No. 74 January Term, 1976, Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court as of October Term, 1975, No. 332, Affirming the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of the County of Delaware 1644 of 1973
Louis Samuel Fine, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Elizabeth M. McKenna, Philadelphia, for appellee.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Roberts, Nix and Manderino, JJ., concur in the result. Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, J., dissent.
The central question for decision in this case is whether the Delaware River Port Authority is immune from suit in trespass in the courts of this State. We hold that it is not.
Appellant's husband died as a result of injuries sustained on August 16, 1972, while employed in the construction of the Admiral Barry Bridge from Chester, Pennsylvania, to Bridgeport, New Jersey. A wrongful death and survival action against the appellee Authority and other defendants was brought by the administratrix of Yancoskie's estate and by his widow and child. Under the heading of new matter in its amended answer the Authority claimed that it was "a public corporate agency or instrumentality of
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania entitled to sovereign immunity" and that it was therefore immune from suit.*fn1 The Authority's subsequent motion for judgment on the pleadings was granted by the court, and the Superior Court affirmed. 235 Pa. Super. 263, 340 A.2d 533 (1975). The case is here upon our allowance of an appeal.*fn2 235 Pa. Super. xli.
The courts below, in upholding the Authority's claim of immunity, did not have the benefit of our decision in Specter v. Commonwealth, 462 Pa. 474, 341 A.2d 481 (1975). In Specter, it was held that an answer to the question of whether the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission was immune from suit depended upon whether the Commission was "part of the Commonwealth." 462 Pa. at 478, 341 A.2d 481. This issue in turn required "a scrutiny of [the entity's] status in the governmental framework of Pennsylvania" that focused on its "nature . . . and its relationship to other statewide governmental bodies." Id. 462 Pa. at 479, 341 A.2d at 483. We believe that an analysis of the legislative acts defining the purposes and powers of the Delaware River Port Authority, together with the relevant judicial decisions, requires a conclusion that, like the Turnpike Commission
in Specter, the Authority is not "an integral part of the Commonwealth," id. 462 Pa. at 483, 341 A.2d at 486, and that it is therefore subject to suit, as are "political subdivisions or governmental entities other than the Commonwealth itself." Id. 462 Pa. at 478, 341 A.2d at ...