Do Volunteer Ambulance and Fire Companies Entitled to a Local Government Immunity ?
In Christy v. Cranberry Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Inc., 579 Pa. 404, 856 A.2d 43 (2004), the Supreme Court was "asked to determine whether a volunteer ambulance company is entitled to the benefit of local government immunity pursuant to the PSTCA (Subchapter C of Chapter 85 of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa.C.S. ?8541-8564) when furnishing the same emergency medical services that an immune volunteer fire company provides." Id. at 406, 856 A.2d at 44.
When analyzing the issue, the Supreme Court clearly stated that "volunteer fire companies are local agencies for purposes of the PSTCA." Id. at 411, 856 A.2d at 47 (citing Regester v. Longwood Ambulance Co., Inc., 751 A.2d 694 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2000), affirmed sub nom., Regester v. County of Chester, 568 Pa. 410, 797 A.2d 898 (2002)).
It explained that local agency status is accorded to volunteer fire companies because the duties performed by firefighters are of public character.
The Supreme Court noted that "for many years, ambulance companies have been treated differently than fire companies, with respect to immunity, resulting from the view that fire companies have a unique and distinguishing character and history." Christy, 579 Pa. at 411, 856 A.2d at 47.
The Supreme Court then noted that the criteria for establishing local agency immunity changed as a result of its decision in Sphere Drake, which broadened the factors that must be analyzed in determining whether an entity is a local agency that enjoys immunity.
The Supreme Court disagreed with this Court's conclusion that immunity of a non-profit ambulance company was governed by the EMSA, not the PSTCA.
It remanded the matter to this Court, with instructions to remand the matter to the trial court for a determination of whether the volunteer ambulance company was a "local agency."
The Supreme Court stated that:
To determine whether Cranberry Ambulance is a 'local agency,' it will be necessary to determine if it is a non-profit corporation created by a political subdivision, thus meeting the definition of 'local authority' in the Statutory Construction Act.
Further, Cranberry Ambulance's relationship with Cranberry Township must be analyzed to determine if its purpose is to carry out a civic or political function of the Township. Christy, 579 Pa. at 420, 856 A.2d at 53.