PHILADELPHIA – A judge has ruled that a lack of proper attribution for federally-based jurisdiction has led to the dismissal of a complaint from a man who alleged he was improperly committed to a hospital for treatment.

On March 31, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Cynthia M. Rufe ruled to dismiss plaintiff Randy Eggleton’s case without prejudice, so that it has an opportunity to be refiled in an appropriate state court venue.

On Oct. 11, 2016, the Court dismissed plaintiff’s complaint against defendants Betty Coli, Elwyn, Pennsylvania Hospital, and Sharonda Eggleton without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, after which, the plaintiff filed a new complaint against the same defendants, amending its initial deficiencies.

Eggleton claims he was wrongfully committed to Pennsylvania Hospital for nine days, pursuant to Section 302 of the Pennsylvania Mental Health Procedures Act of 1976 (MHPA) and that the defendants violated 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 by committing the tort of false imprisonment.

“Defendant Pennsylvania Hospital moved to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (6) [for failure to state a claim]. The other three defendants have not responded to the amended complaint, and it is unclear whether they have been properly served. The Court will dismiss the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction,” Rufe said.

Rufe stated plaintiff Eggleton misunderstood the concept of diversity jurisdiction, believing it exists as long as all parties are not from one state, but Rufe clarified that was not the case and “complete diversity” must apply – in other words, that no defendants could be from the same state as the plaintiff.

“As the Court noted in its previous order, even if Ms. Eggleton is not a Pennsylvania citizen, the record reflects that both plaintiff and defendant Pennsylvania Hospital are citizens of Pennsylvania, and therefore there is no basis for diversity jurisdiction,” Rufe said.

When the Court first dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint, it was done so for the reason that the litigation never properly qualified the defendants as state actors and there was no basis for diversity jurisdiction; a rationale that did not change on the suit’s second pass through the Court.

“The amended complaint attempts to create a basis for federal question jurisdiction by alleging false imprisonment under Section 1983, but plaintiff again fails to allege facts that would support a conclusion that defendants were state actors, or that would otherwise support a claim under Section 1983. Because plaintiff has again failed to allege the existence of subject matter jurisdiction, the complaint will be dismissed without prejudice to its filing in the appropriate state court,” Rufe concluded.

Defendant Pennsylvania Hospital is represented by Christina G. Tershakovec of Christie Pabarue Mortensen & Young, in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:16-cv-03780

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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