Appeals in cases of James Stevenson v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Revenue, Docket No. 523, and Tony Vespaziana, individually and as representative of a class of persons similarly situated, v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Revenue, Docket No. 547.
Louise Reiber Malakoff and Kenneth L. Baker, with them, Daniel Berger; Berger, Kapetan & Malakoff; Reed B. Day ; and Peacock, Keller, Yohe, Day & Ecker, for petitioners.
Elizabeth S. Shuster, Deputy Attorney General, with her Joseph W. McGuire, Deputy Attorney General, J. Justin Blewitt, Jr., Deputy Attorney General, Chief, Civil Litigation, and Robert P. Kane, Attorney General, for respondent.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers, Blatt and MacPhail. Judges DiSalle and Craig did not participate. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.
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James Stevenson and Tony Vespaziana (Petitioners) brought separate actions before the Board of Arbitration of Claims (Board)*fn1 on their own behalf and
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on behalf of all other persons similarly situated against the Department of Revenue (Department). Specifically, both Petitioners alleged that they and those they claim to represent bought "Big Fifty Bonus Lottery" tickets depicting a 27-foot Winnebago Motor Home as first prize. Petitioners alleged that they and other members of the class they claim to represent were first prize winners but they did not receive the Winnebago pictured on their lottery tickets. Instead, the Department delivered to each of them a 21-foot Winnebago valued at approximately $14,000.00 less than the 27-foot motor home.*fn2
The Department filed a number of preliminary objections to Petitioners' complaints including a demurrer to those parts of the complaints asserting a class action. The Board sustained the Department's objection to the Petitioners' maintenance of a class action and dismissed the remainder of the preliminary objections.*fn3 The Petitioners have appealed from the Board's denial of their class action status and those appeals have been consolidated for our disposition. Petitioners contend that the law authorized class action claims before the Board and that the denial of their class action status violated the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.
Pursuant to Sections 1 and 4 of the Act of May 20, 1937, P.L. 728, as amended, 72 P.S. §§ 4651-1 and 4651-4
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(Act),*fn4 the Board of Arbitration of Claims existed to arbitrate claims against the Commonwealth arising from contracts entered into by or with the Commonwealth and amounting to $300.00 or more. Section 8(a) of the Act, provided that "All hearings before the board shall be public and shall be governed by all of the rules of Pennsylvania Civil Procedure not inconsistent with this act." (Emphasis added.) 72 P.S. § 4651-8. Section 10 of the Act authorized the Board to establish regulations governing practice before the Board. 72 P.S. § 4651-10. Pursuant to that section, the Board adopted a regulation providing that "all proceedings in an action before the Board of Arbitration of Claims shall be, as nearly as possible, in accordance with the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure relating to the action of Assumpsit." (Emphasis added.) 4 Pa. Code § 121.1.
Petitioners insist that the Board should have permitted class actions since such actions were specifically authorized by Pa. R.C.P. No. 2230.*fn5 Moreover, they argue that their contention has been decided in their favor in Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission v. Freeport Area School District, 467 Pa. 522 359 A.2d 724 (1976). In that case Appellant appealed from a decision by our Court*fn6 wherein we held that the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) could order affirmative relief only for named complainants in a suit ...