City Housing Authority immune from pit bull attack
on child at housing development

(4/30/2004) -- The Philadelphia Housing Authority is not liable for injuries sustained by a three-year-old boy who was attacked by another tenant’s dog at a PHA housing development, the Commonwealth Court ruled on April 27 in Govan v. Philadelphia Housing Authority. In a 5-2 decision, the majority ruled that PHA’s authority to eject a tenant for violating its pet policy did not give it control of the dog for purposes of the care, custody and control of animals exception to soverign immunity. While the court acknowledged that PHA should be more protective in its policies pertaining to pets, it determined that the PHA did not have direct control over the dog at the time of the incident. “The care, custody and control of animals exception to sovereign immunity does not apply, and, accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court,” Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt wrote for the majority.

A 7-page dissenting opinion was also filed by Judge Doris Smith-Ribner.

A copy of the opinion is available from the Appellate Court’s Web site.