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LANEY v. CITY OF PITTSBURGH

July 9, 1987

David Laney, Plaintiff,
v.
The City of Pittsburgh, Police Officer Renk, Police Officer Doe, Port Authority Transit of Allegheny County, and Bus Driver Roe, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: COHILL

 Maurice B. Cohill, Jr., Chief Judge

 Presently before us are a motion for summary judgment filed by defendants Port Authority of Allegheny County ("PATCO") and Bus Driver Roe, and a supplemental motion for summary judgment filed by the City of Pittsburgh ("City"). We granted a previous motion for summary judgment on behalf of the City as to state law claims against it at Count 2, because of immunity extended to the City under 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8541. The City's earlier motion was denied as to the federal claim lodged against it at Count 3 of the complaint. At present, the following claims remain in the complaint:

 
Count 1 is a claim against individuals Police Officer Renk, Police Officer Doe, and Bus Driver Roe based on 42 U.S.C. § 1985 and the 4th, 5th, 8th and 14th amendments;
 
Count 3 is a claim against the City based on 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and the 1st, 4th, 5th, 8th and 14th amendments;
 
Count 4 is a claim against Bus Driver Roe based on 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983 and the 4th, 5th, 8th, and 14th amendments;
 
Count 5 contains state law tort claims against Bus Driver Roe and PATCO;
 
Count 6 is a claim against PATCO based on 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983 and the 1st, 4th, 5th, 8th, and 14th amendments.

 We will deny the motions for summary judgment except that we will grant summary judgment as to PATCO on Count 5 only, and summary judgment as to Bus Driver Roe on Count 5 only to the extent that it alleges negligence on the part of Bus Driver Roe. We find that PATCO is immune and Bus Driver Roe is partially immune from tort liability under Pennsylvania's Political Subdivisions Torts Claims Act, 42 Pa. C.S.A. §§ 8501-64.

 This case originated with Bus Driver Roe's refusal to allow plaintiff to use his student bus pass to board a PATCO bus. Plaintiff alleges that the bus driver confiscated his pass, then refused to allow plaintiff to leave the bus. According to plaintiff, the bus driver transported plaintiff to a police station, where police officers took plaintiff off the bus against his will.

 PATCO and the bus driver claim immunity under 42 Pa. C.S.A. §§ 8541 & 8550. We begin by noting that PATCO is at most liable for negligent, and not wilful, acts of misconduct on the part of Bus Driver Roe. 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8542(a)(2). Therefore, summary judgment is appropriate on behalf of PATCO as to plaintiff's allegations of false arrest, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and gross negligence.

 As for plaintiff's allegation of negligence against PATCO, plaintiff argues that the "vehicle liability" exception, contained in 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8542(b)(1), removes the shield of sovereign immunity from PATCO in this case. The exception provides that the defense of sovereign immunity does not apply in cases arising out of "the operation of any motor vehicle in the possession or control of the local agency." Id.

 The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has decreed that the sovereign immunity exceptions contained in 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8542 must be construed narrowly. Mascaro v. Youth Study Center, Pa. , 523 A.2d 1118, 1123 (1987). In Mascaro, the Court considered the real estate exception, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8542(b)(3), and held that the liability imposed on local agencies by the exception is equivalent to the liability of a private landowner.

 The courts which have considered the vehicle exception reach somewhat conflicting results, with the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court construing the statute more narrowly than the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In City of Philadelphia v. Love, 98 Pa. Cmwlth. 138, 509 A.2d 1388 (1986), appeal granted, 523 A.2d 1132 (1987), the Commonwealth Court held that the vehicle exception did not apply to impose liability for the negligence of a city van driver who assisted a senior citizen in alighting from the van. The passenger fell and was injured. Id. at 1389. The court held that "the acts of entering ...


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