Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Reverses Decision in Favor of Lincoln Fire Company

Sherr Law Group Represented the Fire Company 

March 18, 2024 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Sherr Law Group, representing Lincoln Fire Company, is pleased to announce a significant legal victory following the reversal of a lower court decision by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. Stefanie Sherr and Anthony Sherr successfully navigated the legal proceedings, ensuring that Lincoln Fire Company retains control over its assets, in line with the wishes of its members. 

The case arose from Whitemarsh Township’s decision to remove Lincoln Fire Company, one of the three volunteer fire companies serving the township. Despite this decision, neither the township nor the remaining fire companies, Spring Mill and Barren Hill, engaged Lincoln Fire Company in discussions regarding potential mergers or the distribution of assets. In response, Lincoln Fire Company’s members voted to distribute 75% of its assets to the Montgomery County Fire Academy and the remaining assets to North Penn Goodwill Services during dissolution proceedings. 

However, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office contested these designations, leading to a legal dispute in the Montgomery County Orphans Court. Judge Lois E. Murphy ruled in favor of applying the doctrine of cy pres, which allows a court to modify the terms of a charitable trust when the original purpose of the trust becomes impossible or impractical to fulfill, designating Spring Mill and Barren Hill as beneficiaries of Lincoln Fire Company’s assets. This decision has now been overturned by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. 

In its ruling, the Commonwealth Court emphasized the importance of honoring the autonomy of Lincoln Fire Company and respecting the intentions of its members, as outlined in the organization’s bylaws. The court acknowledged Lincoln Fire Company’s clear intent to identify suitable beneficiaries and manage its affairs independently, rendering the application of cy pres unnecessary. 

The case has been remanded back to the Montgomery County Orphans Court, allowing Lincoln Fire Company, with the continued representation of Sherr Law Group, the opportunity to designate other beneficiaries in accordance with its bylaws. 

Stefanie Sherr, Partner at Sherr Law Group, expressed satisfaction with the court’s decision, stating, “We are pleased with the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court’s recognition of Lincoln Fire Company’s autonomy and the rights of its members. This outcome ensures that Lincoln Fire Company can continue its charitable endeavors and serve its community effectively.” 

Sherr Law Group boasts decades of experience representing clients in Pennsylvania’s courts in areas such as municipal and employment law, insurance defense, and products liability. Since 1957, they have earned the confidence of clients as a trusted partner in law and litigation. Sherr Law Group champions proactive problem-solving and relentlessly pursues the best possible outcomes for their clients. 

Case Reference: In re: Lincoln Fire Company, Non-Profit Corporation, Appeal of Lincoln Fire Company, No. 479 C.D. 2022 (Pa. Cmwlth. Ct. 1/16/2024) 


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