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COMMONWEALTH v. J. W. BISHOP & COMPANY (12/21/81)

decided: December 21, 1981.

COMMONWEALTH, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, APPELLANT,
v.
J. W. BISHOP & COMPANY, INC., COMMONWEALTH, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, APPELLANT, V. GEORGE H. OVERMOYER



No. 81-2-253, Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court dated December 17, 1980, at No. 817 C.D. 1976, Granting Appellee's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. No. 81-2-254, Appeal from the Order of the Commonwealth Court dated December 17, 1980, at No. 1757 C.D. 1977, granting Appellee's Motion for Summary Judgment.

COUNSEL

Mark F. Brancato, Asst. Counsel, Ward T. Williams, Chief Counsel, Harrisburg, for appellant.

F. Lee Shipman, Timothy I. Mark, Harrisburg, for J. W. Bishop & Co., Inc.

David E. Lehman, Harvey Freedenberg, Harrisburg, for George H. Overmoyer.

O'Brien, C. J., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, and Kauffman, JJ. O'Brien, C. J., concurs in the result. Wilkinson, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Roberts

[ 497 Pa. Page 60]

OPINION OF THE COURT

At issue on these appeals is the applicability of statutes of limitations to actions brought by the Commonwealth. We reaffirm the long-standing rule that such statutes do not apply to the Commonwealth unless the statute specifically so provides. Hence, we vacate the orders of the Commonwealth Court and remand for further proceedings.

These appeals arise out of two separate actions. In the case against appellee J. W. Bishop & Co., Inc., a bridge owned by the Commonwealth collapsed when Bishop's allegedly overweight vehicle passed over it on June 6, 1969. In the case against appellee George H. Overmoyer, another bridge owned by the Commonwealth collapsed under Overmoyer's allegedly overweight truck on April 4, 1969. The total cost of repairs to the two bridges exceeded $150,000.

Appellant Department of Transportation filed a complaint in trespass against Bishop on May 5, 1976, six years and eleven months after the incident involving Bishop. A similar complaint was filed against Overmoyer on August 25, 1977, eight years and four months after the incident involving Overmoyer. The respective complaints allege that the extra weight of the vehicles caused the bridges to collapse. Bishop and Overmoyer contended that the six-year statute of limitations precluded recovery.*fn1 The Commonwealth Court initially rejected Bishop's contention on the ground

[ 497 Pa. Page 61]

    that the Commonwealth was exempt from the statute under the doctrine of nullum tempus occurrit regi ("time does not run against the king").*fn2 Commonwealth Dep't of Transportation v. J. W. Bishop & Co., 29 Pa. Commw. 285, 370 A.2d 747 (1977). Subsequently, however, a divided Commonwealth Court held in both cases that the abrogation of sovereign immunity in Mayle v. Pennsylvania Dep't of Highways, 479 Pa. 384, 388 A.2d 709 (1978), compelled the abrogation of the doctrine of nullum tempus. Commonwealth, Dep't of Transportation v. J. W. Bishop & ...


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