Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in case of Action Coalition of Elders, a Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation et al. v. Allegheny County Institution District et al. v. Frank S. Beal, as Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, No. GD 77-10674.
E. J. Strassburger, Assistant Solicitor, with him Alexander J. Jaffurs, County Solicitor, for appellants.
Dennis Revak, with him Paul H. Titus and Titus and Marcus, for appellees.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers, Blatt and MacPhail. Judges DiSalle and Craig did not participate. Opinion by President Judge Bowman.
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Although the procedural background of the instant case has been rather complex, the issue presently before
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us on appeal is a narrow one: Is the Department of Public Welfare of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (DPW), joined as third-party respondent below, an indispensable party to these proceedings or is DPW a necessary party? We have concluded that DPW is a necessary party and shall, therefore, affirm the lower court.
This litigation was commenced on May 13, 1977, when appellee, Action Coalition of Elders, a nonprofit corporation organized to advance the interests of the aged, filed, as a class action,*fn1 a petition for declaratory judgment in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. Named as a respondent was appellant herein, Allegheny County Institution District (Institution District). Petitioners seek a determination of the statutory duty of the Institution District under Section 401 of the County Institution District Law, Act of June 24, 1937, P.L. 2017, as amended, 62 P.S. § 2301, to provide skilled nursing and intermediate institutional care to those residents of Allegheny County receiving medical assistance and certified by DPW as in need of such care but not receiving it. The Institution District filed an answer raising questions of law. On June 30, 1977, appellees filed an amended petition for declaratory judgment and supplemental relief.*fn2 In its second answer raising questions of law the Institution District raised, inter alia, the objection that Section 11 of the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act, Act of June 18, 1923, P.L. 840, as amended, formerly 12 P.S. § 841, required "all persons shall be
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made parties who have or claim any interest which would be affected by the declaration. . . ." Thereafter, the Institution District filed a petition adding third-party respondents requesting that Frank S. Beal, Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare, and numerous private nursing care facilities be joined in the suit.*fn3
Following a series of procedural maneuvers not relevant to our consideration of the issue here, the lower court entered an order on March 30, 1978, disposing of various outstanding objections and motions. Appealed to this Court under Section 1 of the Act of March 5, 1925, P.L. 23, as amended, 12 P.S. § 672, was the lower court's holding that DPW was a necessary, rather than indispensable, party. This issue is jurisdictional because if DPW is an indispensable party respondent, ...