WILKES-BARRE – Attorneys for Hazleton have appealed a Luzerne County judge's ruling that denied their request to dismiss the city from a lawsuit alleging city officials improperly authorized a tree company to remove timber from private property.
Attorney John Solt of the Slusser Law Firm contends a judge erred when he ruled the city was not protected from being sued by the Political Subdivision Claims Act, which provides immunity to municipalities for actions by their employees except under limited circumstances.
The lawsuit, filed in 2010, alleges two city employees at that time, Robert Dougherty and Alan Wufsus, directed William and David Burger to remove trees from property owned by attorney Pasco Schiavo without Schiavo's knowledge or consent.
The trees were removed in 2008 in order to clear a flight path for the Hazleton Municipal Airport. Schiavo filed suit against the Burgers, alleging they damaged his property and caused it to lose value. The Burgers then joined the city as defendants.
Schiavo's suit seeks more than $75,000 in damages for the loss of the timber, costs to restore the property and loss of value to the land.
Solt filed objections to the suit, arguing the city was immune. Senior Judge Charles C. Brown allowed the case to continue against the city, saying it was too early in the litigation to determine if the city had a viable immunity defense.
Although he denied the motion to dismiss, Brown permitted Solt to appeal his ruling to the state Superior Court, finding there was a legitimate question of law that could resolve the suit should an appellate court agree with Solt's position.