Appeal from Common Pleas Court, Luzerne County, Honorable Patrick J. Toole, Jr., Judge
Mark E. Garber, Esq., CHIEF DEPUTY ATTY. GENERAL, OFFICE OF ATTY. GENERAL, TORTS LITIGATION SECTION, Harrisburg, Pa., for appellant.
Anthony C. Falvello, Esq., Joseph A. Quinn, Jr., Esq., Sugarloaf, Pa., Stephen J. Fendler, Esq., Joseph P. Giovannini, Jr., Esq., Wilkes-Barre, Pa., for appellee.
Before: Honorable David W. Craig, Judge, Honorable James Gardner Colins, Judge (p.), Honorable Alexander F. Barbieri, Senior Judge
Opinion BY HONORABLE JAMES GARDNER COLINS, Judge (P.)
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Public Welfare, Clarks Summit State Hospital, and Yao C. Wang, M.D. (appellants) petitioned for permission to appeal an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County which denied appellants' motion for summary judgment. We granted permission pursuant to Pa. R.A.P. 1311 on October 13, 1988. The order of the trial court is reversed.
This litigation arose as a result of a November 21, 1984, involuntary commitment for psychiatric care of Jeffrey Geiger to the Clarks Summit State Hospital on the basis that he was both a threat to himself, as well as others.*fn1 Geiger was found to be severely mentally disabled and diagnosed as suffering from depression as a result of problems with his former girlfriend Marie Collins. After a meeting held on November 23, 1984, it was determined that Geiger would be released on November 26, 1984. However, Geiger did not receive any substantial treatment before being released because of staffing problems as a result of the Thanksgiving weekend.
On December 5, 1984, Geiger entered the premises occupied by Greg Goryeb, Thomas Nice, III, and Marie Collins (appellees).*fn2 At this time, Geiger shot and killed Greg Goryeb and seriously wounded the other two appellees. Geiger then proceeded to shoot and kill himself.
Appellees filed a complaint alleging that the appellants were either grossly negligent or had committed willful misconduct in discharging Geiger from the State Hospital. They further alleged that Geiger was discharged, despite the fact that he was still seriously ill and his mental problems made him a threat to the community. The appellants in their answer and new matter asserted that they were immune from liability pursuant to 1 Pa. C.S. § 2310 and that the appellees' cause of action was barred by 42 Pa. C.S. §§ 8521 and 8522. Appellants then proceeded to file a motion for summary judgment contending that they were immune from suit due to Geiger's third party criminal acts.
The trial court denied this motion on August 30, 1988. On September 14, 1988, the trial court amended its order to include the operative language of Section 702(b) of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa. C.S. § 702(b), allowing an interlocutory appeal by permission. This appeal followed.
Summary judgment may only be granted where there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Muncy Area School District v. Gardner, 91 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 406, 497 A.2d 683 (1985). See also Pa. R.C.P. No. 1035.
The appellants argue that the trial court was incorrect in holding that the Supreme Court's decision in Mascaro v. Youth Study Center, 514 Pa. 351, 523 A.2d 1118 (1987), was not applicable because Mascaro involved what is commonly referred to as the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, 42 Pa. C.S. §§ 8541-8564. The appellants in their brief cite the case of Moore v. Department of Justice, 114 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 56, 538 A.2d 111 (1988), and its language which states, "[a]lthough these cases[*fn3] addressed the governmental immunity of local agencies, the ...