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KENNETH W. BEHREND v. BELL TELEPHONE COMPANY PENNSYLVANIA (07/12/78)

decided: July 12, 1978.

KENNETH W. BEHREND, APPELLEE,
v.
THE BELL TELEPHONE COMPANY OF PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLANT



Nos. 472, 473 and 492, April Term, 1975, Appeals from the Orders and Judgment Entered on March 5, 1975, of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division of Allegheny County, on Remand from the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, at No. 43 July Term, 1968 at 472; No. 162 April Term, 1971 at 473 and No. 492

COUNSEL

Jerome J. Shestack, Philadelphia, with him Donald P. Eriksen, Pittsburgh, for appellant.

James E. Beasley, Philadelphia, with him Jeffrey M. Stopford, Philadelphia, for appellee.

Watkins, President Judge, and Jacobs, Hoffman, Cercone, Price, Van der Voort and Spaeth, JJ. Watkins, former President Judge, did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Jacobs

[ 257 Pa. Super. Page 37]

This case is before us on remand from the Supreme Court*fn1 to decide whether the limitation of damages provision of Bell's tariff is valid under Article III, Section 18 of the Pennsylvania Constitution:

"The General Assembly may enact [workmen's compensation laws] . . . but in no other cases shall the General Assembly limit the amount to be recovered. . . for injuries to persons or property . . . ." (Emphasis added.)

After a studied consideration of the able arguments of both parties, we conclude that Bell's tariff is not violative of the above-quoted constitutional provision.

We start with the well-settled principle that "[a] constitution is not to receive a technical or strained construction, but rather the words should be interpreted in their popular, natural and ordinary meaning. We should also

[ 257 Pa. Super. Page 38]

    consider the circumstances attending its formation and the construction probably placed upon it by the people. Commonwealth ex rel. Tate v. Bell, 145 Pa. 374, 22 A. 641 (1891)." Commonwealth v. Harmon, 469 Pa. 490, 494-95, 366 A.2d 895, 897 (1976) (footnote omitted). See also Berardocco v. Colden, 469 Pa. 452, 366 A.2d 574 (1976); Breslow v. Baldwin Township School District, 408 Pa. 121, 182 A.2d 501 (1962); Commonwealth ex rel. Reinhardt v. Randall, 356 Pa. 302, 51 A.2d 751 (1947); O'Connor v. Armstrong, 299 Pa. 390, 149 A. 655 (1930). With this principle firmly in mind, we turn our attention to a consideration of the particular constitutional provision here in question.

Our Supreme Court, in Singer v. Sheppard, 464 Pa. 387, 346 A.2d 897 (1975), recently traced the historical background of Article III, Section 18. In so doing, the Court left no stone unturned; there simply is nothing we can add that would lead to a better understanding of that provision. For purposes of the present inquiry, we need only mention that the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention of 1872-73 specifically addressed itself to the Act of April 4, 1868, P.L. 58, whereby the General Assembly had limited the damages recoverable against a common carrier by a negligently injured plaintiff. The manifest purpose of the framers of Article III, Section 18, and the people who voted for it, was to invalidate the Act of April 4, 1868, and at the same time, to prevent the General Assembly from ever again enacting similar legislation, i. e., legislation which would limit the amount of damages recoverable by a victim of another's negligence.

Case law applying Article III, Section 18, lends supports to this interpretation. See, e. g., Tropiano v. Travelers Insurance Company, 455 Pa. 360, 362, 319 A.2d 426, 427 (1974) (Article III, Section 18 "preclude[s] the enactment of general legislation covering injuries other than those arising in the course of employment."); ...


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