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JOSEPH G. DEFRANCESCO AND FRANK CREA v. WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA WATER COMPANY (12/23/82)

decided: December 23, 1982.

JOSEPH G. DEFRANCESCO AND FRANK CREA, T/D/B/A MT. WASHINGTON ORNAMENTAL IRON WORKS COMPANY AND JOSEPH G. DEFRANCESCO AND FRANK CREA, AS INDIVIDUALS, APPELLANTS,
v.
WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA WATER COMPANY, A CORPORATION, APPELLEE. JOSEPH F. LOY AND BERNICE LOY, T/D/B/A JOSEPH F. LOY TIRE SERVICES, INC., APPELLANTS, V. WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA WATER COMPANY, A CORPORATION, APPELLEE



No. 5 W.D. Appeal Dkt. 1982, Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court, dated October 2, 1981, at 1101 Pittsburgh, 1980, vacating the Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County at No. GD 75-6899, No. 6 W.D. Appeal Dkt. 1982, Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court, dated October 2, 1981, vacating the Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County at No. GD 75-5695.

COUNSEL

Robert W. Murdoch, C. Robert Keenan, III, Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace, Pittsburgh, for appellants.

George I. Buckler, Meyer, Darragh, Buckler, Bebenek & Eck, Pittsburgh, for appellee.

O'Brien, C.j., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott and Hutchinson, JJ. Roberts, J., files a concurring opinion.

Author: Mcdermott

[ 499 Pa. Page 375]

OPINION

These consolidated cases are appeals of the orders of the Superior Court, vacating judgments entered in favor of

[ 499 Pa. Page 376]

    appellants*fn1 in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County.*fn2

The facts of the underlying dispute are simple: Fire broke out on the property at which appellants Joseph G. DeFrancesco and Frank Crea operated a business. Before the fire could be controlled, it spread to the adjacent business property of appellants Joseph F. and Bernice Loy. Structures on both properties were consumed by flames.

Appellants brought suit in trespass and assumpsit against appellees Western Pennsylvania Water Company ("West Penn"), alleging that the fire was not controlled because West Penn failed to provide water pressure in the fire hydrant near appellants' properties. The allegations put forth by appellants were that West Penn's employees had worked on the hydrant the day of the fire and, as a result, the water pressure in the hydrant sputtered off and on, below its normal pressure. Hence, appellants claimed, the fire raged beyond the control of the Pittsburgh Fire Department causing the damage to their properties.

The cases went to trial before the Honorable Emil Narick in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, and appellants obtained verdicts in their favor. West Penn appealed to the Superior Court, raising the argument that the common pleas court had usurped the authority of the Public Utility Commission ("PUC"). The Superior Court reversed on this issue, holding that jurisdiction over appellants' liability claims was properly vested in ...


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