UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
November 19, 1980
FORD MOTOR COMPANY
The opinion of the court was delivered by: TROUTMAN
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Reaching into her automobile through the door opening on the passenger side, plaintiff attempted to turn the ignition switch located on the steering column. The gear selection lever moved from "park" to "reverse", and the car lurched backward, struck plaintiff and knocked her to the ground. To recover damages, plaintiff brought this diversity action based on strict liability under the Restatement (Second) of Torts, § 402 A. See Webb v. Zern, 422 Pa. 424, 220 A.2d 853 (1966). Defendant, now moving for summary judgment, contends that Pennsylvania's two-year limitation on actions for personal injury bars plaintiff's claim, which she filed more than two years after the accident. See 42 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. § 5524(2).
Plaintiff, on the other hand, argues that the cause of action arose in Michigan, where defendant manufactured the automobile,
and that, therefore, Michigan's three-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions applies, see Mich.Comp.Laws, § 600.5805 (Mich.Stat.Ann. § 27A.5805)
by virtue of Pennsylvania's "borrowing statute of limitations". See 12 P.S. § 39.
Continuing, plaintiff contends that the adoption of the Uniform Statute of Limitations on Foreign Claims Act
by the Pennsylvania Judicial Code, amending the borrowing statute, nonetheless does not exclude her claim because of the savings provision.
Determining whether the Pennsylvania or Michigan statute of limitations governs a personal injury action brought in Pennsylvania against a Delaware corporation by a Pennsylvania resident requires examination of where the cause of action arose and whether the laws of that state totally bar the cause of action. Mack Trucks v. Bendix-Westinghouse Automobile Air Brake Co., 372 F.2d 18 (3d Cir. 1966), cert. denied, 387 U.S. 930, 87 S. Ct. 2053, 18 L. Ed. 2d 992 (1967). Assuming for present purposes that the cause of action arose in Michigan,
the laws of that state do not bar this suit.
In other words, the Michigan statute of limitations expands the time period available for plaintiff to bring suit. Accordingly, the Pennsylvania borrowing statute does not apply, Duzinski v. American Baseball Cap Corp., No. 79-394, as amended (E.D.Pa. September 30, 1980), for borrowing statutes do not
operate to a plaintiff's benefit; ... (they) protect defendants by making a shorter period of limitations available ... "(If) the law of the forum provides a shorter period (than the law of the state where the cause of action arose) the action must be brought within the period prescribed."
Prince v. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, 282 F. Supp. 832, 839 (E.D.Pa.1968), quoting Foley v. Pittsburgh Des Moines Co., 363 Pa. 1, 10, 68 A.2d 517, 522 (1949). Cf. Schenk v. Piper Aircraft Corp., 377 F. Supp. 477, 479 (W.D.Pa.1974), aff'd, 521 F.2d 1399 (3d Cir. 1975) ("(t)his statute serves to borrow the shorter statute of limitations of any state where the cause of action arose, but it is not applicable to the present case because the Pennsylvania statute of limitations is shorter here").
The conflict of laws rules of the forum state, Pennsylvania, determine which statute of limitations applies. Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Electric Manufacturing Co., 313 U.S. 487, 61 S. Ct. 1020, 85 L. Ed. 1477 (1941), Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 58 S. Ct. 817, 82 L. Ed. 1188 (1938). Pennsylvania courts ordinarily apply the statute of limitations of the forum state. McKenna v. Ortho Pharmaceutical Corp., 622 F.2d 657 (3d Cir. 1980), Rosenzweig v. Heller, 302 Pa. 279, 153 A. 346 (1931). See also cases cited in Duzinski v. American Baseball Cap Corp., amended slip op. at 4. This rule survived judicial jettison of the wooden lex locus delicti approach in Griffith v. United Air Lines, Inc., 416 Pa. 1, 203 A.2d 796 (1964), which adopted the combined attitudes of the Restatement Second (contacts establishing significant relationships) and Professor Brainard Currie's "interest analysis" (qualitative appraisal of relevant states' policies regarding the controversy). See Schenk v. Piper Aircraft Corp., supra. See also Melville v. American Home Assurance Co., 584 F.2d at 1311. Pennsylvania allows only two years in which to bring a personal injury action, and absent proper invocation of the borrowing statute, bars a claim brought after that time. Plaintiff's suit falls within the general rule. With no genuine issue as to any material fact and since defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) and Martinez v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 496 F. Supp. 1002 (E.D.Pa.1979), aff'd, 633 F.2d 210 (3d Cir. 1980).