Johnson v. The Township of Plumcreek
859 A.2d 7 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004)

Case Details:

Residents claimed that an ordinance that required them to connect to the public water system violated their civil rights and due process. The residents were afraid that they would not be able to protect themselves if a terrorist contaminated the public water supply. The court held that the ordinance was constitutional because, (1) the residents were not required to actually drink the public water; (2) the residents did not show a real and imminent danger to the water supply; and, (3) the residents did not show that they faced a danger greater than the danger faced by the public at large.

The court quickly dismissed the residents’ assertion that the ordinance violated a fundamental right to privacy because the residents could use water from any source other then a spring, well, or cistern to have water supplied to their house. The court stated that an ordinance that governs ” general economic and social welfare” only requires a rational relationship to any interest that the state legitimately may promote.

The underlying claim asserted was that the ordinance spurred a “state created danger.” The residents feared that terrorists could contaminate the public water and adversely affect the residents’ health. A “state created danger” requires, (1) a “special danger” for the victim which is not shared by the public at large, and, (2) the state must be aware that its actions “specifically endanger” an individual. The could held that the plaintiff failed to meet its burden of proof where they showed neither that the public shared this danger nor that the ordinance would specifically endanger anyone since the fear of terrorism was mere speculation.

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