Under Pennsylvania law, the existence of a mental incapacity is not a defense to the statute of limitations. See Walker v. Mummert, 394 Pa. 146, 148-49, 146 A.2d 289, 290 (1958); 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5533 (Purdon Supp. 1985). If plaintiff's argument is that his disability caused him to make a mistake in dating the incident at issue, the result is the same. The Pennsylvania statute of limitations makes no allowance for "mere mistake, misunderstanding or lack of knowledge. . . ." Walters v. Ditzler, 424 Pa. 445, 449, 227 A.2d 833, 835 (1967) (citing Schaffer v. Larzelere, 410 Pa. 402, 405, 189 A.2d 267, 269 (1963)).
Pennsylvania therefore subscribes to a "hard rule [of limitations] as a matter of legislative policy." See Riddick v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (the State Correctional Institution at Graterford), 92 Pa. Commw. 263, 499 A.2d 694, 696-97 (1985). Nonetheless, some cases are exceptions to the rule. These cases are instead treated under the "discovery rule."
This rule is "based upon the recognition that if a party, despite the exercise of diligence, cannot ascertain his injury, the statute of limitations should not run against his claim." Anthony v. Koppers Co., Inc., 284 Pa. Super. 81, 89, 425 A.2d 428, 432 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1980) (emphasis in original), rev'd, 496 Pa. 119, 436 A.2d 181 (1981) (holding discovery rule inapplicable to wrongful death and survival actions). It is a "judicially created rule generally applicable to all statutes of limitations and to all cases where the injury or its cause is not immediately evident." Id. at 95, 425 A.2d at 436.
Statutes of limitations impose upon plaintiffs the general duty "to use all reasonable diligence to properly inform" themselves "of the facts and circumstances upon which the right of recovery is based and to institute the suit within the prescribed statutory period. . . ." See Schaffer v. Larzelere, 410 Pa. 402, 405, 189 A.2d 267, 269 (1963) (citations omitted). Application of the discovery rule accordingly turns upon the reasonableness of the plaintiff's diligence in ascertaining the facts giving rise to the cause of action. See Gemignani v. Philadelphia Phillies National League Baseball Club, 287 F. Supp. 465, 467 (E.D. Pa. 1967); Pocono International Raceway, Inc. v. Pocono Produce, Inc., 503 Pa. 80, 85, 468 A.2d 468, 471 (1983). Most applications of the discovery rule concern a plaintiff's inability to discover the injury, or cause of injury, at issue. See Anthony, 284 Pa. Super. 81, 425 A.2d 428 (citing examples of discovery rule cases); see also Pocono International Raceway, 503 Pa. at 85, 468 A.2d at 471 (describing plaintiff's diligence in learning of injury as "salient point"). Nonetheless, the general rule governing all statutes of limitations questions is one of "reasonable diligence;" therefore, the discovery rule logically applies to all facets of the plaintiff's timeliness in discovering a cause of action, including the determination of the date of injury. Cf. Bayless v. Philadelphia National League Club, 579 F.2d 37, 41 (3d Cir. 1978) (discovery rule applies to plaintiff's determination of what or who hurt him).
It is therefore appropriate in this case to examine the reasonableness of Mr. Person's efforts to identify the date of his injuries. Although a mental disability cannot toll the statute of limitations, it is "among the many factors which can be weighed . . . in determining the time of discovery, insofar as that condition was caused by the defendant." See Greenberg v. McCabe, 453 F. Supp. 765 & n.1 (E.D. Pa. 1978), aff'd, 594 F.2d 854 (3d Cir.) cert. denied, 444 U.S. 840, 100 S. Ct. 78, 100 S. Ct. 79, 62 L. Ed. 2d 51 (1979). That is, mental disabilities caused by a defendant may be considered in evaluating the reasonableness of plaintiff's diligence. Id. at 768-69. This does not conflict with the general tort principle that reasonableness is measured with reference to objective standards, because "at issue is the objective effect of the defendant's [conduct] on discoverability by a reasonable person. . . ." Id. at 769. "The statutory period does not begin to run if . . . the plaintiff's failure of discovery, objectively determined, is brought about by the very nature of the defendant's conduct." Id.
In this case, plaintiff's complaint alleges that defendants caused him "mental pain and anguish," and "severe emotional abuse and distress." Similarly, plaintiff's response to defendants' motion for summary judgment contends that the incident at issue exacerbated or caused the psychiatric difficulties impeding his recollection of the date of the incident. Defendants' papers do not address this point.
The issue of reasonable diligence under the discovery rule is a question of fact for the jury. See id. at 767-69; Taylor v. Tukanowicz, 290 Pa. Super. 581, 585-86, 435 A.2d 181, 183-84 (Pa. Super Ct. 1981) (denying summary judgment due to genuine issue of material fact regarding when discovery or injury reasonably became possible). A grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants in this case therefore is inappropriate, because defendants have failed to show the absence of a genuine issue of fact material to the statute of limitations question. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 26 L. Ed. 2d 142, 90 S. Ct. 1598 (1970); F.R. Civ. P. 56(c). Specifically, the jury must determine the objective effect of defendants' conduct on plaintiff's reasonable discovery of the date of his injury. See Greenberg, 453 F. Supp. at 769.
Summary judgment is also inappropriate because there is a real question regarding the credibility of the evidentiary material supporting defendants' claim that the incident at issue occurred on December 17, 1983. See 6 J. Moore, W. Taggart & J. Wicker, Moore's Federal Practice, para. 56.15 (2d ed. 1985) (there must be no real question of credibility of evidentiary material). Defendants' exhibits in support of their motion for summary judgment give several different dates for the incident. See, e.g., D. Ex. B-1 (12/17/83); D. Ex. B-3 at p.2 (12/20/83); D. Ex. C-2 (12/18/83). Therefore, the case is not one in which the evidentiary material proffered by defendants can be taken as true with respect to the contested issue. See 6 J. Moore, W. Taggart & J. Wicker, supra, at P 56.15.
AND NOW, this 14th day of May, 1986, for the reasons stated in the accompanying memorandum, it is hereby ORDERED that defendants' motion for summary judgment is DENIED.