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Wiley v. Brooks

Pennsylvania Superior Court

September 24, 2021

A family squabble ended up as a lesson in contracts taught by the Pennsylvania Superior Court. A father gifted his daughter and son-in-law some land and funded the subdivision of that land. The newlyweds agreed to re-pay him $55,000 but never did. Eventually, the mother and the newlyweds executed a promissory note for the debt with monthly payments. But the newlyweds never paid. A decade later, the mother filed suit against the now-divorced couple. After a bench trial, the Court of Common Pleas ruled in favor of the mother. Her ex-son-in-law appealed. He claimed that he pled the statute of limitations as an affirmative defense and that the plaintiff did not respond to his new matter. The Superior Court explained that if a party’s new matter does not contain facts supporting an affirmative defense, a denial is not required. Here, the son-in-law did not aver any facts in support of his affirmative defense. Thus, the plaintiff was not obliged to respond. The Court then held that the language in the promissory note, “[T]his note shall take effect as a sealed instrument. . . .” was sufficient to subject the note to a 20-year statute of limitations under 42 Pa.C.S. ยง 5529(b). The Court also held that the Uniform Obligations Act applied because the contract contained the language that the parties “agree to remain fully bound hereunder until this note shall be fully paid.”

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