Supreme Court Highlights Re: Statute Of Limitations In False Arrest Claims

Here are some highlights from the United States Supreme Court's opinion in Andrew Wallace v. Kato, et al regarding the statute of limitations in false arrest claims. First, the court noted that "[w]hile we have never stated so expressly, the accrual date of a 1983 cause of action is a question of federal law that is not resolved by reference to state law."  Second, the court stated that "limitations begin to run against an action for false imprisonment when the alleged false imprisonment ends." Third, the court held that "a false imprisonment ends once the victim becomes held pursuant to such process - when, for example, he is bound over by a magistrate or arraigned on charges." In the case of Andre Wallace, the Supreme Court concluded that "the statute of limitations on petitioner's 1983 claim commenced to run when he appeared before the examining magistrate and was bound over for trial." Since more than two years (Illinois statute of limitations for personal injury torts) had elapsed between the date when Wallace appeared before the magistrate and was bound over for trial and the filing of his suit, his action was time-barred.

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Carla Johnson - April 6, 2007 11:44 AM

What about in the case of fraudulent concealment in false arrest?
, In many states, if the injured person does not have knowledge of the existence of the tort, the period of limitations may not begin to run until some later time. See Quinton v. United States, 304 F2d 234, 237-238 (5th Cir Tex 1962), discussing and quoting Bizer v. United States, n. 4, supra, 124 F Supp. at 952; Beech v. United States, 345 F2d 872 (5th Cir [Tex] 1965). The limitations period does not begin to run until the claimant is aware, or reasonably should have been aware, of such wrongful acts. For general discussion on the point, see Steele v. United States, 599 F2d 823 (7th Cir [Ill] 1979). Also see Urie v. Thompson, 337 US 163, 69 S Ct 1018, 93 L ed 2d 1282 (1949) Ware v. United States, 626 F2d 1278 (5th Cir [Tex] 1980).
In case of fraudulent concealment, it is the rule in most jurisdictions that if the one who practices the fraud conceals material facts and thus prevents discovery of his wrong or of the fact that a cause of action has accrued against him, the limitations period will not begin to run until the facts are discovered, or, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have been discovered. Holmberg v. Armbrecht, 327 US 392, 397, 66 S Ct 582, 90 L ed 743 (1946). "This equitable doctrine is read into every federal statute of limitations"; 51 Am. Jur. 2d § 147.

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