November 2013 - Parks & Recreation - 32

L AW R E V I E W

and Recreation Department. Williams' estate claimed that negligence
on the part of the County and the
Department had caused Williams to
drown in the " Swimming Hole, " an
area rented out to private parties at
Fun Junktion. In response, the defendants claimed governmental immunity against any claims of negligence.
The trial court held that defendants
were not entitled to governmental immunity because " defendants charged
and collected a fee for the use of the
Fun Junktion park, and defendants
were providing the same type of facilities and services that private individuals or corporations could provide. "
The state court of appeals affirmed.
In the opinion of the appeals court,

is one in which only a governmental agency could engage, or if any
corporation, individual or group of
individuals could do the same thing;
(3) whether the governmental unit
charged a substantial fee; and (4) if
a fee was charged, whether a profit
was made.
According to the appeals court, the
most important of these four factors
was " whether nongovernmental actors could perform the same function
provided by the county or municipality. " Applying these factors to the
facts of this particular case, the appeals court found the following:
(1) Public parks have traditionally
been provided by local government;
(2) public parks could be provided

The state supreme court noted, in general, the
operation and management of " municipal property
as [a] public park is a governmental function because
control of public parks belongs primarily to the
state and municipalities...[who] act as governmental
agencies exercising an authority delegated to them
by the state. "
" governmental immunity applies to
counties and municipalities acting
in the performance of governmental,
rather than proprietary, functions. "
Governmental Function Immunity
In determining whether a function is
governmental (i.e., immune from liability) or proprietary (i.e., subject to liability), the appeals court had considered the following " four-factor test " :
(1) Whether an undertaking is
one traditionally provided by local
governments; (2) if the undertaking

30

Parks & Recreation

by private, as well as public, entities;
(3) defendants charged a fee ($75.00)
for the use of Fun Junktion; and (4)
defendants did not make a profit as a
result of charging this or other rental
fees for Fun Junktion.
As a result, the appeals court found
the " defendant was involved in a proprietary function in the operation of
the party facilities at Fun Junktion " because " nongovernmental actors could
perform the same function provided by
the county or municipality. " The appeals court, therefore, affirmed the trial

| N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 3 | W W W. N R PA . O R G

court's denial of defendants' motion for
summary judgment. The state supreme
court agreed to review this determination by the lower courts.
According to the state supreme
court, " [o]ur jurisprudence has recognized the rule of governmental immunity for over a century, " which was
described as follows:
Under the doctrine of governmental immunity, a county or municipal
corporation is immune from suit for
the negligence of its employees in the
exercise of governmental functions
absent waiver of immunity.
This principle is derived from English law and is based on the premise
that, as the creator of the law, " the
king could do no wrong. " While we
have acknowledged that this rationale
is not as persuasive as it once was,
this Court has declined to abrogate
the common-law doctrine of governmental immunity. Instead, we have
reasoned that any change in our common law is more properly a task for
the legislature.
Governmental vs. Proprietary
As noted by the state supreme court,
" governmental immunity is not without limit. " Specifically, the court
acknowledged that governmental
immunity " covers only the acts of a
municipality or a municipal corporation committed pursuant to its governmental functions. " Accordingly,
as described by the court, governmental immunity would not apply
" when the municipality engages in a
proprietary function. "
When a municipal corporation
undertakes functions beyond its
governmental and police powers
and engages in business in order to
render a public service for the benefit of the community for a profit, it
becomes subject to liability for con-



November 2013 - Parks & Recreation

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of November 2013 - Parks & Recreation

November 2013 - Parks & Recreation - 1
November 2013 - Parks & Recreation - 2
November 2013 - Parks & Recreation - 3
November 2013 - Parks & Recreation - 4
November 2013 - Parks & Recreation - 5
November 2013 - Parks & Recreation - 6
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November 2013 - Parks & Recreation - 32
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