Original jurisdiction in case of Larry Parker v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Public Welfare.
Arnold C. Grossman, of Fine, Staud & Grossman, for petitioner.
Jean E. Graybill, Assistant Attorney General, with her, James R. Adams, Chief Counsel, for respondent.
Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Rogers and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail. President Judge Bowman did not participate in the decision in this case. Judge DiSalle did not participate in the decision in this case.
[ 49 Pa. Commw. Page 620]
Larry Parker has filed a Petition for Review for Declaratory Judgment asking us to declare invalid as against the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) an "Agreement and Authorization to Pay Claim" (Agreement) a copy of which is attached to the petition now before us. DPW has filed preliminary objections in the nature of a petition raising the question of jurisdiction, a motion to strike and a demurrer.
DPW contends that since the Agreement is a contract, exclusive jurisdiction to determine its validity lies with the Board of Claims. Petitioner contends that the Agreement is not a contract and, therefore, the Board of Claims has no jurisdiction. Whether or not the Agreement is a contract, this Court does have jurisdiction of the instant case.
Section 4 of the Act of May 20, 1937, P.L. 728, as amended, 72 P.S. § 4651-4 provides that:
The Board of Claims shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine all claims against the Commonwealth arising from contracts hereafter entered into with the Commonwealth
[ 49 Pa. Commw. Page 621]
where the amount of controversy amounts to $300.00 or more. (Emphasis added.)
This proceeding does not involve a claim against the Commonwealth. Regardless of whether the Agreement is declared to be valid or invalid, the Commonwealth will not be required to pay any sum nor to perform any act with respect to Parker. In Vespaziani v. Department of Revenue, 40 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 54, 396 A.2d 489 (1979), the petitioner sought by a suit in equity to compel the Department of Revenue to perform what the petitioner characterized as a contractual obligation. We held that exclusive jurisdiction of such a case lay with the Board of Claims (Board) notwithstanding petitioner's argument that the Board had no power to grant specific performance. Judge Mencer held that:
However, the test for determining whether a court has jurisdiction of the subject matter is whether the court is competent to determine controversies of the general class to which the case presented belongs, and the controlling question is whether the court has power to enter upon the inquiry and not whether it was ...