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MARTELL v. CHISHOLM

November 21, 1974

Kenneth E. MARTELL
v.
William D. CHISHOLM, Individually and formerly as a counselor for the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling Center, et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEBER

 Plaintiff brought this action for deprivation of his constitutionally protected civil rights alleging in paragraph one of his Complaint that "through the individual and collective actions of the defendants . . . he was falsely imprisoned at the defendant Spencer Hospital for a period of fifteen days without due process. The aforesaid imprisonment was effected through the commencement of a statutorily defective civil commitment procedure pursuant to the Pennsylvania Mental Health and Retardation Act of 1966 . . . 50 P.S. § 4406."

 The plaintiff requested that the court declare the actions of the defendants done pursuant to Section 4406 illegal, and to declare Section 4406 both unconstitutional on its face and unconstitutional as applied to the plaintiff. He also claims money damages, compensatory and punitive.

 The plaintiff's allegations against the various defendants are based on their participation in the above action in the following respects:

 Defendant Chisholm was an employee of Crawford County, Pennsylvania, as a Counselor with the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling Center, and he is alleged to have filed a petition under Section 4406 of the Mental Health Act which was alleged to be defective because it contained no allegations as to plaintiff's supposed mental disability or danger to himself or others, as well as in other particulars.

 Defendant Thomas is a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Crawford County, Pennsylvania, and he is alleged to have issued an order based upon said defective petition directing the Prothonotary of Crawford County to issue a warrant to the Sheriff of Crawford County to have the plaintiff "picked up and brought forthwith before the court for examination and hearing" without fixing a date for a hearing on the petition and without notifying or directing notification of any parties in interest.

 Defendant Grill as Sheriff of Crawford County is alleged to have directed his deputy the Defendant Eckert to travel to plaintiff's home in Conneautville, Crawford County, Pennsylvania, to execute the warrant.

 The Defendant Eckert is alleged to have taken plaintiff into custody and to have delivered him to a security room in the Defendant Spencer Hospital in Meadville, Pennsylvania, and it is further alleged that Defendant Eckert did not deliver the plaintiff to the court as directed.

 The Defendant Spencer Hospital is alleged to have detained the plaintiff for a period of fifteen days against his will and is further alleged to have failed to report to the court that plaintiff was in need of care in a facility beyond a ten day examination period.

 The plaintiff recites a series of requirements of Section 4406 of the Mental Health Act which Defendants failed to fulfill during the above recited actions and avers that at no time during the aforesaid actions of the defendants was the plaintiff ever advised or allowed to exercise his right pursuant to Section 4406.

 The Complaint was filed two years to the day from the date of the filing of the Petition, the Order of the Court, and the taking of the Plaintiff into custody. All Defendants have moved to dismiss the Complaint because of the one year bar of the Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations for malicious prosecution and false arrest, 12 P.S. § 51, and under the law and decisions of the Appellate Courts of Pennsylvania that when a false imprisonment is proceeded by a false arrest the statute of limitations relating to the false arrest is applicable. Motions to dismiss on other grounds applicable to some or all of the Defendants have also been presented but because of the controlling nature of the statute of limitations questions with respect to all Defendants we will consider that first.

 The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in the case of Gagliardi v. Lynn, 446 Pa. 144, 285 A.2d 109 (1971) has sustained the Erie educated guess of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Hileman v. Knable, 391 F.2d 596 (3rd Cir. 1968) holding that when an imprisonment or detention follows an arrest which satisfies the judicial requirements of a false arrest then the applicable Pennsylvania statute of limitations is that provided by the laws of Pennsylvania for malicious prosecution and false arrest, 12 P.S. § 51, and not the general Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations of two years for tortious invasions of rights of the person. (12 P.S. § 31)

 The court in Gagliardi, as well as the United States Court of Appeals in Hileman v. Knable, cit supra, relied on an earlier opinion of Judge Flood, then a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, in Rhoads v. Reading Company, 83 Pa. D&C 168 ...


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