The opinion of the court was delivered by: VANARTSDALEN
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS -- CONFINEMENT ALLEGATIONS
The civil rights act, under which plaintiff's action is brought, contains no limitation provision. It is well settled, however, that in civil rights actions federal courts are to apply the same limitation period which would be applied by state courts if the action were brought in state court under state law. Ammlung v. City of Chester, 494 F.2d 811, 814 (3d Cir. 1974); Howell v. Cataldi, 464 F.2d 272, 277 (3d Cir. 1972); Butler v. Sinn, 423 F.2d 1116, 1117 (3d Cir. 1970). Pennsylvania applies a one year statutory period for false arrest actions, Pa. Stat. tit. 12 § 51, and a two year statutory period for false imprisonment actions, Pa. Stat. tit. 12 § 34. Defendants take the position that plaintiff's allegations concerning unlawful confinement are inextricably intertwined with an unlawful arrest and that under Pennsylvania law the statute of limitations for false arrest would therefore be applied to this aspect of plaintiff's claim. Since the instant complaint was not filed until October 24, 1974, defendants argue that the unlawful confinement claims are barred by the one year statute. Plaintiff posits that the allegations of unlawful confinement are not inextricably intertwined with an unlawful arrest and therefore the two year statutory period for false imprisonment would be applied. Under the two year statutory provision, plaintiff's confinement claims are not barred.
In support of their contention, defendants rely primarily on the Pennsylvania decision of Gagliardi v. Lynn, 446 Pa. 144, 285 A.2d 109 (1971). In that case, the borough mayor had directed a borough police officer to arrest plaintiff for noncompliance with a borough construction ordinance. Pursuant to the mayor's directive, the plaintiff was arrested and imprisoned. Suit was thereafter instituted against the mayor and the arresting officer for false imprisonment. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, however, refused to apply the two year limitation period for false imprisonment holding that
[where] false imprisonment is the wrong declared upon and where, as here, that confinement is inextricably intertwined with an unlawful arrest, the statute of limitations which governs the action is that relating to a false arrest.
Plaintiff does not seek to impute to the instant defendants the acts of the person or persons at Bryn Mawr Hospital who actually made the decision to transfer plaintiff and who actually placed plaintiff in custody and transferred her to the Haverford State Hospital. These acts, which would presumedly constitute an "arrest" under Pennsylvania law,
are not the subject of the instant litigation. The person or persons who actually "arrested" plaintiff at Bryn Mawr Hospital are neither named as defendants in this lawsuit nor identified in the complaint. The instant suit solely concerns the subsequent acts of confinement at the Haverford State Hospital by the Haverford State Hospital Staff.
In this regard, the case is significantly different from Gagliardi. That case involved a claim of unlawful confinement against the person who had actually ordered the arrest of the plaintiff and the person who had actually taken the plaintiff into custody. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court there held that the acts of the defendants in "arresting" the plaintiff were inextricably intertwined with the subsequent confinement and thus the limitation period for false arrest had to govern the confinement claim. Here, however, the persons who actually arrested plaintiff are not sued. Only the persons who subsequently confined plaintiff are charged and only their acts are involved in this lawsuit.
For this reason, the instant case is similarly distinguishable from Martell v. Chisholm, 384 F. Supp. 1224 (W.D. Pa. 1974), which followed the result in Gagliardi in a case involving a claim of false imprisonment in connection with a civil court commitment under Section 406 of the Pennsylvania Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966, Pa. Stat. tit. 50 § 4406. In that case the plaintiff had brought suit against (a) the counselor who had filed the Section 406 commitment petition; (b) the Common Pleas Judge who issued the order directing that plaintiff be taken into custody; (c) the sheriff who directed his deputy to execute the court order; (d) the deputy who actually took plaintiff into custody and delivered him to the hospital and (e) the hospital which subsequently detained plaintiff. The court found that plaintiff had so inextricably bound all of the elements of his claim that severance of the subsequent confinement from the preceding arrest was not warranted for purposes of the statute of limitations and, therefore, the limitation period for false arrest had to be applied to plaintiff's claim.
As previously noted, plaintiff's claim in the instant case only involves those persons who subsequently confined plaintiff and their acts of confinement. I therefore conclude that under the particular circumstances of this case, plaintiff's claim of unlawful confinement is not so inextricably intertwined with a preceding arrest so as to mandate application of the limitation period for false arrest in lieu of the usual limitation period for false imprisonment. Applying the two year limitation period for false ...