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GREER v. METROPOLITAN HOSPITAL (06/24/75)

decided: June 24, 1975.

GREER, APPELLANT,
v.
METROPOLITAN HOSPITAL, ET AL.



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, June T., 1966, No. 5181, in case of Harold Greer v. Metropolitan Hospital and Redevelopment Authority of the City of Philadelphia, and William F. Lotz, Inc., Additional Defendant.

COUNSEL

James E. Beasley, with him Jeffrey M. Stopford, and Beasley, Hewson, Casey, Kraft & Colleran, for appellant.

Joseph H. Foster, with him Thomas J. Ziomek, and White and Williams, for appellees.

Watkins, P. J., Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort, and Spaeth, JJ. Opinion by Jacobs, J.

Author: Jacobs

[ 235 Pa. Super. Page 267]

In May of 1966 the appellant was working on property owned by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Philadelphia when a fire escape collapsed. The appellant commenced this trespass action to recover damages for his personal injuries and permanent disability which resulted from the accident. Over eight years later as the case was listed for trial, the Redevelopment Authority filed a motion for summary judgment*fn1 asserting the defense of sovereign immunity under Brown v. Commonwealth.*fn2

[ 235 Pa. Super. Page 268]

The appellant opposed the motion contending that the Redevelopment Authority was cloaked only with governmental immunity, which was abolished in Ayala v. Philadelphia Board of Public Education.*fn3 The lower court granted the motion for summary judgment and this appeal followed.

The sole issue presented in this case and a companion case involving the Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh decided this same day*fn4 is whether the Redevelopment Authority, as a unit of government, is cloaked with "governmental immunity," thus subjecting it to liability under Ayala or "sovereign immunity," thus precluding liability under Brown. We conclude that the former assertion is correct and reverse the order below.

The decisions of our Supreme Court have repeatedly chronicled the origin, development, faltering vitality*fn5 and eventual demise*fn6 of immunity doctrines in this Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, as a sovereign, "cannot be sued against her consent;" Monongahela Navigation Co. v. Coons, 6 W. & S. 101, 113 (Pa. 1843),*fn7 and remains

[ 235 Pa. Super. Page 269]

    immune from suit under article I, section 11 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Brown, supra. Local units of government also historically enjoyed immunity from tort liability. Apparently originating in the English case of Russell v. Men of Devon, 100 Eng. Rep. 359 (K.B. 1788),*fn8 the doctrine was adopted in this country in 1812,*fn9 and in this Commonwealth at least by 1888.*fn10 The immunity

[ 235 Pa. Super. Page 270]

    of local governmental units, however, was not absolute. Liability existed for failure to maintain roads,*fn11 bridges,*fn12 and sidewalks;*fn13 in actions based upon improper management and use of municipal property, Briegel v. City of Philadelphia, 135 Pa. 451, 19 A. 1038 (1890); and in cases in which the function was determined to be "proprietary" as opposed to "governmental." E.g., Shields v. Pittsburgh School Dist., 408 Pa. 388, 184 A.2d 240 (1962); Stouffer v. Morrison, 400 Pa. 497, 162 A.2d 378 (1960); ...


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