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City of Philadelphia v. Borough of Westville

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

June 5, 2014

City of Philadelphia
v.
Borough of Westville, New Jersey and Tri-County Municipal Joint Insurance Fund, Appellants

Argued May 13, 2014.

Appealed from No. October Term, 2012, No. 4016. Common Pleas Court of the County of Philadelphia. Ceisler, J.

Maurice J. Maley, Jr., Collingswood, NJ, for appellants.

Stephen M. Calder, Philadelphia, for appellee.

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, President Judge, HONORABLE RENÉ E COHN JUBELIRER, Judge, HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge. OPINION BY SENIOR JUDGE FRIEDMAN.

OPINION

Page 531

ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge.

The Borough of Westville, New Jersey (Westville) and Tri-County Municipal Joint Insurance Fund (Tri-County) (together, Defendants) appeal from two orders entered by the Court of Common

Page 532

Pleas of Philadelphia County (trial court): (1) the March 12, 2013, order overruling Defendants' preliminary objections; and (2) the July 2, 2013, order granting the motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by the City of Philadelphia (City). We reverse the March 12, 2013, order, dismiss this matter for lack of personal jurisdiction, and vacate the July 2, 2013, order.[1]

On September 16, 2010, the City's Fire Department responded to a fire at the BP Oil Refinery on the Delaware River in Paulsboro, New Jersey. While responding to the fire, the City's fire boat allegedly caused a large wake that damaged Westville's fire boat, which was also responding to the fire.

Westville submitted an insurance claim in the amount of $140,600 to Tri-County for the damage to its boat. In February 2011, Scibal Associates, Inc. (Scibal), Tri-County's claim administrator, paid Westville $139,600, which represented the amount of Westville's claim less a $1,000 deductible. By letter dated August 4, 2011, Scibal notified the City that it intended to recover $139,600 from the City via subrogation.

On October 31, 2012, the City filed a declaratory judgment action against Defendants, seeking a declaration absolving it of any liability for the damage to Westville's boat and seeking to enjoin Defendants from pursuing any property damage claims against the City. On December 7, 2012, Defendants filed preliminary objections to the City's complaint, asserting, inter alia, lack of personal jurisdiction. On March 12, 2013, the trial court overruled Defendants' preliminary objections and granted them leave to file an answer within 20 days.

After Defendants timely filed their answer, the City filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, and Defendants filed a response. On July 2, 2013, after briefing by the parties, the trial court granted the City's motion and declared the City immune from all insurance and subrogation claims related to the boat incident under section 8553(d) of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa. C.S. ยง 8553(d), commonly known as ...


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