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DELAWARE RIVER PORT AUTHORITY PENNSYLVANIA AND NEW JERSEY v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (08/30/79)

decided: August 30, 1979.

DELAWARE RIVER PORT AUTHORITY OF PENNSYLVANIA AND NEW JERSEY, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, BOARD OF ARBITRATION OF CLAIMS, RESPONDENT. JAMES A. DIETRICH, PETITIONER V. DELAWARE RIVER PORT AUTHORITY OF PENNSYLVANIA AND NEW JERSEY, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Board of Arbitration of Claims in case of James A. Dietrich v. Delaware River Port Authority of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Docket No. 562; and Original jurisdiction, No. 1389 C.D. 1977, in case of James A. Dietrich v. Delaware River Port Authority of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

COUNSEL

Jeffrey B. Albert, with him, of counsel, Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, for Delaware River Port Authority of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Edwin B. Barnett, with him Strong, Barnett, Hayes & Hamilton, for James A. Dietrich.

Nathan H. Waters, Jr., for Board of Arbitration of Claims.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers, Craig and MacPhail. Judges Blatt and DiSalle did not participate. Opinion by President Judge Bowman.

Author: Bowman

[ 45 Pa. Commw. Page 282]

A question of the proper forum in which to pursue an employment contract claim against the Delaware River Port Authority of Pennsylvania and New Jersey (Port Authority) is presently before us in two postures. Docketed at No. 1525 C.D. 1978 is a petition for review (addressed to our appellate jurisdiction) of an order of the Board of Arbitration of Claims (Board)*fn1 overruling the Port Authority's preliminary

[ 45 Pa. Commw. Page 283]

    objections challenging the Board's jurisdiction over it. Docketed at No. 1389 C.D. 1977 is an original jurisdiction action initiated by James A. Dietrich, who alleges that the Port Authority discharged him from his position as an engineer in violation of his employment contract. By order dated October 14, 1977, we raised sua sponte the question of our jurisdiction. We now conclude that neither the Board nor this Court has jurisdiction over the Port Authority.

The Board, in finding that the Port Authority was an agency of the Commonwealth within its jurisdiction, failed to give full import to the Supreme Court decision in Yancoskie v. Delaware River Port Authority (hereinafter Yancoskie), 478 Pa. 396, 387 A.2d 41 (1978). In the context of entitlement to immunity from suit in trespass, the Supreme Court thoroughly analyzed the legislative history and powers of the Port Authority and concluded that it was "not an integral part of the Commonwealth." Its financial independence, extensive implied powers and relative freedom from "close connection" with Commonwealth agencies warranted instead a status analogous to that of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission;*fn2 immunity from suit in trespass was thus denied.

The absence of an integral attachment of the Port Authority to the Commonwealth also precludes the exercise of jurisdiction by the Board over the Port Authority. The scope of the Board's authority is defined by Section 1 of the Act of May 20, 1937, which provides "the duty of [the Board] shall be to arbitrate claims against the Commonwealth arising from contracts entered into by the Commonwealth. . . ." We find substantial merit in affirming the classification scheme developed in Yancoskie and conclude that the Port Authority is not within the ambit of "Commonwealth"

[ 45 Pa. Commw. Page 284]

    as required for the invocation of the Board's jurisdiction. The order of the Board dated June 8, ...


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