Original jurisdiction in case of H. R. Konhaus, trading and doing business as H. R. Konhaus Funeral Home, v. John C. Lutton, trading and doing business as John C. Lutton Funeral Home.
James B. Yelovich, with him Kimmel, Rascona, Yelovich & Bowman, for plaintiff.
Robert P. Kane, Attorney General, with him Lawrence Silver, Deputy Attorney General, and Hubert B. Barnes, Deputy Attorney General, for defendant.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by President Judge Bowman.
[ 21 Pa. Commw. Page 182]
Upon petition of defendant, the Court of Common Pleas of Beaver County transferred the instant case to this Court, having concluded that we have exclusive original jurisdiction over plaintiff's cause of action. We have sua sponte raised the question of our jurisdiction. We reach a contrary conclusion and retransfer the case.
Plaintiff's cause of action is one in trespass for tortious interference with a business relationship pleaded in two counts. In the first count, plaintiff avers he is engaged in the business of a funeral director and identifies and
[ 21 Pa. Commw. Page 183]
sues defendant as an individual engaged in the same business. Other averments of this count direct themselves to the identity and relationship of an apprentice funeral director to plaintiff and thereafter to defendant, out of which relationships plaintiff claims damages for tortious interference. As to this count, defendant appears to concede that the Commonwealth Court would enjoy only pendent jurisdiction incident to our exclusive original jurisdiction assertedly found in the second count of the complaint.
This Court's jurisdiction is wholly statutory as found in the Appellate Court Jurisdiction Act of 1970, Act of July 31, 1970, P.L. 673, 17 P.S. § 211.401 et seq. Within the framework of our original jurisdiction, it is narrowly circumscribed to encompass only civil actions or proceedings by or against the Commonwealth or any officer thereof "acting in his official capacity." It is exclusive as to actions against the Commonwealth and concurrent with the several courts of common pleas in actions or proceedings by the Commonwealth.
Unlike jurisdictional criteria applicable to the other courts of this Commonwealth, our jurisdiction is predicated upon the identity of the parties and the capacity in which they sue or are sued. The nature of the cause of action asserted assumes importance and only becomes critical in determining our jurisdiction with respect to causes asserted against an officer of the Commonwealth acting in his official capacity. As to this class of actions, it is necessary to not only determine the true nature of the cause asserted, but also to decide if its essential thrust is directed against the defendant for actions taken or performed in his official capacity.
Defendant structures his argument that we enjoy exclusive original jurisdiction over plaintiff's cause of action upon a syllogism, the first premise of which is that defendant, by virtue of his public office as a high public ...