F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Dist. Atty., Richard A. Sprague, 1st Asst. Dist. Atty., Steven H. Goldblatt, Asst. Dist. Atty., Chief, Appeals Div., Philadelphia, Martin H. Belsky, Washington, D. C., for appellant.
Jay S. Gottlieb, Needleman, Needleman, Tabb & Eisman, Ltd., Philadelphia, for appellee.
Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Mr. Justice Roberts and Mr. Justice Manderino concurred in the result.
On June 12, 1973, there was a conflagration punctuated by several explosions at an ink manufacturing plant located in the 1200 block of Washington Avenue in the City of Philadelphia. As a result of this holocaust, appellee, Gerald Hughes, was arrested on August 9, 1973, and indicted on two counts of involuntary manslaughter and a violation of Section 3302(b) of the New Crimes Code.*fn1 Appellee had filed on his behalf an "Application to Quash Bill of Indictment" charging that Section 3302 was unconstitutionally vague. This application was sustained by the motion judge and the Commonwealth appealed pursuant to the Appellate Court Jurisdiction Act of 1970, July 31, P.L. 673, No. 223, art. II § 202; 17 P.S. 211.202(9) (Supp.1975-76).*fn2 The single issue raised in this appeal is the constitutionality of Section 3302(b).
The evidence produced at the preliminary hearing by the Commonwealth which was stipulated by the parties for a decision upon this application, set forth the following series of events. Frederick H. Levey Division of Cities Service Company, a manufacturer of various types of ink products, owned a complex consisting of three buildings and a yard occupying 1/4 of a city block. One of the products produced by the company was gravure ink which contained 70% lactol, a highly flammable solvent.
Because of the presence of this highly flammable substance, the company had repeatedly warned against smoking on the premises. In addition to this strict smoking restriction, the company supplied their employees with special clothing.
Appellee, an employee of Levey Co., gave a statement during the course of this investigation that he had carried a container of solvent in a five gallon pail from one location to another and in the course of this operation spilled approximately one-half gallon of the substance. He placed the container of the remaining solvent on the floor where he was standing and after ascertaining that there was no one in the area to observe him, he attempted to light a cigarette. His attention was momentarily diverted causing him to drop the lighted match. His safety shoes caught fire and he kicked them off, each shoe being aflame and landing in different directions.
The resultant fire raged uncontrolled for approximately four hours. Numerous injuries were sustained including the death of two firemen.*fn3 In fighting the conflagration, eight alarms were sounded and a total of 55 pieces of apparatus were used. Because of the violent explosions, families from neighboring homes had to be evacuated and the property damage was extensive.*fn4
The motion judge was of the view that the challenge of vagueness required a facial analysis rather than an examination of the statute in the context of the facts of the instant case. Employing this approach that court found the word "catastrophe" was not sufficiently precise and therefore held that the ...