Original jurisdiction in case of Eugene (Cyclone) Hart and Samuel Solomon v. Spectrum Arena, Inc., Pennsylvania Athletic Commission and Zack Clayton, Defendants, and Nate Lopinson, Earl Vann and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Additional Defendants.
Harris T. Bock, with him Alan Schwartz and Mendel & Schwartz, P.C., for plaintiffs.
Lowell A. Reed, Jr., with him David L. Steck and Rawle & Henderson, for Spectrum Arena, Inc.
Lawrence Barth, Assistant Attorney General, with him Glenn Gilman, Assistant Attorney General, Michael Von Moschzisker, Deputy Attorney General, and Israel Packel, Attorney General, for Pennsylvania Athletic Commission and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Edwin L. Scherlis, with him Frank and Margolis, for Zack Clayton, Nate Lopinson and Earl Vann.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Judge Kramer did not participate. Opinion by President Judge Bowman.
[ 15 Pa. Commw. Page 586]
Eugene (Cyclone) Hart, a professional boxer, was seriously injured during a boxing contest orchestrated under the auspices of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission. Hart and Samuel Solomon, Hart's manager, filed a complaint in trespass in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County alleging that the defendants -- Spectrum Arena, Inc., Pennsylvania Athletic Commission and Zack Clayton, the referee of the fight -- negligently conducted the boxing contest between Hart and his opponent. Thereafter, the Spectrum filed a complaint against the judges of the fight, Vann and Lopinson, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, alleging that these defendants, in conjunction with Clayton, were solely liable for any damages sustained by the plaintiffs.
The Attorney General, representing the "Commonwealth" and the Commission, filed preliminary objections demurring to the cause of action asserted against the Commonwealth and the Commission by reason of sovereign immunity. Secondly, the jurisdiction of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County was challenged in view of the fact that the Commonwealth was a party and, thus, pursuant to the Appellate Court Jurisdiction Act of 1970, Act of July 31, 1970, P.L. 673, as amended, 17 P.S. § 211.401 (Supp. 1974-1975), exclusive jurisdiction for civil actions against the Commonwealth or its agencies is vested in this Court.
[ 15 Pa. Commw. Page 587]
The individual defendants, Vann, Lopinson and Clayton also filed preliminary objections challenging the sufficiency of the causes of action asserted against them on the basis of the conditional immunity enjoyed by them as employees of a state agency acting within the scope of their authority.
By concluding that this Court, if any court, had jurisdiction over the cause of action, the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County transferred the matter to this Court. Before us now for consideration are the undisposed of preliminary objections as filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County prior to the transfer.
Our initial inquiry will be directed to the preliminary objections filed by the Commonwealth raising the issue of sovereign immunity. The Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission is a departmental administrative commission within the Department of Revenue. The Commission's powers and duties relating to the regulation of boxing contests are prescribed by the Pennsylvania Athletic Code, Act of August 31, 1955, P.L. 531, as amended, 4 P.S. § 30.201. The Code confers upon the Commission exclusive jurisdiction over, and control of, professional boxing contests. The Commission is, therefore, a state agency, and, thus, under the Supreme Court decision in Biello v. Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, 454 Pa. 179, 301 A.2d 849 (1973) -- ...