The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROSENBERG
The State Public School Building Authority and the Chicago Pump Company, two of the four defendants, have here filed a number of motions. Chicago Pump Company withdrew its motions on August 6th, 1965; those of the State Public School Building Authority remain. The action was brought by the plaintiff under the Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act and the Survival Statute.
The Authority's motion is based upon the defenses that (1) the action is barred because of failure to be timely filed; and (2) the Authority is a governmental instrumentality charged with the performance of a governmental function, and as such, is immune from liability for any negligence of its agents or employees.
It is averred in paragraph 11 of the complaint that the plaintiff's decedent died on December 26, 1963. The action is based upon the negligence of the defendants.
The Pennsylvania Statutory Construction Act of May 28, 1937, P.L. 1019, Art. 3, § 38 (46 P.S. § 538) provides as follows:
"When any period of time is referred to in any law, such period in all cases, except as otherwise provided in sections thirty-nine and forty,
shall be so computed as to exclude the first and include the last day of such period. Whenever the last day of any such period shall fall on Saturday or Sunday, or on any day made a legal holiday by the laws of this Commonwealth or of the United States, such day shall be omitted from the computation."
Applying the formula thus contained in § 38, December 25th, December 26th and December 27th were days of exclusion, since December 25th was Christmas Day, December 26th was a Saturday and December 27th was a Sunday. The first calculable day was therefore Monday, December 28th. Since the complaint was filed on December 28th, 1964, it was within the allowable time and is a valid filing.
The next questions are: Is the defendant, State Public School Building Authority, a governmental instrumentality, and as such, immune from lawful actions for the negligence of its officers or employees? The State Public School Authority was created by virtue of the provisions contained in the Act of July 5, 1947, P.L. 1217, § 1 et seq. (24 P.S. § 791.1 et seq.) This is known as the State Public School Building Authority Act. It defines in § 2
the State Public School Building Authority and constitutes in § 3
as its members, without compensation for their services, "[the] Governor, the State Treasurer, the Auditor General, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Secretary of Property and Supplies, the President pro tempore of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the minority leader of the Senate, the minority leader of the House of Representatives, and their respective successors in office * * *".
It establishes this Authority as a "public corporation and governmental instrumentality in § 3."
It further makes this declaration in § 4:
"The Authority is created for the purpose of constructing, improving, maintaining and operating, public school buildings, and furnishing and equipping the same for use as public schools, as a part of the public school system of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Instruction."
The law of Pennsylvania is well settled that a school district is not liable for the negligence of its officers or employees in the exercise of the governmental functions of providing a system of education. Shields v. School District of City of Pittsburgh, 408 Pa. 388, 184 A.2d 240 (1962); Supler v. School District of North Franklin Township, Washington County, 407 Pa. 657, 182 A.2d 535 (1962); Morris v. School District of Mt. Lebanon Tp., 393 Pa. 633, 144 A.2d 737 (1958); Michael v. School District of Lancaster, 391 Pa. 209, 137 A.2d 456 (1958); Goldstein v. Philadelphia School District, 329 Pa. 71, 196 A. 863 (1938); Osborne v. City of Pittsburgh, 192 Pa.Super. 387, 161 A.2d 636 (1960).
School districts are unlike the municipalities of the State, which are liable for negligence. Powers v. City of Philadelphia, 18 Pa.Super. 621 (1902); Winnemore v. City of Philadelphia, 18 Pa.Super. 625 (1902). Under the law of Pennsylvania, school districts are merely agents of the Commonwealth and cannot be held liable for the negligence of their employees. Erie School District v. Fuess, 98 Pa. 600 (1881); Ford v. Kendall Borough School District, 121 Pa. 543, 15 A. 812, 1 L.R.A. 607 (1888); Briegel v. City of Philadelphia, 135 Pa. 451, 19 A. 1038 (1890); Wallace v. Pittsburgh School District, 316 Pa. 388, 175 A. 411 (1934); Walsh v. Philadelphia School District, 343 Pa. 178, 22 A.2d 909 (1942), cert. denied 315 U.S. 823, 62 S. Ct. 916, 86 L. Ed. 1219 (1942).
The functions of a school district are not limited to actual education but also extend to such functions as maintaining school buildings for public meetings. McKnight v. Board of Public Education, 365 Pa. 422, 76 A.2d 207 (1950), appeal dismissed 341 U.S. 913, 71 S. Ct. 737, 95 L. Ed. 1349 (1951); 32 P.L.E. Schools, § 57, p. 570. However, school districts may be held liable for negligence in the performance of any of its proprietary actions, such as holding real estate bought at a tax sale. Osborne v. City of Pittsburgh, supra; Morris v. School District of Mt. Lebanon Tp., supra.
The Legislature has spoken unequivocably in specifying the purposes of the authority and setting forth its powers "of constructing, improving, maintaining and operating, public school buildings, and furnishing and equipping the same for use as public schools, as a part of the public school system of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Instruction." It is plain that the Authority, as thus constituted, has been woven into the fabric of the Pennsylvania educational system as a governmental function and operated ex officio by the State's executive officers. It is in its constituted sense a governmental instrumentality created for the governmental purpose of education as a part of "the public school system". The fact that the school system of Pennsylvania has been extended by the use of such an instrumentality does not detract from the legislative intentions and endeavors of providing a complete "public school system". In fact, the Legislature made it plain (24 P.S. § 791.4) that the Authority was created "as a part of the public school system of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Instruction". What the Legislature did was, in effect, to give the Department of Public Instruction another arm in aiding it to administer the public school system of the Commonwealth. It was a proper and constitutional action. Detweiler v. Hatfield Borough School District, 376 Pa. 555, 104 A.2d 110 (1954); Greenhalgh v. Woolworth et ...