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HELEN M. WITT v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (06/12/78)

decided: June 12, 1978.

HELEN M. WITT, RECEIVER OF PIONEER FINANCE COMPANY ET AL., PLAINTIFF
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF BANKING, CARL K. DELLMUTH ET AL., DEFENDANTS



Original jurisdiction in case of Helen M. Witt, Receiver of Pioneer Finance Company, Bellevue Finance Company, Bellevue Consumer Discount Company, Pioneer Acceptance Company and Bellevue Acceptance Company v. Department of Banking, Carl K. Dellmuth, G. Allen Patterson, John B. Toppin, Robert J. Sarsfield, James Robb, Raymond Bowersox, F. A. George and Charles Cook.

COUNSEL

Michael L. Snyder, with him Paul H. Titus, Frances O. Tennant, and Kaufman & Harris, for plaintiff.

John L. Sweezy, Assistant Attorney General, with him John E. Nanorta, Assistant Attorney General, Bonnie J. McRobbie, Assistant Attorney General, Robert P. Kane, Attorney General, Robert P. Reed, and Metzger, Wickersham, Knauss & Erb, for defendants.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers, Blatt and DiSalle. Opinion by President Judge Bowman.

Author: Bowman

[ 36 Pa. Commw. Page 300]

Helen M. Witt (plaintiff), by our Order of June 28, 1974, in Commonwealth ex rel. Pennsylvania Securities Commission v. Pioneer Finance Company, docketed to No. 757 C.D. 1974, was appointed receiver of "all the assets of Pioneer Finance Company, Bellevue Finance Company and Bellevue Consumer Discount Company." By a prior Order in the same proceedings, Pioneer, Bellevue and affiliated companies were placed into receivership upon petition of the Pennsylvania Securities Commission.

This action, addressed to our original jurisdiction under Section 401 of the Appellate Court Jurisdiction Act of 1970 (ACJA), Act of July 31, 1970, P.L. 673, as amended, 17 P.S. ยง 211.401, is for damages for alleged misfeasance on the part of defendants which is said to have contributed to the financial collapse of Pioneer, Bellevue et al. and their liabilities to note holders in an amount exceeding $900,000.

Named as defendants are the Department of Banking; Carl K. Dellmuth and G. Allen Patterson, former Secretaries of Banking; John B. Toppin, Executive Deputy Assistant Director of the Department of Banking; Robert J. Sarsfield, Director and former Assistant Director of the Consumer Credit Bureau of the Department of Banking; James Robb, former Director of the Consumer Credit Bureau of the Department of Banking; Raymond Bowersox, Assistant Director

[ 36 Pa. Commw. Page 301]

    of the Consumer Credit Bureau; F. A. George, Examination Supervisor of the Consumer Credit Bureau; and Charles Cook, an examiner in the Department of Banking.

To the petition for review, defendants have filed sundry preliminary objections and motions, first, in the nature of a demurrer raising the defenses of sovereign immunity with respect to the Department of Banking, and absolute and conditional immunity for "high" and "low" public officials respectively with regard to the remaining defendants; second, alleging defective service of process; third, a motion to strike; and, fourth, a motion for a more specific pleading.

We must first examine our jurisdiction over these proceedings for in its absence we may not rule on these preliminary objections or motions. Opie v. Glascow, Inc., 30 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 555, 375 A.2d 396 (1977) (allocatur denied).

Section 401(a)(1) of the ACJA, vests in this Court exclusive jurisdiction over "[a]ll civil actions or proceedings against the Commonwealth or any officer thereof, acting in his official capacity. . . ."*fn1 While the term "officer" is not defined in the ACJA, Fischer v. Kassab, 32 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. ...


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