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ARTHUR E. FORCE v. STEVEN E. WATKINS ET AL. (07/21/88)

decided: July 21, 1988.

ARTHUR E. FORCE, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF WAYNE A. FORCE, DECEASED, APPELLANT
v.
STEVEN E. WATKINS ET AL., APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Northumberland County, in the case of Arthur E. Force, Administrator of the Estate of Wayne A. Force, Deceased v. Steven E. Watkins, Izaac L. Reamer, Ron Blackledge, Riverside Borough and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, No. CV-85-1595.

COUNSEL

Ambrose R. Campana, Campana & Campana, for appellant.

Robert B. Hoffman, Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, for appellees.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judge McGinley, and Senior Judge Narick, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by President Judge Crumlish, Jr.

Author: Crumlish

[ 118 Pa. Commw. Page 88]

Arthur Force, administrator of the estate of Wayne Force, appeals a Northumberland County Common Pleas Court order sustaining preliminary objections filed by appellees the Borough of Riverside (Borough), Police Officers Steven Watkins and Izaac Reamer and Chief of Police Ron Blackledge. We affirm in part and reverse and remand in part.

Wayne Force was a passenger in an automobile which crossed into a Borough speed detection zone. Officer Reamer clocked the vehicle in excess of the speed limit and so informed Officer Watkins, who initiated pursuit. This evolved into a high-speed chase which ended when the vehicle failed to negotiate a turn and crashed, killing Wayne Force.*fn1

Force's estate filed a complaint against the appellees, alleging that the officers negligently "panicked" the vehicle by giving chase for a minor traffic violation*fn2 and that Police Chief Blackledge failed to adequately instruct

[ 118 Pa. Commw. Page 89]

    and supervise the officers. The common pleas court dismissed the complaint, based on its determination that Force's allegations of negligence did not come within the vehicle liability exception to governmental immunity under Section 8542(b)(1) of the Judicial Code (Code), 42 Pa. C.S. ยง 8542(b)(1).

The vehicle liability exception provides:

(b) Acts which may impose liability. -- The following acts by a local agency or any of its employees may result in the imposition of liability on a local agency:

(1) Vehicle liability. -- The operation of any motor vehicle in the possession or control of the local agency. As used in this paragraph, 'motor vehicle' means any vehicle which is self-propelled and any attachment thereto, ...


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