In Anderson v. Abbott, 321 U.S. 349, we held that the shareholders of BancoKentucky Company, a bank-stockholding company, were liable under 12 U.S.C. §§ 63, 64, for an assessment on shares of an insolvent national bank held in the portfolio of the holding company. That suit was brought in a Kentucky District Court against Banco stockholders residing in that District. These suits in equity were brought in Federal District Courts in Ohio and Pennsylvania to enforce assessments against Ohio and Pennsylvania stockholders of Banco. In No. 656 the District Court in Ohio overruled a motion to dismiss made on the ground, among others, that the bill showed on its face that the action was barred by an Ohio statute of limitations.
There is no federal statute of limitations fixing the period within which suits must be brought to enforce the statutory double liability of shareholders of insolvent national banks. For this reason we look to Ohio and Pennsylvania law to determine the period in which these suits may be brought. McDonald v. Thompson, 184 U.S. 71; McClaine v. Rankin, 197 U.S. 154, 158; Rawlings v. Ray, 312 U.S. 96, 97. Even though these suits are in equity, the states' statutes of limitations apply. For it is only the
But even though the period in which suit must be brought is governed by state limitations statutes, we have previously decided that the question of when the applicable state statute of limitations begins to run depends upon when, under federal law, the Comptroller of the Currency, or his authorized agent, is empowered by federal law to bring suit. And the Comptroller's agent, the Receiver here, could not bring these actions until the date for payment fixed by the Comptroller. Rawlings v. Ray, supra, 98, 99; Fisher v. Whiton, 317 U.S. 217, 220, 221. The date for payment fixed by the Comptroller in this instance was April 1, 1931. These actions were instituted more than five but less than six years after the payments became due under the Comptroller's assessment order.
With regard to No. 656, the Ohio proceeding, the Ohio statute of limitations provides that suit "upon a liability created by statute other than a forfeiture or penalty, shall be brought within six years after the cause thereof accrued." Ohio Gen. Code (Page, 1938) § 11222. This statute describes the liability sued on here, and if applicable does not bar this suit. But the scope of this general provision is narrowed by another known as the "borrowing statute" which reads:
If the cause of action arose in Kentucky, the "borrowing statute" applies Kentucky's statute of limitations, and this suit is barred. For Kentucky's law requires that an "action upon a liability created by statute . . . shall be commenced within five years after the cause of action accrued." Ky. Rev. Stat. (Baldwin, 1943) § 413.120.
The Receiver contends that the Ohio borrowing statute's language "the laws of any state or country where the cause of action arose" has reference to "a system of jurisprudence other than Ohio's," and does not refer "necessarily to territorial limits" within which events occurred giving rise to an enforceable obligation. The place where the events giving rise to a cause of action occur is said to be "important only insofar as the laws of that place are controlling." Under this argument, the cause of action here could not have "arisen" in any state since the statutory obligation of shareholders was not imposed or controlled by state law. Hence, the argument runs, the Ohio law did not contemplate borrowing any state statute of limitations in a case where liability is governed by federal law. And no federal statute of limitations could be borrowed in this case for none existed. Therefore, it is argued, only Ohio's general six-year statute of limitations applies.
The consequence of accepting this contention would be that the Ohio borrowing statute would have no effect at all as to suits brought in Ohio state courts to enforce actions authorized by federal law. For, of course, Ohio courts could never borrow a non-existent federal statute of limitations. And if there were a federal statute of limitations governing a federally created right, that statute
We find it unnecessary to our decision to discuss the contentions made here concerning differences between a "cause of action" and a "liability." The Ohio Supreme Court has itself said that a "cause of action is the fact or combination of facts which gives rise to a right of action, the existence of which affords a party a right to judicial interference in his behalf." Baltimore & O.R. Co. v. Larwill, 83 Ohio St. 108, 115-116, 93 N.E. 619, 621. We have been referred to nothing in Ohio statutes or decisions which indicates that it used "cause of action" in any different sense in its borrowing statute. The purpose of the state's borrowing statute,
Our appraisal of the Ohio borrowing statute, the opinions of the courts of that state, and the circumstances
In No. 593, the Pennsylvania action, the same considerations are controlling. The general statute of limitations of that state which would be applicable to this action had it arisen in Pennsylvania, like Ohio's general statute, provides a six-year period in which this suit could be brought. 12 Pa. Stat. § 31 (Purdon, 1931). But Pennsylvania also has a "borrowing statute" which provides: "When a cause of action has been fully barred by the laws of the state or country in which it arose, such bar shall be a complete defense to an action thereon brought in any of the courts of this commonwealth." 12 Pa. Stat. § 39 (Purdon, 1931). Our review of Pennsylvania decisions construing this statute persuades us that the borrowing statute is applicable to this case, that under that statute this cause of action "arose" in Kentucky, and that the five-year statute of Kentucky bars this action. See Mister v. Burkholder, 56 Pa.Super. 517; Fletcher's Estate, 45 Pa. D. & C. 673, 674; Bell v. Brady, 346 Pa. 666, 31 A.2d 547; Shaffer's Estate, 228 Pa. 36, 40, 76 A. 716, 717. Cf. Rosenzweig v. Heller, 302 Pa. 279, 153 A. 346. See also Notes, 88 U. of Pa. L. Rev. 878 (1940), 4 U. of Pitt. L. Rev. 215 (1938). The judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals in No. 593 is therefore reversed.
THE CHIEF JUSTICE took no part in the consideration or decision of these cases.