The opinion of the court was delivered by: KNOX
In this diversity action for personal injuries Dennis Adamik sued the original defendant Pullman Standard, a division of Pullman Incorporated as defendant for personal injuries sustained on October 8, 1975 at the Butler, Pennsylvania plant of Pullman. Plaintiff at the time was an employee of Adams Steel Erection Inc. third party defendant and movant herein (Adams Steel) who had been engaged by C. T. Dumbaugh Company another third party defendant who, as general contractor, was doing certain work on the walls and roof of a building located on the Pullman premises.
It appears that the injury occurred when plaintiff, the employee of Adams, was installing certain sheeting materials and insulation on the roof of the building. He was carrying a twelve-foot long Z-bar (a spacer) when it came in contact with an electrical line running above the roof of the paint shop. Plaintiff claims that his injuries were the result of Pullman's negligence as landowner and owner of the electrical line. Pullman Standard thereupon brought upon the record as third party defendants plaintiff's employer Adams Steel and C. T. Dumbaugh the general contractor claiming indemnity and contribution from them.
Adams Steel as the employer of Adamik has moved for judgment on the pleadings claiming that the action is barred by the amendments to the Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act of December 5, 1974, P.L. 782, 77 Purdon's Pa. Statutes 481(b) and that under the Amendment as provided in 481(b) it is no longer possible to join the employer as a third party or additional defendant in an action brought by an employee against a third party for his injuries.
There appears to be no question that plaintiff has received workmen's compensation benefits for his injuries which were sustained October 8, 1975, from his employer Adams and its insurer. Adams Steel therefore has a right of subrogation to recover on account of benefits from monies which plaintiff may receive from a third party in this case Pullman.
Defendant Pullman resists a motion for judgment on the pleadings on the grounds that section 481(b) is unconstitutional and is violative of Article I, Section 11 of the Pennsylvania Constitution and also is a denial of equal protection of the laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Pullman also claims that under Section 481(b) the employer joinder is not barred because in this case it did not cause the injury to the employee and its liability is only that of a landowner for negligence committed by the employer. Pullman further claims that Section 481(b) does not bar a credit to Pullman for Workmen's Compensation Benefits due the employee (Adamik) from his employer (Adams Steel).
The 1974 Amendment to the relevant section of the Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act provides (77 P.S. 481(b)):
"(b) In the event injury or death to an employe is caused by a third party, then such employe, his legal representative, husband or wife, parents, dependents, next of kin, and anyone otherwise entitled to receive damages by reason thereof, may bring their action at law against such third party, but the employer, his insurance carrier, their servants and agents, employes, representatives acting on their behalf or at their request shall not be liable to a third party for damages, contribution, or indemnity in any action at law, or otherwise, unless liability for such damages, contributions or indemnity shall be expressly provided for in a written contract entered into by the party alleged to be liable prior to the date of the occurrence which gave rise to the action. As amended 1974, Dec. 5, P.L. 782, No. 263 § 6, eff. in 60 days."
With respect to the equal protection argument the court holds that there is no violation of the Fourteenth Amendment resulting in denial of equal protection of the laws to Pullman.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has recently passed upon the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's no fault legislation in Singer v. Sheppard, 464 Pa. 387, 346 A.2d 897 (1975) where plaintiff complained that the Pennsylvania No Fault Act unlawfully discriminated between certain types of plaintiffs in tort actions. With respect to the equal protection argument, the court had this to say:
"Except where an invidious discrimination against a suspected class is at issue or a fundamental right burdened, 'a legislative classification must be sustained unless it is "patently arbitrary" and bears no rational relationship to a legitimate governmental interest.' Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677, 93 S. Ct. 1764, 36 L. Ed. 2d 583 (1973)."
This statement by the Pennsylvania Court is of course a proper statement of tests to be applied to determine whether there has been a denial of equal protection and we find that there has not. The chief question is whether there is any invidious discrimination here or whether the legislation is rationally related to the legitimate end of improving the Pennsylvania scheme for providing Workmen's Compensation benefits. We agree with the attorney for Adams on page 3 of his supplemental brief: "By rendering employers who are liable for compensation without regard to fault immune from third party actions and by permitting them to recoup compensation benefits paid when the negligence of a third party has been a proximate cause of an employee's injuries the General Assembly intended to provide more certainty in administration of the benefit fund and more stability to the fund. Elimination of third party actions against employers permits ...