Can You Sue a Volunteer Fire Department for Damages to Property In Pennsylvania ?
In Wilson v. Dravosburg Volunteer Fire Department No. 1, 101 Pa. Commw. 284, 516 A.2d 100 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1986), the Court unequivocally interpreted the term "local agency" under the Subchapter C of Chapter 85 of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa. C.S. 8541-8564 (the PSTCA) to include volunteer fire companies as a government unit entitled to immunity.
In so doing, the Court recognized that volunteer fire companies, in the performance of public firefighting duties, exist as an entity acting on the behalf of local government units. Wilson.
This conclusion was supported by the historical, structural relationship existing between volunteer fire companies and the local municipalities and the citizenry they serve. Wilson.
This Court reached a similar result in Weaver v. Union City Volunteer Fire Department, 102 Pa. Commw. 298, 518 A.2d 7 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1986), wherein the Court considered whether a volunteer fire company was immune from liability under the PSTCA for damages to property that arose as a result of firefighting training exercises.
The Court concluded that the Union City volunteer fire company was entitled to immunity under the PSTCA because its firefighting training exercise was within the scope of its public firefighting duties.
In Guinn v. Alburtis Fire Company, 531 Pa. 500, 502, 614 A.2d 218, 219 n.2 (1992), our Supreme Court similarly stated that "a volunteer fire company created pursuant to relevant law and recognized as the official fire company for a political subdivision is a local agency."
In Guinn, the Supreme Court expanded the immunity further than this Court had in Weaver, when it stated that volunteer fire companies are entitled to governmental immunity even when they are not engaged in fire-fighting activities.
The Supreme Court concluded in Guinn that a volunteer fire company was entitled to governmental immunity for serving alcohol to an individual who was visibly intoxicated and thereafter was struck and injured by a motor vehicle when he was walking home.