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TERESA SILKOWSKI v. PAUL GRANT HACKER (02/21/86)

decided: February 21, 1986.

TERESA SILKOWSKI, A MINOR BY HER PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, HELEN SILKOWSKI, AND HELEN SILKOWSKI
v.
PAUL GRANT HACKER, ET AL. PAUL GRANT HACKER, ET AL., APPELLANTS



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County, in case of Teresa Silkowski, a minor, by her parent and natural guardian, Helen Silkowski and Helen Silkowski v. Paul Grant Hacker, Hawk Mt. Council and Boy Scouts of America, and County of Schuylkill, Schuylkill County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Office, Mental Health and Mental Retardation Systems, Inc., Schuylkill County Association for Retarded Citizens, Carol Keating and Lisa Hoffman, No. S-1191, 1983.

COUNSEL

Calvin J. Friedberg, with him, Jacqueline I. Russell, Williamson, Friedberg & Jones, for appellants.

W. Alan Williams, Lewis, Williams and Caravan, for appellee, Schuylkill County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Office.

Timothy I. Mark, Goldberg, Evans & Katzman, for appellee, County of Schuylkill.

Judges Craig and Palladino, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino.

Author: Palladino

[ 95 Pa. Commw. Page 227]

Paul Hacker, the Hawk Mountain Council and the Boy Scouts of America (Appellants) appeal from a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County (trial court) which sustained the preliminary objection in the form of a demurrer filed by the County of Schuylkill (County) and dismissed the County as an additional defendant in a suit brought by Appellee, Teresa Silkowski (Plaintiff). We affirm.

[ 95 Pa. Commw. Page 228]

Plaintiff is a mentally retarded child under the care of the County's Mental Health/Mental Retardation Office (MH/MR). MH/MR and the County contracted with two groups to provide care and recreation for Plaintiff and others. Those groups were: Mental Health/Mental Retardation Systems, Inc. (Systems, Inc.); and Schuylkill County Association for Retarded Citizens (SCARC). While on a SCARC-sponsored overnight camping trip at the Hawk Mountain Boy Scout Camp, Plaintiff was struck by a motor vehicle operated by Appellant Hacker, who is an employee of the Boy Scouts. Plaintiff filed a complaint in trespass against Appellants Hacker, Hawk Mountain Council and the Boy Scouts of America.

Appellants then filed a complaint joining the County, MH/MR, Systems, Inc., SCARC, Carol Keating and Lisa Hoffman, as additional defendants in the action. The County filed preliminary objections to Appellants' complaint, including a demurrer. The County asserted that Appellants had failed to state a cause of action against it under Section 8542 of the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act (Act).*fn1 The trial court found that the claims asserted against the County did not fall within the Act's eight exceptions to immunity, granted the demurrer and dismissed the County as an additional defendant. This appeal followed.

The issues raised by Appellants in this appeal are: (1) the trial court erred in considering, as part of the demurrer, the County's defense of immunity, because Pa. R.C.P. No. 1030 requires the defense of immunity to be raised as new matter; and (2) the complaint against the County sounds in contract, not in tort, and therefore is not barred by the Act.

[ 95 Pa. Commw. Page 229]

Appellants' first argument, concerning the impropriety of raising immunity by way of preliminary objection, is answered by this Court's decision in Swartz v. Masloff, 62 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 522, 437 A.2d 472 (1981), wherein we held that the proper manner to raise this challenge would be a preliminary objection to the preliminary objection, in the nature of a motion to strike for failure to conform to Pa. R.C.P. 1030. Appellants admit in their brief that they failed to file a preliminary objection to the County's preliminary ...


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