories in aid of execution against Appellee and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. ("Wells Fargo"), as garnishee. In response, Wells Fargo filed an answer and new matter, averring that Gary Schmidt, Appellee's son ("Mr. Schmidt"), held a joint bank account with Appellee. Accordingly, Wells Fargo could not release the attached assets without appropriate order of the court.

         Mr. Schmidt and Appellee filed a claim for exemption, seeking a statutory exemption of $300.00 and for social security payments totaling $2, 103.00. Mr. Schmidt also sought an exception for other money held in a joint bank account with Appellee, namely, proceeds from the sale of a home. Prior to the hearing on the claim, the parties agreed that Appellee and Mr. Schmidt were entitled to a $300.00 statutory exception and the first $10, 000.00 of a direct deposit of social security benefits.

         In May 2016, the trial court held an evidentiary hearing. Mr. Schmidt testified that prior to 2013, he resided at 2032 Arch Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The residence was titled jointly in Mr. Schmidt's and Appellees' names, but Mr. Schmidt averred that the home was his and titled jointly solely for estate planning purposes. Mr. Schmidt paid taxes, insurance, and utility bills for the property. In 2013, Mr. Schmidt moved in with Appellee to a different location.

         In May 2015, Mr. Schmidt sold the Arch Street home for net proceeds of $385, 073.36; he placed the proceeds into a joint bank account held with Appellee at Wells Fargo. Mr. Schmidt made withdrawals totaling $196, 537.15 from the account over the course of approximately ten months. Mr. Schmidt also acknowledged that he and Appellee each received an IRS form 1099 for the proceeds of the sale, reflecting a 50% share of the gross proceeds. However, the 1099 form for Mr. Schmidt was not entered into evidence at the conclusion of the hearing.

         Following the hearing, the trial court entered an order finding that $188, 536.31 held in the joint Wells Fargo Account was exempt from judgment. This amount represented the balance remaining from the net proceeds of the sale of the property.

         Appellant filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing that 1099 forms provided by Appellee and signed by Mr. Schmidt were evidence that the property was jointly owned, as Mr. Schmidt and Appellee each received a 50% share of the gross proceeds. See Motion for Reconsideration, 5/23/16, Exhibit C. Appellant also argued that Mr. Schmidt had acknowledged in writing that the proceeds were intended to be distributed jointly. The court denied the motion.

         Appellant timely appealed and filed a court-ordered Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b) statement of errors complained of on appeal. The trial court issued a responsive opinion.

Herein, Appellant raises two questions for our review:
A. Did the trial court improperly deny [Appellant's] [motion] to reconsider based on the prior representation that Gary Schmidt was seeking an exemption of one-half of the garnished funds?
B. Was the trial court finding of exemption contrary to and against the weight and ...

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