A liberal reading of plaintiffs' allegations contained in the lengthy complaint reveals that plaintiffs have pleaded the following causes of action: (1) false arrest; (2) false imprisonment; (3) slander; and (4) malicious prosecution.
Under Pennsylvania Law, to which we must look in this case, the statutes of limitations for false arrest,
and malicious prosecution
are all one year. False imprisonment
actions, on the other hand, must be brought within two years from the time the cause of action arose.
One final period of limitations which might possibly apply here is the general two year statute of limitations [12 Purdon's Pa.Stat.Ann. § 34] which has been invoked in other Civil Rights cases wherein deprivations of constitutional rights were alleged generally. [ Conard v. Stitzel, 225 F. Supp. 244 (E.D.Pa.1963)]
In any event we hold that any claims that plaintiffs may have had, on the basis of their allegations in the complaint, are barred by the respective statutes of limitations discussed, supra. [ Funk v. Cable, 251 F. Supp. 598 (M.D.Pa.1966); Gaito v. Strauss, 249 F. Supp. 923 (W.D.Pa.1966; Conard v. Stitzel, 225 F. Supp. 244 (E.D.Pa.1963); Weiner v. City and County of Philadelphia, 184 F. Supp. 795 (E.D.Pa.1960)]
Even if we assume that plaintiffs are not barred by any statute of limitations, we nevertheless find that their complaint has failed to state a cause of action against any of the defendants named herein. The remainder of this opinion will be confined to a discussion of the various grounds urged by defendants in support of their respective motions to dismiss. For purposes of organization and clarity, the Court will examine the defenses of each group of defendants in the order in which those defendants are named in the complaint.
RADNOR TOWNSHIP COMMISSIONERS AND POLICE
(1) The Commissioners: Since plaintiffs have alleged no specific facts connecting the Commissioners, as individuals, with the incidents upon which this cause of action is predicated ( Pugliano v. Staziak, 231 F. Supp. 347 (W.D.Pa.1964), we assume that they have been named as an entity. The Court concludes, therefore, that the complaint against the Commissioners of Radnor Township, a municipal body, must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter. The Civil Rights Act of 1871 does not contemplate suits against municipalities. [ Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 81 S. Ct. 473, 5 L. Ed. 2d 492 (1961); Roberts v. Trapnell, 213 F. Supp. 49 (E.D.Pa.1962)]
(2) The Police: With regard to the possible liability of the Radnor Township Police, it is clear that an unlawful arrest and detention perpetrated by some person under color of state law states a claim under the Civil Rights Act. [ Basista v. Weir, 340 F.2d 74 (3rd Cir. 1965)]
However, in the present case, plaintiffs have failed to allege any specific facts with respect to either the "arresting" officers or the remaining members of the police department. [ Pugliano v. Staziak, supra] The fatal defect in the complaint is the absence of any allegation that Officers Fleming and Jansen lacked probable cause to detain and search the minor plaintiff for the offense of shoplifting.
In paragraph #9 of the complaint plaintiffs merely state in general terms that the detectives "seized plaintiff Aileen Henig at the entrance to said store and by superior force dragged her resisting body to the store office where they attempted to interrogate her." Although plaintiffs contend at various places in their complaint that the girl was innocent of any wrongdoing, they miss the crucial point - that so long as the officers had probable cause to believe that Miss Henig was in the act of committing a misdemeanor,
they were acting within the law when detaining, questioning and searching her. [ United States v. Murphy, 290 F.2d 573, 575 (3rd Cir. 1961); see also 18 Purdon's Pa.Stat.Ann. § 4816.1(b)]
The Court concludes that the motions to dismiss filed on behalf of defendants Fleming and Jansen, as well as the other named Radnor Township Policemen, will be granted.
F. W. WOOLWORTH COMPANY AND EMPLOYEES
Defendant Woolworth's primary defense - that its employees were private citizens who merely cooperated with the police and who in no way acted under color of state law - is well founded. [ Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 81 S. Ct. 473, 5 L. Ed. 2d 492 (1961); Duzynski v. Nosal, 324 F.2d 924 (7th Cir. 1963)] In view of the fact that the complaint contains no material facts to support a charge of conspiracy between those employees and the police officers under 42 U.S.C.A. § 1985, we hold that plaintiffs cannot maintain a cause of action in this Court against Woolworth and its named employees in the absence of diversity of citizenship.
In the first paragraph of their complaint, plaintiffs state that they are residents of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but fail to allege the existence of diversity of citizenship between them and any of the named defendants. The motion to dismiss the action against F. W. Woolworth Company and various named employees is therefore granted.
JUDGES OF THE SUPREME AND SUPERIOR COURTS OF PENNSYLVANIA, DELAWARE COUNTY COURT AND THEIR NAMED EMPLOYEES
With regard to the above-named group of defendants, the only ground relied upon in support of their respective motions to dismiss which we need mention is that of judicial and quasi-judicial immunity. [ Bauers v. Heisel, 361 F.2d 581 (3rd Cir.) decided May 19, 1966.] Since these defendants enjoy immunity from suit under the Civil Rights Act, their motions to dismiss must be granted for the reason that plaintiffs cannot state a claim against them upon which relief can be granted.
THE WALLINGFORD HOME AND NAMED EMPLOYEES
As in the case of defendant Woolworth, we find that the Wallingford Home and its employees did not act under "color of state law" in the sense that term is used in the Civil Rights Act. It is a private institution which acted, at all times relevant to these proceedings, pursuant to a court order which was valid on its face. [ Campbell v. Glenwood Hills Hosp. Inc., 224 F. Supp. 27 (D.Minn.1963); Francis v. Lyman, 216 F.2d 583 (1st. Cir. 1954); Kenney v. Fox, D.C., 132 F. Supp. 305, affd. 232 F.2d 288 (6th Cir. 1956, Cert. Den. 352 U.S. 855, 77 S. Ct. 84, 1 L. Ed. 2d 66 (1956); see also Bauers v. Heisel, 361 F.2d 581 (3rd Cir.) decided May 19, 1966, footnote 7]
On the basis of the facts alleged in the complaint, we further find plaintiffs' claim that Aileen was placed in involuntary servitude and subjected to cruel and unusual punishment to be patently frivolous.
Therefore, the motion of defendant Wallingford Home and certain named employees will be granted.
In view of the foregoing analysis which is sufficiently dispositive of the present motions to dismiss, we find it unnecessary to discuss the remaining defenses urged on behalf of various defendants.
And now, this first day of July, 1966, it is ordered that the motions to dismiss be and the same are granted as to all defendants named in the complaint, and the action is hereby dismissed with prejudice.