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ROBERT D. RHINES v. FRANK B. HERZEL (10/05/78)

decided: October 5, 1978.

ROBERT D. RHINES, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF BEVERLY L. RHINES, DECEASED, APPELLANT,
v.
FRANK B. HERZEL, JR., M. D., JAMES C. POWELL AND HARRISBURG STATE HOSPITAL, APPELLEES. ROBERT D. RHINES, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF BEVERLY L. RHINES, DECEASED, APPELLANT, V. DR. RENATO SALVA, DR. AURELIO MOSCOSO, ET AL., APPELLEES



No. 48 May Term, 1977, No. 29 May Term, 1977, Appeal from Order of Superior Court dated May 13, 1976, Affirming the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County at No. 99 March Term, 1974, and Order of Superior Court dated March 8, 1976, Quashing Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County at No. 150 March Term, 1976

COUNSEL

Richard C. Angino, Hurwitz, Klein, Benjamin & Angino, Harrisburg, John J. O'Brien, Jr., Elizabeth M. McKenna, O'Brien & O'Brien Associates, Philadelphia, for appellants.

Christian S. Erb, Jr., Jerd L. Hock, Harrisburg, for appellees.

Edwin L. Scherlis, Frederic E. Black, Philadelphia, for appellees, A. S. Tornay and Daniel Blain.

Glenn F. Gilman, Joseph W. McGuire, Harrisburg, for appellee, Philadelphia State Hospital.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix, Manderino and Larsen, JJ.

Author: Nix

[ 481 Pa. Page 166]

OPINION OF THE COURT

This is a wrongful death and survival action brought by the administrator of the estate of Beverly L. Rhines, deceased. The complaint alleged that the deceased, a patient at Harrisburg State Hospital, was killed by another patient, Henry Miller. Decedent's death, according to the facts alleged by plaintiff-appellant, was due to the failure of hospital personnel to provide for adequate supervision of Miller, a patient with known homicidal tendencies. Joined

[ 481 Pa. Page 167]

    as defendants in the cause of action were the superintendent of Harrisburg State Hospital, various staff psychiatrists, sundry hospital personnel, and the Commonwealth's Department of Public Welfare and Harrisburg State Hospital. The Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County sustained appellees' preliminary objections and dismissed the complaint seriatim as to the various defendants, basing its decision on sovereign immunity, absolute immunity and conditional immunity.*fn1 The Superior Court affirmed. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the Orders dismissing the complaint and remand the case for proceedings consistent herewith.

The dismissal of individual defendants by the court below in accordance with the court's application of the refinements of the absolute and conditional immunity doctrines in Pennsylvania law must be reversed because of the mandate of Section 603 of the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966*fn2 defining the scope of liability for both officials and employees acting pursuant to its terms. Freach v. Commonwealth, 471 Pa. 558, 370 A.2d 1163 (1977). The facts alleged in the complaint that ...


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