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GEORGE J. KOYNOK AND MARY C. KOYNOK v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (03/11/74)

decided: March 11, 1974.

GEORGE J. KOYNOK AND MARY C. KOYNOK, T/D/B/A GLENMORE ACADEMY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, STATE BOARD OF PRIVATE ACADEMIC SCHOOLS, DR. L. WAGENHORST, PRESIDENT, AND N. EUGENE SHOEMAKER, SECRETARY OF THE BOARD, DEFENDANTS



Original jurisdiction in case of George L. Koynok and Mary C. Koynok, t/d/b/a Glenmore Academy v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, State Board of Private Academic Schools, Dr. L. Wagenhorst, President, and N. Eugene Shoemaker, Secretary of the Board.

COUNSEL

George L. Koynok, plaintiff, for himself.

Edward A. Miller, Assistant Attorney General, for defendants.

Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. President Judge Bowman did not participate. Opinion by Judge Mencer. Concurring and Dissenting Opinion by Judge Crumlish, Jr.

Author: Mencer

[ 12 Pa. Commw. Page 376]

George and Mary Koynok (Koynok) own and operate a private school, Glenmore Academy, which is licensed by and is under the jurisdiction of the State Board of Private Academic Schools (hereinafter referred to as the Board). Glenmore Academy has been in continuous operation since 1959.

In May 1973, Koynok filed a complaint in equity seeking money damages and injunctive relief against the Board and two of its officers, Dr. L. Wagenhorst and N. Eugene Shoemaker, alleging that he had been injured as a result of an evaluation of Glenmore Academy conducted by the Board in 1967.

The defendants filed preliminary objections contending, inter alia, that they are immune from suits under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. We agree with this contention and, therefore, sustain the preliminary objections.

Suits against the Commonwealth are barred by Article I, Section 11 of the Pennsylvania Constitution which provides, inter alia : "Suits may be brought

[ 12 Pa. Commw. Page 377]

    against the Commonwealth in such manner, in such courts and in such cases as the Legislature may by law direct." This language has been interpreted to mean that, absent such legislation, the Commonwealth is immune from suit without its consent and that such immunity extends to actions in equity. Philadelphia Life Insurance Company v. Commonwealth, 410 Pa. 571, 190 A.2d 111 (1963). The Supreme Court has held that this immunity also applies to instrumentalities of the Commonwealth engaged in governmental functions. Biello v. Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, 454 Pa. 179, 301 A.2d 849 (1973).

The above case makes it clear that Koynok's action for money damages against the Board is barred since we find that the Board is an instrumentality of the Commonwealth engaged in a governmental function.

Koynok's action for money damages against the two officers of the Board is also barred. We held in Dubree, Jr., Executor v. Commonwealth, 8 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 567, 303 A.2d 530 (1973), that the sovereign immunity of the Commonwealth from civil tort liability extends to high public officials acting officially within the scope of their authority with respect to official communications and acts. We have no difficulty concluding that Dr. Wagenhorst and Mr. Shoemaker as president and ...


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