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08/06/97 JAMES W. DAVIS v. WILLIAM BRENNAN

August 6, 1997

JAMES W. DAVIS, APPELLANT
v.
WILLIAM BRENNAN, SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY AND SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY



Appealed From No. 94 Civil 920. Common Pleas Court of the County of Susquehanna. Judge VANSTON, President Judge.

Before: Honorable Joseph T. Doyle, Judge, Honorable Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter, Judge, Honorable Jess S. Jiuliante, Senior Judge. Opinion BY Judge Doyle.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Doyle

OPINION BY JUDGE DOYLE

FILED: August 6, 1997

James W. Davis appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Susquehanna County which granted the motion for summary judgment filed by Susquehanna County on the basis that the County was immune from liability pursuant to Section 8541 of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa. C.S. § 8541, commonly known as the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act (Act).

On March 4, 1994, while incarcerated at the Susquehanna County Correctional Facility, Davis, while taking a shower, allegedly slipped and fell when the "grab bar" in the shower stall broke free from the shower unit, causing Davis to strike his head. Thereafter, on September 6, 1994, Davis filed a complaint against the County for the injuries he sustained as a result of the March 4, 1994 incident.

On June 14, 1996, the County filed a motion for summary judgment, and oral argument on the motion was held before the Court of Common Pleas on July 30, 1996. By order dated July 31, 1996, the Court of Common Pleas granted the County's motion on the basis of governmental immunity under Section 8541 of the Act, 42 Pa. C.S. § 8541. This appeal ensued. *fn1

The County's principal argument on appeal is that we should affirm the trial court's grant of summary judgment because "the instant record establishes that the shower stall in question was a free standing piece of personal property." (County's Brief at 8.)

Section 8541 of the Act provides that:

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.

42 Pa. C.S. § 8541. Limited exceptions to this immunity are enumerated in Section 8542 of the Act, which provides in relevant part:

(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:

(3) Real property. -- The care, custody or control of real property in the possession of the local agency, except that the local agency shall not be liable for damages on account of any injury sustained by a person intentionally trespassing on real property in the possession of the local agency. . . .

42 Pa. C.S. ยง 8542(b)(3). This "real property exception" to governmental immunity includes articles of personal property or chattels which have been affixed to real property so as to become realty itself -- namely, fixtures. See Kelly v. Curwensville ...


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