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ALBRECHT v. PNEUCO MACH. CO.

May 1, 1978

BRUCE ALBRECHT AND STEPHANIE ALBRECHT, h/w
v.
PNEUCO MACHINERY COMPANY and NATIONAL RUBBER COMPANY LTD. and BOISE CRANE INDUSTRIES, INC. v. ENVIRONMENTAL TECTONICS CORP.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FOGEL

 FOGEL, J.

 I. PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL HISTORY OF THE CASE

 In June, 1975, plaintiff Bruce Albrecht was employed by Environmental Tectonics Corporation, (Tectonics). During the course of his employment, while operating a brake press, a die allegedly fell from the press onto his foot, causing injuries to him.

 On June 17, 1977, plaintiffs filed this action against Pneuco Machinery Company, (Pneuco), National Rubber Company, Ltd., (National), and Boise Crane Industries, Inc., (Boise), alleging 1) negligent design and manufacture of brake presses and dies, 2) strict liability and 3) breach of express and implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose.

 On August 10, 1977, defendants Pneuco and National filed a third party complaint against Albrecht's employer, Tectonics, alleging that the accident was caused by the negligence of Tectonics or its agents.

 Tectonics has moved for summary judgment based on Section 303 of the Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act, 77 P.S. § 481(b), which provides:

 
* * *
 
(b) In the event injury or death to an employee 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.

 II. DISCUSSION

 Defendants contend that this section of the Workmen's Compensation Act violates: (1) the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, in that it terminates a pre-existing common law right; and (2) equal protection principles, in that it eliminates a party's right to sue. Further, defendants contend that it is arbitrary and that no rational nexus exists between the Commonwealth's police power and the purpose of this section of the Workmen's Compensation Act.

 Because the constitutionality of a state statute has been questioned, we invited the Commonwealth to intervene as amicus curiae ; it did so by filing a brief, in accordance with our briefing schedule, on March 1, 1978. For the reasons which follow, we find that § 303 of the Workmen's Compensation Act, 77 P.S. § 481(b), does not violate the due process or equal protection provisions of the Constitution, and therefore grant Tectonics' motion for summary judgment.

 Defendants cited two Minnesota cases and one Florida case in support of their assertion of unconstitutionality of 77 P.S. § 481(b): Carlson v. Smogard, 298 Minn. 362, 215 N.W. 2d 615 (1974); Haney v. International Harvester Company, 294 Minn. 375, 201 N.W. 2d 140 (1972); Sunspan Engineering and Construction Co. v. Spring-Lock Scaffolding Company, 310 So. 2d 4 (Fla. Sup. Ct. 1975). In each of these cases, the respective statute was similar to the statute in this case; the enactments in question provided that an employer could not be held liable to a third party in an action commenced by an injured employee against such third party.

 Both the Minnesota and Florida Supreme Courts found their respective statutes unconstitutional; however, they did so on grounds not raised here. *fn1" We are not persuaded by these cases, (which turned as noted, on the right sought to be vindicated or state constitutional issues), particularly in view of the overall purpose underlying the Workmen's Compensation Act, 77 P.S. § 1 et seq.: speedy and efficient resolution of claims of employees injured in the performance of their jobs. Such a statutory scheme is a valid exercise of a state's police power. Dupree v. Barney, 193 Pa. Super. 331, 163 A.2d 901 (1960). Therefore, starting with the presumption of constitutionality of the state statute in question, Lehnhausen v. Lakeshore Auto Parts Company, 410 U.S. 356, 35 L. Ed. 2d 351, 93 S. Ct. 1001 (1973), we examine the ...


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