HARRISBURG – Judges for the Superior Court of Pennsylvania have reversed the decision of the Berks County Court of Common Pleas in a dispute over a rare Ferrari automobile, remanding the action back to the trial court for further proceedings.
Judges John T. Bender, Eugene J. Strassburger and Patricia H. Jenkins ruled in this case, as Bender authored the decision released July 17 reversing the trial court’s transfer decision in the lawsuit brought by Professional Sales, Inc., of Bensalem, against the Estate of Joseph S. Brehaut, C. Christopher Moore, Jr. executor; C. Christopher Moore, Jr. individually, and Joseph S. Brehaut and C. Christopher Moore, Jr. partnership, doing business as Moll’s Garage.
Michael Haber is the Vice President of Professional Sales, Inc. On Dec. 28, 2013, Haber arranged to meet Moore to discuss the purchase of a rare 1991 Ferrari F40 automobile owned by Brehaut.
On the day of the meeting, Brehaut passed away. Regardless, Mr. Moore advised Haber that he was the executor of Brehaut’s estate. Haber expressed interest in Professional Sales buying the car. Haber and Moore spoke again on Dec. 31, 2013, and arranged another meeting for Jan. 1, 2014.
At that meeting, they discussed an agreement to purchase the car. Moore stated he needed to discuss the agreement with others involved with the estate.
During a subsequent conversation several days later, Moore advised Haber that the estate wanted to sell the Ferrari for $800,000. On Jan. 6, 2014, Haber brought a mechanic to inspect the Ferrari and after the inspection, Haber and Moore verbally agreed to the sale of the car for the stated asking price, witnessed by the mechanic.
Moore explained the final sale could not occur until after he discussed the matter with Brehaut’s estate lawyer, and added there was an outstanding loan against the car.
Craig Prutzman of Tri-County Federal Credit Union later confirmed the Ferrari had an outstanding loan balance of $75,554.30. Haber then made arrangements to pay off the loan.
On Jan. 10, 2014, Haber was contacted by a broker who offered to sell him a 1991 Ferrari F40. Because this model of car is so scarce, Haber realized this was the exact same car he had agreed to purchase from Moore.
Haber immediately called Moore who stated, “You’re going to be (expletive deleted) at me.” Moore told Haber he had sold the car to someone else for more money. During the conversation, Moore acknowledged that they had had an agreement in place.
Professional Sales initiated legal action on Jan. 17, 2014, alleging breach of contract. Thereafter, the appellees filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, and the appellant responded in a timely fashion. In October, the trial court granted appellees’ motion and judgment was entered on their behalf.
This decision resulted in an appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania from Professional Sales, alleging the Berks County Court of Common Pleas had erred in its decision to grant a judgment on the appellees’ pleadings.
According to the Pennsylvania Statute of Frauds, a contract or agreement for the sale of goods worth more than $500 is unenforceable without the presence of written proof, unless the party defending itself from enforcement admits an agreement was made.
Professional Sales employed this rationale in its case, and the Superior Court concurred.
“The Pennsylvania Statute of Frauds requires a writing indicating the terms of an oral agreement so there exists no serious possibility of consummating fraud by its enforcement,” Bender said.
“Here, the Statute of Frauds clearly applies. At issue is the sale of a rare automobile valued well above the $500 threshold established by the general rule.
"However, according to appellant’s amended complaint, Mr. Moore admitted the existence of an agreement and there was an eyewitness to the agreement. If appellant can prove Mr. Moore’s admission that an oral contract for the sale of the 1991 Ferrari F40 was made, then appellant will establish an exception to the Statute of Frauds."
Bender concluded by saying although they concurred with the trial court as to the appellant not being able to meet the requirements of the general rule, they dissented from the prior ruling since they felt the rule’s exception was not given consideration.
“In our view, appellant’s pleadings frame a factual issue worthy of development. Accordingly, we reverse the order of the trial court and remand for further proceedings,” Bender wrote.
The case will now move back to the Berks County Court of Common Pleas for further action. Strassburger filed a concurring memorandum to the decision, whereas Jenkins filed one of dissent.
The appellant is represented by Matthew Todd Croslis of Crosslis Law Offices, in Allentown.
The appellees are represented by Richard D. Adamson of Sher & Associates, in Kutztown.
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania case 1957 MDA 2014
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org