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FREEZER STORAGE v. ARMSTRONG CORK COMPANY (01/26/78)

decided: January 26, 1978.

FREEZER STORAGE, INC., A CORPORATION, APPELLANT,
v.
ARMSTRONG CORK COMPANY, A CORPORATION, AND ACANDS, INC., A CORPORATION



COUNSEL

John E. Evans, Jr., Evans, Ivory & Evans, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

Buchanan, Ingersoll, Rodewald, Kyle & Buerger, Ronald W. Frank, Robert J. Pfaff, Egler & Reinstadtler, Pittsburgh, for appellees.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Jones, Former C. J., did not participate in the decision of this case. Manderino, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Nix, J., joins.

Author: Roberts

[ 476 Pa. Page 272]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant Freezer Storage, Inc. (Freezer Storage) challenges the constitutionality of a statute limiting the liability of all persons "lawfully performing or furnishing the design, planning, supervision or observation of construction, or construction

[ 476 Pa. Page 273]

    of [an improvement to real property]."*fn1 Act of December 22, 1965, P.L. 1183, § 1, 12 P.S. § 65.1 (Supp.1977).*fn2 The Act of 1965 provides that, except in specified circumstances, all actions against such persons for deficiencies in

[ 476 Pa. Page 274]

    their work must be brought within twelve years after the completion of the improvement. Appellant argues that this statute conflicts with the Constitution of Pennsylvania because (1) it is special legislation violating Article III, Section 32 of the Constitution; (2) it closes the courts to one who has suffered an injury, in violation of Article I, Section 11 of the Constitution; and (3) it limits the amount which may be collected for an injury, in violation of Article III, Section 18 of the Constitution. We find that none of these grounds support appellant's claim of unconstitutionality.

I

The court of common pleas decided this case upon preliminary objections, and therefore we must treat as true all well-pleaded allegations made by Freezer Storage in its complaint as amended. Allstate Insurance Co. v. Fioravanti, 451 Pa. 108, 299 A.2d 585 (1973).

Freezer Storage alleges that appellee Armstrong Cork Company (Armstrong), negligently planned, designed and installed insulation material in the ceiling of Room No. 1 of a low-temperature warehouse owned and operated by Freezer Storage. About August, 1970, Freezer Storage discovered that the ceiling was about to collapse, and paid Acands, Inc. (Acands) over $21,000 for repairs.

On April 18, 1973, the ceiling collapsed. Repairs cost nearly $60,000 and damage to merchandise stored in the room was about $20,000. After the collapse, Freezer Storage discovered that both the original construction by Armstrong and the repairs by Acands had been done negligently.

In March of 1974, Freezer Storage brought an action for damages against both Armstrong and Acands in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. Armstrong filed preliminary objections to the complaint, contending that the Act of 1965 barred the action because it was instituted more than twelve years after Armstrong had completed work on the warehouse ceiling. Freezer Storage responded that the statute is unconstitutional. The trial court held the statute constitutional and dismissed the action against Armstrong.

[ 476 Pa. Page 275]

The Superior Court affirmed. We granted allocator and now affirm.

II

Article III, Section 32 of the Pennsylvania Constitution reads in pertinent part:

"The General Assembly shall pass no local or special law in any case which has been or can be provided for by general law and specifically the General Assembly shall not pass any local or special law: . . .

7. Regulating labor, trade, mining or manufacturing:

Appellant contends that the limitation of liability on which appellee relies, the Act of 1965, is a "special law" because it creates an irrational distinction between engineers, architects, builders and building contractors [hereinafter collectively called "builders"], to whom it applies, and others who are involved in improving real estate, such as landowners and suppliers, to whom it does not apply.

The general rule for determining whether an act is a "special law" violating the Pennsylvania Constitution is this:

"Legislation for a class distinguished from a general subject is not special, but general; and classification is a legislative question, subject to judicial revision only so far as to see that it is founded on real distinctions in the subjects classified, and not on artificial or irrelevant ones, used for the purpose of evading the constitutional prohibition. If the distinctions are genuine, the courts cannot declare the classification void, though they may not consider it to be on a sound basis. The test is not wisdom, but good faith in the classification."

DuFour v. Maize, 358 Pa. 309, 313, 56 A.2d 675, 677 (1948), quoting from Seabolt v. Commissioners, 187 Pa. 318, 41 A. 22 (1898). Thus, our only inquiry is whether there are "real distinctions" between ...


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