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CITY PITTSBURGH v. EQUITABLE GAS COMPANY (07/08/86)

decided: July 8, 1986.

CITY OF PITTSBURGH, APPELLANT
v.
EQUITABLE GAS COMPANY, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, in case of City of Pittsburgh v. Equitable Gas Company, No. 02889-84.

COUNSEL

John George Shorall, II, Assistant City Solicitor, with him, D. R. Pellegrini, City Solicitor, for appellant.

Louis C. Long, with him, John E. Kunz, Meyer, Darragh, Buckler, Bebenek & Eck, for appellee.

Louise A. Knight, with her, Joseph J. Malatesta, Jr., Malatesta, Hawke, McKeon & Morris, for Amicus Curiae, Pennsylvania Gas Association.

Judges MacPhail and Doyle, and Senior Judge Rogers, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Senior Judge Rogers.

Author: Rogers

[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 524]

The question in this case is that of whether the City of Pittsburgh, which committed police and other relief measures to an emergency, may recover the costs of those services from the alleged tortfeasor, Equitable Gas Company (Equitable), which caused the accident.

In its complaint in "trespass/assumpsit" against Equitable, the city alleged that on January 24, 1984, an explosion occurred on one of Equitable's natural gas lines located on a city street and that the city expended

[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 525]

$1,185.70, in supplying police personnel to the explosion site.

Equitable filed a preliminary objection in the nature of a demurrer, contending that the city may not recover the cost of essential governmental services usually provided to taxpayers. The Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County sustained the preliminary objection and dismissed the complaint. The city appeals.

Our review of the limited case law on the point leads us to conclude that the trial court correctly held that a municipal corporation may not recover as damages the costs of services the provision of which was an important reason for its creation and maintenance by the people. District of Columbia v. Air Florida, Inc., 750 F.2d 1077 (D.C. Cir. 1984); City of Flagstaff v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Co., 719 F.2d 322 (9th Cir. 1983); City of Bridgeton v. B.P. Oil, Inc., 146 N.J. Super. 169, 369 A.2d 49 (1976). The cost of public services for protection from a safety hazard is to be borne by the public as a whole, not assessed against a tortfeasor whose negligence creates the need for the service.

We are unaware of any Act of the General Assembly authorizing a municipality to recover the cost of providing emergency services and the city cites none. The city contends, however, that Section 603.02 of the Pittsburgh Code entitles it to recover its costs. The cited ...


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