is two years and plaintiffs' original complaint was not filed until September 23, 1991.
It is well-established that claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are subject to the state statute of limitations governing personal injury actions. See, e.g., Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 236, 102 L. Ed. 2d 594, 109 S. Ct. 573 (1989); Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276, 85 L. Ed. 2d 254, 105 S. Ct. 1938 (1985). In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for personal injury actions is two years. 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5524; Bougher v. University of Pittsburgh, 882 F.2d 74, 78 (3d Cir. 1989). However, there is an exception to the two-year limitations period for claims of a minor. For such claims, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the minor reaches the age of majority. 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5533(b).
In the instant case, plaintiffs' claims with respect to the alleged sexual assault of Porterfield and Wiley, and the City defendants' failure to investigate adequately these allegations, are being asserted solely on behalf of Porterfield and Wiley, both of whom are minors. Plaintiffs' Response to City Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment at 5. Accordingly, these claims are not time barred since the statute of limitations has yet to commence running. Cf. Hathi v. Krewstown Park Apartments, 385 Pa. Super. 613, 561 A.2d 1261, 1262-63 (Pa. Super. 1989) (concluding that claims asserted by parents of injured child for recovery of medical expenses and lost services more than two years after accident were time barred but that statute of limitations had not commenced to run with respect to personal injury claims asserted on behalf of minor child).
In connection with plaintiffs' § 1983 claim that the City defendants' improperly informed Faison that her parental rights had been suspended in 1986, thereby resulting in the 1991 state court termination order, plaintiffs seek, in addition to monetary damages, an order reinstating Faison's parental rights to the custody and care of Porterfield and Wiley. The City defendants argue that the Court lacks jurisdiction over plaintiffs' request for reinstatement of Faison's parental rights based on the domestic relations exception to federal jurisdiction.
The power of a federal court to issue child custody decrees was recently addressed by the Supreme Court in Ankenbrandt v. Richards, 119 L. Ed. 2d 468, 112 S. Ct. 2206 (1992). In that case, the district court dismissed the plaintiff's damage suit against her former husband for the alleged sexual assault of their daughter on the grounds that the suit was barred by the domestic relations exception to federal jurisdiction. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's order of dismissal but the Supreme Court reversed. Although the Supreme Court acknowledged the existence of a domestic relations exception to federal jurisdiction, it held that this exception did not preclude the federal courts from hearing damage suits stemming from domestic relations issues. Rather, the Court ruled that the domestic relations exception only "divests the federal courts of power to issue divorce, alimony, and child custody decrees," matters which the state courts "are more eminently suited" to decide, and over which the state courts possesses "greater expertise," than the federal courts. Id. at 2215.
In light of Ankenbrandt, the Court concludes that it is without power to issue an order reinstating Faison's parental rights to the custody and care of Porterfield and Wiley. Such an order would constitute the very type of child custody decree that is beyond the authority of the federal courts. Accordingly, the Court will dismiss plaintiffs' particular request for injunctive relief for lack of jurisdiction.
Although the Court is precluded from granting plaintiffs' particular request for injunctive relief, the Court is not foreclosed from awarding plaintiffs some form of injunctive relief should they prevail on the merits of their claims. It is well-established that, where federally secured rights are invaded, the federal courts have broad authority to tailor their remedies to grant the necessary relief. See Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 684, 90 L. Ed. 939, 66 S. Ct. 773 (1946); Davis, 903 F.2d at 230 (Becker, J., dissenting); Johnson v. Capitol City Lodge No. 74, 477 F.2d 601, 603 (4th Cir. 1973); Donahue v. Staunton, 471 F.2d 475, 483 (7th Cir. 1972), cert. denied, 410 U.S. 955, 35 L. Ed. 2d 687, 93 S. Ct. 1419 (1973); Green v. City of Montgomery, 792 F. Supp. 1238, 1241 (M.D. Ala. 1992).
In the instant case, assuming arguendo that plaintiffs prevail on the merits of their claims,
an order requiring the state court to hold a new termination hearing might serve as an appropriate substitute for plaintiffs' request for reinstatement of Faison's parental rights. Such an order would afford plaintiffs' an opportunity to challenge the City defendants' alleged misconduct in informing Faison in 1986 that her right to visit her children had been suspended, and the propriety of any termination order based upon Faison's subsequent failure to visit her children. At the same time, such an order would comply with the purposes behind the domestic relations exception to federal jurisdiction by allowing the final determination of the question of the custody of Porterfield and Wiley to be handled by the state courts.
The Court's conclusion that plaintiffs' might be entitled to a new state court termination hearing should they prevail on the merits of their claims finds support in Judge Becker's dissenting opinion in Davis. After determining that the majority wrongly decided that the plaintiff lacked standing because her rights to her daughter had been terminated, Judge Becker went on to consider whether the plaintiff nevertheless lacked standing because the court was without power to grant her specific request for visitation rights. Judge Becker proceeded to reject this latter argument, determining that the plaintiff could be afforded alternative relief in the form of a new state court adoption hearing. Because such a remedy would provide the plaintiff with tangible relief, Judge Becker concluded plaintiff had standing to assert her constitutional claims. Davis, 903 F.2d at 230.
D. Collateral Estoppel
The City defendants argue that the principle of collateral estoppel bars plaintiffs' claim that the termination of Faison's parental rights violated her right to due process. According to the City defendants, this issue was already decided in the state court termination proceeding and thus may not be relitigated.
In actions brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the federal courts must give a state court judgment the same preclusive effect that the judgment would be given by the courts of the state in which the judgment was rendered. See 28 U.S.C. § 1738; Migra v. Warren City Sch. Dist., 465 U.S. 75, 79 L. Ed. 2d 56, 104 S. Ct. 892 (1984); Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 96, 66 L. Ed. 2d 308, 101 S. Ct. 411 (1980). Under Pennsylvania law, the doctrine of collateral estoppel applies if the following elements are met:
(1) the issue decided in the prior action is identical to the one presented in the later action;