Krofcheck Secures Dismissal for Township Entity in Property Damage Action

Lauren Despot Krofcheck, Esq., a partner in Cipriani & Werner, P.C.’s Pittsburgh office, successfully obtained dismissal of the Township Municipal Sewage Authority (“Township”) in a property damage lawsuit.

Plaintiffs instituted this action by way of Complaint in Arbitration against the Township and Contractor for damages Plaintiffs allegedly sustained to their property during the installation of a sanitary sewer system for the municipality.  The damage sustained to their property was “outside of the original easement, including their driveway and parking area for their business.”  Prior to commencement of the construction, the Township secured various easements to enter upon the real estate of various landowners, which Plaintiff executed.  The Township thereafter entered into a contract with Co-Defendant Contractor to install various portions of the sewage system.

Plaintiffs allege that as a necessary and unavoidable consequence of the performance of the work on the part of the contractor, Plaintiffs’ property outside of the original easement, including their driveway and parking area for their business, was destroyed and damaged.  Plaintiffs classify this as a “de facto condemnation” of their property.

The Complaint then alleges two undefined causes of action, one against each of the Co-Defendants.  Plaintiffs first allege a cause of action against Co-Defendant Contractor, stating that it “entered onto Plaintiffs’ real estate” “outside of the easement” damaging Plaintiffs’ parking areas for their business and the roadway leading from the public road to Plaintiffs’ place of business.  Plaintiffs also allege that Co-Defendant Contractor promised that they would restore Plaintiffs’ parking lot and the roadway following the damage created by it.

In the next Count, Plaintiffs allege that the Township “advised Plaintiffs that its Contractor would effect a remedy of the damages.”  Plaintiffs then allege that the Township “is responsible for the damages to Plaintiffs’ property as a result of the actions of its contractor….”  No allegations were pled in regard to any affirmative actions taken by the Township that allegedly caused Plaintiffs’ damages.

As an Answer and limited New Matter had already been filed on behalf of the Township prior to our retention, Attorney Krofcheck secured an agreement by the parties to permit the Township to file an Amended New Matter, alleging, inter alia, defenses under the Pennsylvania’s Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, and cross-claims against the Contractor.

When the pleadings closed, Attorney Krofcheck filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, arguing that the Township should be dismissed as a matter of law as, (1) the Township is immune from suit under Pennsylvania’s Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act as Plaintiffs have not (and cannot) allege negligence against it; and (2), any allegations of de facto condemnation are procedurally improper in a civil arbitration action, necessitating dismissal of that cause of action.

Plaintiffs conceded that it could not oppose the Motion, and the Court of Common Pleas dismissed the Township from the action.

If you have any questions about this case or any other insurance defense litigation issues in Pennsylvania, please contact Lauren Despot Krofcheck, Esq. at lkrofcheck@c-wlaw.com or (412) 563-2500.  Attorney Krofcheck concentrates her practice in insurance defense litigation including premises liability, products liability, employment discrimination, wrongful death, motor vehicle/trucking, and complex general liability matters.