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EDWARD J. MARSHALL v. PORT AUTHORITY ALLEGHENY COUNTY AND MICHAEL BAKER (05/13/87)

decided: May 13, 1987.

EDWARD J. MARSHALL
v.
PORT AUTHORITY OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY AND MICHAEL BAKER, JR., INC. PORT AUTHORITY OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY, APPELLANT. EDWARD J. MARSHALL V. PORT AUTHORITY OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY AND MICHAEL BAKER, JR., INC. MICHAEL BAKER, JR., INC., APPELLANT



Appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in the case of Edward Marshall v. Port Authority of Allegheny County and Michael Baker, Jr., Inc., No. G.D. 82-23771.

COUNSEL

Louis C. Long, with him, Raymond H. Conaway, Meyer, Darragh, Buckler, Bebenek & Eck, for appellant, Port Authority of Allegheny County.

W. Arch Irvin, Jr., Wayman, Irvin & McAuley, for appellant, Michael Baker, Jr., Inc.

Edward J. Balzarini, Balzarini, Carey & Watson, for appellee, Edward J. Marshall.

Judges Craig and Doyle, and Senior Judge Narick, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Craig

[ 106 Pa. Commw. Page 133]

The Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) and Michael Baker, Jr., Inc. appeal from a judgment entered in favor of Edward J. Marshall to compensate him for injuries he sustained while demolishing a bridge in a PAT construction project.

Mr. Marshall's complaint avers that he was employed as a laborer by the Mosites Construction Company in the construction of the PAT East Busway. Mr. Marshall testified that on January 13, 1981, at approximately 7:00 p.m., he stepped onto a steel beam on a bridge which was being dismantled. Workers had cut the beam earlier with an acetylene torch; when he placed his weight on it, the beam gave way and Mr. Marshall fell 15 to 20 feet to the ground below. Immediately after his fall, a steel beam landed on top of Mr. Marshall's legs, inflicting severe injuries.

Mr. Marshall filed suit against Michael Baker, Jr., Inc., an engineering firm retained by PAT for the construction project, and PAT. A jury determined that Baker had been negligent and that PAT was vicariously liable for the negligence of the Mosites Construction Company, the general contractor. After denying the defendants' motions for post-trial relief, Judge Farino of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas entered judgment holding PAT and Baker jointly and severally liable for Mr. Marshall's damages. Baker appealed the judgment to the Superior Court which transferred the case to this court to be consolidated with an appeal filed by PAT.

Port Authority Appeal

PAT contends that it is immune from liability in this case under section 8541 of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa. C.S. § 8541, the local agency immunity statute known as

[ 106 Pa. Commw. Page 134]

    the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act. That section provides:

Governmental Immunity Generally

Except as otherwise provided in this subchapter, no local agency shall be liable for any damages on account of any injury to a person or property caused by any act of the local agency or an employee thereof or any other person.

The parties dispute whether PAT is a "local agency" for purposes of the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act.*fn1 This court recently resolved a similar question in E-Z Parks, Inc. v. Larson, 91 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 600, 498 A.2d 1364, aff'd per curiam, 509 Pa. 496, 503 A.2d 931 (1986), in which we held that the Philadelphia Parking Authority was a "local agency" under the immunity statute. Examination of the parking authority's enabling legislation, which created "a public body corporate and politic, exercising the public powers of the Commonwealth as an agency thereof," led this court to conclude that the authority fit squarely within the definition of "local agency" found in section 8501 of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa. C.S. § 8501.

[ 106 Pa. Commw. Page 135]

PAT's genesis lies in section 3(a) of the Second Class County Port Authority Act, 55 P.S. § 553(a),*fn2 which provides that:

There are hereby created bodies corporate and politic in counties of the second class, to be known as Port Authority of (insert name of county), which shall constitute public bodies corporate and politic; exercising the public powers of the Commonwealth as an agency thereof.

The Judicial Code broadly defines "local agency" as "[a] government unit other than the Commonwealth government." 42 Pa. C.S. § 8501. As in our E-Z Parks analysis, we observe that PAT -- as a public body corporate and politic -- fits squarely within the Act's ...


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