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STEPHEN J. WILLIAMS v. WEST CHESTER STATE COLLEGE (03/14/77)

decided: March 14, 1977.

STEPHEN J. WILLIAMS, JR., A MINOR, BY S. JEROME WILLIAMS AND NORMA J. WILLIAMS, HIS PARENTS AND NATURAL GUARDIANS AND S. JEROME WILLIAMS AND NORMA J. WILLIAMS, IN THEIR OWN RIGHT, PLAINTIFFS
v.
WEST CHESTER STATE COLLEGE, THOMAS REED, GERALD CARTRIGHT, EDWARD KAHLERT, ROBERT F. DAWSON, WILLIAM JENKINS AND GENERAL STATE AUTHORITY, DEFENDANTS



Original jurisdiction in case of Stephen J. Williams, Jr., a minor, by S. Jerome Williams and Norma J. Williams, his parents and natural guardians and S. Jerome Williams and Norma J. Williams, in their own right, v. West Chester State College, Thomas Reed, Gerald Cartright, Edward Kahlert, Robert F. Dawson, William Jenkins and General State Authority.

COUNSEL

William H. Mitman, Jr., for plaintiffs.

Nancy L. Schnuer, Assistant Attorney General, for defendant, West Chester State College.

Frederick E. Blake, with him Edwin L. Scherlis, Joseph Goldberg, and Frank, Margolis, Edelstein and Scherlis, for defendants, Reed, Kahlert, Dawson and Jenkins.

Francis J. O'Gorman, Jr., with him Metzger, Hafer, Keefer, Thomas and Wood, for defendant, General State Authority.

Judges Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr. and Rogers, sitting as a panel of three.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 29 Pa. Commw. Page 242]

This action was intended to have been filed within the original jurisdiction of this Court. A minor and his natural guardians filed a Complaint in Trespass against West Chester State College, five employees of West Chester State College, and the General State Authority (GSA). The Complaint alleges that the minor plaintiff, while attending an experimental school within West Chester State College, suffered multiple injuries when a soccer cage fell on him during a school recess. The defendants have raised various preliminary objections to this cause of action. We need only discuss those raised by West Chester State College and the GSA based upon sovereign immunity, and that raised by the employee defendants based upon this Court's jurisdiction.

Defendants, West Chester State College and the GSA raised preliminary objections averring that the doctrine of sovereign immunity operates as a bar to plaintiff's claims. This doctrine provides that the Commonwealth, or an instrumentality or agency of the Commonwealth, cannot be sued without legislative consent. Pa. Const. art. I, ยง 11; Biello v. Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, 454 Pa. 179, 183, 301 A.2d 849, 851 (1973). It is clear that West Chester State College is a state agency owned and operated by the Commonwealth.*fn1 Based upon this status, this Court has held in prior decisions that such state colleges are cloaked with sovereign immunity. Brungard v. Hartman, 12 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 477, 315 A.2d 913 (1974). Similarly, this Court has decided that the GSA is also an agency of the Commonwealth able to invoke the doctrine. General State Authority v. Pacific Indemnity Co., 24 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 82, 354

[ 29 Pa. Commw. Page 243]

A.2d 56 (1976). As no legislative consent was given to this action, the bar of sovereign immunity is available in this instance.

Plaintiff, notwithstanding this formidable showing, contends that the bar of sovereign immunity should be abolished or, in the alternative, that it is not applicable under the facts of this case. We cannot agree.

As to plaintiff's urging that we abolish the doctrine of sovereign immunity, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's holding in Brown v. Commonwealth, 453 Pa. 566, 573, 305 A.2d 868, 871 (1973), makes it clear that such a decision is not for this Court or any other to make. The growing dissatisfaction and controversy regarding the continued vitality of this doctrine in this State is recognized by this Court. It is, ...


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