368 Pa. 404, 84 A.2d 328 (1951); Michael v. Hahnemann Medical College & Hospital, 404 Pa. 424, 172 A.2d 769 (1961).
Plaintiff attempts to overcome the effect of the above decisions by arguing that since a vast majority of the work done by the Sisters of St. Francis was free to the patients, in Gable, supra, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has set up certain standards which require that absent a substantial percentage of 'free treatment', the question of what constitutes a charity becomes one of fact and not of law and justifies submission of that question to the trier of the facts, the jury.
This contention might have some plausibility if it were not for the most recent affirmance of the doctrine of immunity of hospitals from tort actions by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in Michael v. Hahnemann Medical College & Hospital, supra. Mr. Chief Justice Jones, in the majority decision, left no doubt that the doctrine of charitable immunity with respect to hospitals has been so firmly engrafted upon the law of Pennsylvania that it will require an Act of the Legislature to abrogate that immunity.
The above undisputed facts leave no doubt in the mind of the Court that defendant hospital is a charity within the legal test as set out by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
In Fire Insurance Patrol v. Boyd, supra, the Court said:
'The true test of a legal public charity is the object sought to be attained; the purpose to which the money is to be applied; not the motive of the donor.'
This statement of law disposes of the contention of the plaintiff in drawing an analogy of the defendant hospital with a country club. Plaintiff has argued that, as this hospital was founded and built to serve the needs of the community, so is a country club founded and established to meet the social needs of the community. The analogy is so strained as not to require extended discussion. It certainly is not applicable.
Plaintiff also asserts that since nearly all of the hospital patients pay for the services which they receive, except about 4.4% of the total patients who are classified as indigent and the hospital is reimbursed by the State of Pennsylvania, the hospital is, in effect, a business. The same contention was rejected summarily in Gable and reaffirmed in Michael.
A further argument on behalf of the plaintiff to defeat summary judgment is that once the hospital has protected itself by liability insurance, it has publicly recognized its own responsibility as a non-charitable organization and is estopped from asserting it in this motion.
A similar contention was discussed in Selkow et al. v. City of Philadelphia and Temple University, C.A. No. 29230, decided January 10, 1962, by Judge Freedman of this Court, 201 F.Supp. 221, and was summarily rejected.
A final plea of the plaintiff that decision be withheld until time of trial in the hope that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania might in the intervening time rescind the doctrine of charitable immunity for hospitals, was likewise summarily rejected by Judge Freedman. Coupled with this plea was the plaintiff's plea that in any event, it could do the hospital no harm and 'why not just let the matter rest and see what the future would bring in this area of negligence law.' This argument was answered at argument by the assertion by counsel for the hospital that the hospital had net assets of approximately $ 1,400,000; that it is a relatively small hospital which the residents of the community are trying to improve and expand; that the ad damnum clause in this action is $ 1,000,000 and that with a potential legal liability of $ 1,000,000 outstanding, any efforts to improve, expand or even maintain the hospital might well be frustrated by the continuance of the action, invoking in support of this argument the language of the Supreme Court in Gable, supra.
Under the undisputed facts, the Court is of the opinion that these facts establish as a matter of law the Community Memorial Hospital to be an eleemosynary institution, a charity under Pennsylvania law, and that as such charity it is immune to suits for negligence of its agents.
The Court is of the opinion that there is no disputed question of fact involved which would require submission of that question to the jury and, therefore, in treating the motion to dismiss as one for summary judgment will grant judgment in favor of the defendant, Community Memorial Hospital.
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