A Student Lost a Finger While Cleaning a Scroll Saw at School
In Cureton v. Philadelphia Sch. Dist., 798 A.2d 279, 283 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2002) the Court set forth the law applicable to determining whether property, which is physically connected to real estate but still removable if desired, is considered part of the real estate for purposes of the relevant exception to immunity.
There, the court stated:
There are three types of chattels used in connection with real estate, the third, which is applicable here, being those chattels which, although physically connected with the real estate, are so affixed as to be removable without destroying or materially injuring the chattels themselves, or the property to which they are annexed.
These become part of the realty or remain personalty, depending upon the intention of the parties at the time of the annexation.
In this class fall such chattels as boilers and machinery affixed for the use of an owner or tenant but readily removable.
It is well settled that consideration of the intention of an owner regarding whether a chattel has been permanently placed on real property is relevant only where the chattel has in fact been affixed to the realty.
In determining intent, it is what intended use of the property was manifested by the conduct of the party that must be considered. 798 A.2d at 283.
"The question of whether property is realty or personalty, is a question of law to be based on the facts as to the property owner's manifest conduct." Wilson v. Ridgway Area Sch. Dist., 141 Pa. Commw. 607, 596 A.2d 1161, 1164 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1991).
In Cureton, the student lost a finger in 1996 while cleaning a scroll saw at school.
The evidence demonstrated that the shop teacher typically turned off the main power switch to the machines in order to allow the students to clean them.
However, the teacher failed to turn off the power while the student was cleaning the machine.
After cleaning the saw, the student turned it on to see if any dust had remained after cleaning the machine. When the student turned the saw on, his shirttails got caught in the saw's pulleys as did his finger when he tried to free his shirt.
Consequently, the finger was amputated.
Following a non-jury trial and verdict in favor of the student, the school district appealed to this court, contending that there was no evidence that it intended to leave the scroll saw in a particular location or permanently affix the saw to the realty.
The Court disagreed, noting that common pleas found that:
(1) the saw had been in the same place since 1987;
(2) the saw was permanently hardwired through the building and there was only one main power supply, which fed the shop class;
(3) the saw was bolted to the floor with four bolts;
(4) the saw was never removed from the shop classroom.
Thereafter, common pleas considered:
(1) the nature of the saw;
(2) the status of the annexor with respect to the real property;
(3) the manner of annexation;
(4) the use for which the saw had been installed.
Based upon the above facts and factors of intent, the court concluded that the saw constituted real property. the Court concluded common pleas had not erred. 798 A.2d 283-84.