Maniaci v. Marquette University, 151

Decision Date05 March 1971
Docket NumberNo. 151,151
Citation50 Wis.2d 287,184 N.W.2d 168
PartiesSaralee MANIACI, a minor, by Andrew C. Shane, her gdn. ad litem, et al., Respondents, v. MARQUETTE UNIVERSITY, a non-stock Wisconsin corporation, et al., Appellants.
CourtWisconsin Supreme Court

In September of 1966, Saralee Maniaci left her home in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, to attend school at Marquette University in Milwaukee. She was sixteen years old at the time. She arrived at the airport in Milwaukee carrying a check for $2,000, which was to be used to pay the year's expenses. She was met at the airport by Father Thomas A. Stemper, a Jesuit priest employed by the university and an old Maniaci family friend. He took her to Heraty Hall, which was to be her dormitory.

In the following months Saralee Maniaci became very dissatisfied with life at Marquette. She found the quality of education unimpressive. and she was bored with her courses. She was also unhappy with the social life. She complained to her father about the 'fast' social life at the university. She spent three of the first seven weekends at her parents' home in Windsor. She travelled from Milwaukee to Windsor with Leonard McGravey, a thirty-two-year-old former priest, whom she had known since she was in high school. Each time she went home, she told her parents of her desire to leave Marquette. Her father each time convinced her that things would get better and that she should give the school another chance. She returned to Marquette on October 30, 1966, with the idea that she would give Marquette one more chance, but that if things did not work out, she would have her parents' permission to quit.

On Wednesday, November 2, 1966, she decided to quit school. She told her closest friend, Jean Huby, that she was leaving, and Jean said she wanted to leave too. Jean asked to go home with Saralee to Windsor, because Jean thought her father would send her back to Marquette if she tried to go to her own home. Saralee agreed to this request. Jean got Saralee to promise, however, that she would not tell anyone where they were going.

On Thursday, November 3, 1966, Saralee went to the Student Credit Bank and withdrew the $1300 she had remaining on deposit there. She then went to the railroad station and purchased two tickets to Detroit, which was across the river from Windsor, and as close as she could get to Windsor by train. She then returned to Heraty Hall and began packing.

A representative of the student bank notified the dean of women's office that Saralee had said that she was leaving school. Assistant Dean of Women Patricia Watson notified Esther Morgan, the head resident at Heraty Hall. Esther Morgan notified Joseph Maniaci that his daughter Saralee was intending to run away from school to marry an older man. When Maniaci learned that the man was Leonard McGravey, he said there must be some mistake and gave his approval of whatever plans Leonard McGravey had.

Esther Morgan told Saralee that on Friday morning, November 4, 1966, she was to report to the office of the dean of women. When Saralee failed to report, Dean of Women Mary Alice Cannon went with Assistant Dean Watson to Heraty Hall to persuade Saralee to remain at the school. Saralee admitted that she intended to leave Milwaukee that evening and refused to state her destination. She stated a number of reasons for leaving, including hostility toward her parents, dissatisfaction with education at the university, a desire to act, sing, and write, and a belief that she was more mature than the other students she knew. She insisted that she was going to leave by train at 8 o'clock that evening and that she would notify her father later. She did not state that she had, in fact, received her father's permission to leave. The discussion continued through the morning.

Father Stemper was called about 11:30 a.m. to help persuade Saralee to remain at the school until her parents could be notified. Dean Cannon concluded that Student Health Physician Dean D. Miller should be called. Doctor Miller arrived at Heraty Hall at about 1:30 p.m. accompanied by Nurse June B. Steiner. Doctor Miller conferred with Saralee for about two hours. During that time, Dean Cannon and Assistant Dean Watson persuaded Jean not to leave with Saralee. Throughout the afternoon, unsuccessful attempts were made by Saralee and the dean of women to contact Saralee's father. At 3:30 p.m., Doctor Miller suggested to Dean Cannon that Saralee be hospitalized. Father Stemper saw nothing abnormal about Saralee's conduct and disagreed with Doctor Miller, although he did not know Doctor Miller proposed commitment to a mental hospital.

Milwaukee police officers were called and asked to bring the proper papers for temporary detention of Saralee Maniaci under the emergency provisions of sec. 51.04(1), Stats. 1 The officers arrived at about 4:30 p.m. The 'Application for Temporary Custody' was filled out by Doctor Miller and signed by him, by Dean Cannon, and by Nurse Steiner. The 'Application for Temporary Custody' stated:

'That each of the applicants is an adult resident of the State of Wisconsin, and that one of the applicants, Dean D. Miller M.D., is a physician licensed to practice medicine and surgery in this state.

'That Sara Lee Maniaci of the City of Milwaukee, in said county, hereinafter called the patient, is believed to be mentally ill for the reason (state facts observed or information known tending to show existence of mental illness, mental infirmity, or mental deficiency): Sara Lee is a 16 yr. old freshman at Marquette University, wishes to leave the University without the consent of the University officials or her parents, to an unknown destination. Her plans for the future are indefinite and it is obvious that she cannot give rational reasons for leaving.

'That the patient is in need of hospitalization and is irresponsible and dangerous to self or others, so as to require immediate temporary detention by reason of She has persuaded other girls to leave the University with her for reasons which are illogical to us. As a minor we cannot permit her to leave, and feel that she should be confined until her parents have been informed of the situation, and appear on her behalf, and until she has been thoroughly evaluated by a psychiatrist.

'WHEREFORE, your applicants pray for immediate temporary detention of the patient in the custody of the sheriff or other police officer, not exceeding five days, and for a judicial inquiry to determine the mental condition of the patient and for such orders of temporary or permanent nature as may be necessary.

Dean D. Miller M.D., 1945 Wauwatosa Ave. Wauwatosa, Wisc.

Mary Alice Cannon 731 Glenview Ave. Wauwatosa

June B. Steiner RN. 3731 W. Linden Pl. Milwaukee"

The police officers took Saralee to the Milwaukee County General Hospital, where she was taken to a locked ward on the fifth floor for mental observation. The officers said they had an intelligent conversation with Saralee and that she was cooperative and displayed no tendencies toward violence.

At the hospital her clothes were removed and she was given a bath. She was checked for scars or bruises and given a housecoat to wear. She stated that while confined to a room with several other female persons, she saw what appeared to her to be shocking conduct by two female persons in the same bed.

She persuaded a social worker at the hospital to notify Leonard McGravey what had happened to her. At about 11 p.m., McGravey arrived at the hospital and was permitted to talk to Saralee after she told the nurse he was her fiance. She told him what had happened, and he relayed the message to her father. Her father contacted Doctor Miller and insisted that his daughter be released. Doctor Miller was unable to have Saralee released at that time of night, but he arranged to have Saralee transferred from a larger ward on the fifth floor to a locked private room. Doctor Miller did not tell Joseph Maniaci that Saralee would continue to be confined in a mental hospital. She was, however, released from the hospital at about 9 o'clock the next morning. She returned to her dormitory, gathered up her belongings, and went to Windsor. She never returned to Marquette.

On November 29, 1967, an action was commenced by Saralee Maniaci through her guardian ad litem, Andrew C. Shane, and by her father, Joseph Maniaci, against Marquette University, Doctor Dean D. Miller, Dean Mary Alice Cannon, and Nurse June B. Steiner. During the course of the trial, all causes of action were dismissed except Saralee's action against the defendants for false imprisonment. That matter was submitted to the jury, and it returned a general verdict for the plaintiff and assessed her damages as follows: (1) compensatory damages--$5,000; (2) punitive damages: Marquette University--$35,000; Doctor Miller--$2,000; Dean Cannon--$5,000; and Nurse Steiner--$1.

On motions after verdict, the trial court upheld the compensatory damages award, but reduced the punitive damages assessment against Marquette University to $12,000 and the assessment against Dean Cannon to $1,000. Judgment was entered on the verdict as so modified. The defendants appeal from this judgment. The plaintiff also cross-appealed from the judgment.

Ray T. McCann and Richard A. McDermott, Milwaukee, for Marquette Univ., Mary Cannon and June Steiner.

Irving W. Zirbel, Milwaukee, for Dean D. Miller, M.D.

Gaines & Saichek, Milwaukee, for respondents.


The defendants' appeal is premised upon the contention that the trial court erroneously permitted the trial to proceed, and the jury verdict to be rendered, on the question of false imprisonment. Defendants contend that plaintiff's only possible cause of action was for malicious prosecution, and, as a corollary to that contention, take the position that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a verdict for malicious prosecution, and that the damages...

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