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DILLON v. YORK CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT (06/24/66)

decided: June 24, 1966.

DILLON, APPELLANT,
v.
YORK CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of York County, May T., 1964, No. 295, in case of Donna L. Dillon, a minor, by her guardians, Donald W. Dillon and Esther M. Dillon, and Donald W. Dillon and Esther M. Dillon, individually v. York City School District, George W. Krone, J. Roy Poet, Jr. et al.

COUNSEL

John R. Gailey, Jr., with him Dell'Alba, Gailey & Gilbert, for appellants.

Leo E. Gribbin, Jr., with him Stuart M. Neely, and Stetler & Gribbin, for appellee.

Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien and Roberts, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Jones. Concurring Opinion by Mr. Justice Eagen. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Musmanno. Dissenting Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts.

Author: Jones

[ 422 Pa. Page 104]

On February 27, 1962, while crossing over from one building of the William Penn Senior High School*fn1 to another in order to attend her next class, Donna L. Dillon, the minor plaintiff, slipped and fell while descending a flight of eight concrete steps.*fn2 Suit was brought against the York City School District [School District] and four of its employees for damages arising from minor plaintiff's resulting injuries which were allegedly due to the accumulation of ice that had become glazed and ridged on the steps. The complaint charged that the School District knew or should have known of this dangerous condition before minor plaintiff fell and therefore was liable, under the doctrine of respondeat superior, for failing to maintain the steps in a safe condition and failing to warn the minor plaintiff of the hazardous condition then existing.

The School District filed preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer to the complaint based on its assertion of immunity from liability for torts committed by its employees acting within the scope of its legitimate governmental functions.*fn3 On November 15, 1965, the Court of Common Pleas of York County sustained the School District's preliminary objections and entered judgment in favor of the School District and against the plaintiffs. From that judgment, plaintiffs have appealed to this Court.

In Shields v. Pittsburgh School District, 408 Pa. 388, 184 A.2d 240 (1962), and Supler v. North Franklin Township School District, 407 Pa. 657, 182 A.2d

[ 422 Pa. Page 105535]

(1962), we recently re-affirmed the doctrine of a school district's immunity from suit for the negligence of its officers and employees while engaged in governmental functions. See also cases cited in Supler at 658. Thus, Shields and Supler would control this appeal unless we accept plaintiffs' plea to overrule the line of cases which Shields and Supler represent.

Plaintiffs have presented recent decisions in other jurisdictions where courts have abolished municipal corporations' and school districts' immunity from tort liability. See e.g., Hargrove v. Town of Cocoa Beach, 96 So. 2d 130 (Fla. 1957); Molitor v. Kaneland Community Unit District, 18 Ill. 2d 11, 163 N.E. 2d 89 (1959), cert. den. 362 U.S. 968, 80 S. Ct. 955; Spanel v. Mounds View School District, 264 Minn. 279, 118 N.W. 2d 795 (1962); Haney v. City of Lexington, 386 S.W. 2d 738 (Ky. 1964). We are now asked to follow these decisions.

Even though the doctrine of municipal immunity from tort liability was initially imposed by judicial decision, Russell v. Men of Devon, 2 T.R. 667, 100 Eng. Rep. 359 (1788),*fn4 we are reluctant to abolish this doctrine by judicial fiat. In Morris v. Mt. Lebanon Township School District, 393 Pa. 633, 144 A.2d 737 (1958), Mr. Justice Cohen stated: ". . . the solution of the problem of government responsibility in tort is too complex an undertaking to permit the partial and piecemeal judicial reform which the plaintiff seeks. Establishment of a comprehensive program by legislation applicable to the Commonwealth and to all of its ...


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