The opinion of the court was delivered by: GORBEY
Jurisdiction as to count one of the complaint is alleged on the basis of diversity of citizenship and the requisite jurisdictional amount, $10,000, exclusive of interest and costs. Plaintiff is a resident and citizen of Pennsylvania, and the defendant is a business corporation organized under the laws of the State of Delaware, with its principal place of business located at Alstead, New Hampshire.
It is alleged that defendant instituted a complaint in equity in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, accusing plaintiff of slander, libel, and malicious and tortious interference with a contract between defendant and a third party. Also, that the suit was instituted without just or reasonable cause, was willful and malicious and for the sole purpose of intimidating plaintiff from speaking out on issues of community and public concern and from exercising her constitutional rights to free speech. It is further alleged that the aforementioned equitable proceedings terminated in favor of the plaintiff herein.
Alleging that as a result of the above action, plaintiff has been brought into ill repute among her community, has undergone great suffering of the mind, has been subjected to great humiliation, and has otherwise been greatly injured and damaged, plaintiff demands compensatory damages in the sum of $100,000, and punitive damages in the amount of $50,000, costs and reasonable attorney's fee.
In count two plaintiff asserts a cause of action under Title 42 § 1983 of the United States Code, jurisdiction of the court being grounded upon 28 U.S.C. § 1343.
It is alleged that the aforementioned equitable action was instituted under color of authority conferred upon defendant by the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, was unlawful, without just and reasonable cause, willful, malicious, and designed and instituted to subject plaintiff to a deprivation of her right of freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed to her by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and was further instituted in retaliation for her honest and forthright criticism of the building of a new hospital in her community.
As respects count two, plaintiff demands compensatory damages in the amount of $100,000 and punitive damages in the amount of $50,000, costs, reasonable attorney's fees, and such other relief as may be proper.
Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss or in the alternative for summary judgment.
With respect to count one, defendant contends that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendant relies upon BAIRD v. ALUMINUM SEAL COMPANY, 250 F.2d 595 (3d Cir. 1957); JACQUARD KNITTING MACHINE CO. v. ARDNANCE GAUGE CO., 108 F. Supp. 59 (E.D. Pa. 1952), aff'd., 213 F.2d 503 (3d Cir. 1954); SIMKINS IND., INC. v. FULD & CO., DIV. OF MET. GR., INC., 392 F. Supp. 126 (E.D.Pa.), a case decided February 12, 1975.
The BAIRD case is an important case in which the distinction was made between the tort of malicious use of process, and that of malicious abuse of process and the allegations which are necessary to state a cause of action. In that case the court said that it was well settled that there is no cause of action unless a person has been arrested or his property seized, no matter how groundless and unfounded the actions may be; a mere indirect injury to a person's credit or to his name is insufficient for maintenance of such an action.
In the SIMKINS case it is stated that:
"Under Pennsylvania law, no action lies to recover damages for the prosecution of a civil suit, however unfounded, where there has been no actual interference with either the person or property of the defendant." Id., p. 129.
If that is still the law of Pennsylvania, it is apparent that no cause of action has been stated since there is no allegation that plaintiff has been arrested or her property seized.
The aforementioned Pennsylvania rule was followed in 1883 in the case of MULDOON v. RICKEY, 103 Pa. 110. In ...