Thursday, November 18, 2021

Pennsylvania Superior Court Addresses Dead Man's Rule

In the case of Frazer v. McIntyre, 2021 Pa. Super. 211 (Pa. Super. Oct. 20, 2021 McCaffery, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court provided its latest pronouncement on the Dead Man’s Rule, 42 Pa. C.S.A. §5930.

In this decision, the court noted that the Dead Man’s Act provides that one whose interest is adverse to the interest of a decedent is not a competent witness to any matter which occurred before the decedent’s death.

In order for the Deadman’s Rule to apply such that a surviving witness is disqualified, the following three (3) conditions must be met:

First, the decedent must have had an actual right or interest in the matter at issue.

Second, the interest of the witness, and not simply the testimony of that witness, must be adverse.

Third, a right of the deceased must have past to a party of record who represents the decedent’s interests.

The court also reviewed the devisavit vel non exception further provides that witnesses are competent to testify in disputes arising over the passage of property, through will or intestacy, although their testimony might otherwise be rendered in competent through the operation of the general rule under the Dead Man’s Act. 

This exception was noted to apply to disputes involving transfer of the decedent’s estate both by operation of law or by will and renders competent all witness claiming the decedent’s property by reason of his death.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Daniel J. Siegel of the Law Offices of Daniel J. Siegel in Havertown, Pennsylvania for bringing this case to my attention.

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