one-year statute of limitations. After the D.C. Human Rights act was passed into law, district courts in this jurisdiction split as to which statute of limitations controlled Section 1981 claims. Compare Blake v. American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, 608 F. Supp. 1239 (D.D.C. 1983) (one-year statute controls) with Jones v. Management Partnership, Inc., 32 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 639 (D.D.C. 1983) (three-year statute controls).
The D.C. Circuit addressed whether the personal injury statute or the D.C. Human Rights Act statute would apply in Banks v. Chesapeake & Potomac Tel. Co., 256 U.S. App. D.C. 22, 802 F.2d 1416 (D.C. Cir. 1986). The court stated that "resolution of these issues is guided by the Supreme Court's then-recent decision in Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 85 L. Ed. 2d 254, 105 S. Ct. 1938 (1985)," which decided the appropriate statute of limitations to apply in Section 1983 claims. Banks, 802 F.2d at 1420. Acknowledging that the Supreme Court had not yet decided whether the same statute of limitations should apply in Section 1981 suits as in Section 1983 suits, the Court of Appeals nevertheless indicated that Garcia's reasoning was equally applicable to Section 1981 for three reasons. Id. First, "the same statutory directive applies to both types of claims." Id. Second, a similar need to curtail collateral litigation over statutes of limitations issues applies equally to both types of claims. Id. Finally, the objectives of both Sections 1981 and 1983 are similar in that they seek to allow all people full protection and benefits of the laws. Id. Because the Court of Appeals found the reasoning and analysis of Garcia to be "equally applicable" to Section 1981 claims, it specifically held that Section 1981 claims brought in D.C. were governed by the District's three-year personal injury statute of limitations, not the one-year statute of limitations embodied in the D.C. Human Rights Act. Id. at 1416.
The Banks court went on to address, in dicta, the issue of whether the District's one-year "intentional torts" limitations period, set forth at D.C. Code § 12-301(4), or the three-year residual limitations period, set forth at D.C. Code § 12-301(8) should apply. After surveying the law of other circuits, which were split on the issue, the Court of Appeals concluded that, although Section 1981 provides a remedy for personal injury type claims, those claims "cannot accurately be characterized as intentional tort claims of the sort enumerated in § 301(4) [the intentional tort statute]," and application of that period would be inappropriate. Banks, 802 F.2d at 1427-28. The court felt that Id. at 1428. The court also specifically stated that the Supreme Court's Garcia decision was completely consistent with the Court of Appeals' decision in Macklin, which had held that the three-year statute of limitations was the appropriate one to apply in Section 1981 cases. Id.
Since the Banks decision, courts in this circuit have applied the three-year statute of limitations to claims under Section 1981. See Saunders v. George Washington Univ., 768 F. Supp. 854, 868 (D.D.C. 1991); Welch v. Kelly, 882 F. Supp. 177, 180 (D.D.C. 1995). It is true that since Banks, the D.C. Circuit has said that the "question of whether a one-year or a three-year limitations period governs actions under section 1981 . . . remains open." Berger v. Iron Workers Reinforced Rodmen Local 201, 269 U.S. App. D.C. 67, 843 F.2d 1395, 1410 (D.C. Cir. 1988) cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1105, 109 S. Ct. 3155, 104 L. Ed. 2d 1018 (1989). However, as Judge Oberdorfer stated in Saunders, "even though there are indications that the Court of Appeals may be ready to consider whether the intentional torts statute of limitations should be applied, there is nonetheless considerable precedent indicating that the three-year residual statute of limitations . . . should be used. In the absence of a clear statement by the Court of Appeals that this precedent is no longer binding, it must be followed." Saunders, 768 F. Supp. at 868 (citing Macklin ; other citations omitted).
As recently as 1995, the D.C. Circuit has indicated that statutes redressing economic-type torts, such as fraud or contract, are not to be governed by the one-year intentional torts limitation period. Crocker v. Piedmont Aviation, Inc., 311 U.S. App. D.C. 1, 49 F.3d 735, 744 (D.C. Cir. 1995) (citations omitted). Although Crocker was not considering Section 1981, the Court of Appeals noted that D.C. law provides that "§ 12-301(4)'s one-year limitations period governs only the specific enumerated torts; it does not apply generically to all intentional torts." Id. The Court of Appeals reiterated that the distinction between intentional economic and intentional non-economic torts was compelling enough to warrant differential treatment of the two torts. Id. (citing Banks, 802 F.2d at 1427; Saunders v. Nemati, 580 A.2d 660, 663-664 (D.C. 1990)).
Defendant urges the Court to ignore these precedents and follow, instead, Williams v. District of Columbia, 676 F. Supp. 329 (D.D.C. 1987), which applied a one-year statute of limitations. The Court declines to do so for two reasons. First, that case applied the one-year statute of limitations to a Section 1983 claim, not a Section 1981 claim. Id. at 331-32. Second, that case was effectively overruled by the Supreme Court's decision in Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 102 L. Ed. 2d 594, 109 S. Ct. 573 (1989), which expressly held that the residual statute of limitations period should apply to section 1983 claims. Id. at 236. Thus, Defendant's argument that the Williams case should lead this Court to apply the one-year limitations period to Section 1981 claims is totally unconvincing.
Further, the Supreme Court's decision in Okure (although it related to Section 1983 claims), in combination with Macklin and Banks, convinces this Court that the longer, three-year residual period applies. Our Court of Appeals has indicated that Section 1981 claims are governed by Garcia in the same way that Section 1983 claims are. Banks, 802 F.2d at 1421. In other words, the policies underlying the analysis of the appropriate limitations period are the same for both types of claims. However, the Court of Appeals has also indicated that Section 1981 was intended to provide a remedy for many types of discrimination which are not covered by Section 1983 or various state laws, id. at 1424, and that Section 1981 is broader in scope than Section 1983. Id. at 1428. Applying the rationale of Okure to a Section 1981 claim against this background leads the Court to conclude that applying the one-year intentional torts statute of limitations would frustrate the purposes of Section 1981 in providing a broad class of remedies to those who have suffered discrimination. See Banks, 802 F.2d at 1429 (Macklin "clearly implies that the three-year period would be appropriate for § 1981 racial discrimination claims."). Therefore, the residual, three-year statute of limitations embodied in D.C. Code § 12-301(8) applies to Section 1981 claims, and Plaintiff's Section 1981 claim was timely filed.
For the reasons discussed above, Defendant's Motion for Dismissal as to Count II, the Section 1981 claim, is denied. Plaintiff's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I), the D.C. Human Rights Act (Count III), and D.C. tort law (Count IV) are dismissed. An Order will issue with this Opinion.
Dec. 4, 1996
United States District Judge
This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion For Dismissal pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Plaintiff Elbert Harris, Jr. filed a four count Complaint for Relief from Deprivation of Equal Rights, Race Discrimination in Employment, and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress on April 26, 1996. Defendant moved to dismiss all four counts of the complaint on October 23, 1996. Plaintiff, in his Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Dismissal, indicated that he would voluntarily dismiss Counts I, III, and IV.1a Thus, the only issue before the Court relates to Count II of Plaintiff's Complaint. Upon review of Defendant's Motion, Plaintiff's Opposition, Defendant's Reply, and the entire record herein, for the reasons set forth in the accompanying Memorandum Opinion, it is this 4th day of December, 1996, hereby
ORDERED, that the Defendant's Motion for Dismissal with respect to Plaintiff's Section 1981 claim is denied.
United States District Judge