GUEST v. CAMDEN COUNTY FREEHOLDERS
OPINION FILED. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 2/10/17. (js)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-cv-06985 (JBS-AMD)
CAMDEN COUNTY FREEHOLDERS,
John Guest, Plaintiff Pro Se
3075 Sumter Road
Camden, NJ 08103
SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge:
Plaintiff John Guest seeks to bring a civil rights
complaint against the Camden County Freeholders (“CCF”) pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of
confinement. Complaint, Docket Entry 1.
28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2) requires a court to review complaints
prior to service in cases in which a plaintiff is proceeding in
forma pauperis. The Court must sua sponte dismiss any claim that
is frivolous, is malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant
who is immune from such relief. This action is subject to sua
sponte screening for dismissal under Section 1915(e)(2)(B)
because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court will dismiss the
Complaint with prejudice for failure to state a claim. 28 U.S.C.
Plaintiff’s Complaint states in its entirety: “I was
sleeping on floor[.] [M]y back hurts.” Complaint § III(C).
Plaintiff states that the alleged events giving rise to
these claims occurred: “Sept 2002.” Id. § III(B).
With respect to alleged injuries, Plaintiff claims: “My
back hurts.” Id. § IV.
With respect to requested relief, Plaintiff seeks $10,000.
Id. § V.
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
To survive sua sponte screening under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2) for failure to state a claim, a complaint must allege
“sufficient factual matter” to show that the claim is facially
plausible. Fowler v. UPMS Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir.
2009) (citation omitted). “A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for
the misconduct alleged.” Fair Wind Sailing, Inc. v. Dempster,
764 F.3d 303, 308 n.3 (3d Cir. 2014). “[A] pleading that offers
‘labels or conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
Plaintiff asserts claims against the CCF for allegedly
unconstitutional conditions of confinement.
First, defendant CCF is not a separate legal entity from
Camden County and is therefore not independently subject to
suit. See Bermudez v. Essex Cty. D.O.C., No. 12-6035, 2013 WL
1405263, at *5 (D.N.J. Apr. 4, 2013) (citing cases). “There is
no respondeat superior theory of municipal liability, so a city
may not be held vicariously liable under § 1983 for the actions
of its agents. Rather, a municipality may be held liable only if
its policy or custom is the ‘moving force’ behind a
constitutional violation.” Sanford v. Stiles, 456 F.3d 298, 314
(3d Cir. 2006) (citing Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Social
Services, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978)). See also Collins v. City of
Harker Heights, 503 U.S. 115, 122 (1992) (“The city is not
vicariously liable under § 1983 for the constitutional torts of
its agents: It is only liable when it can be fairly said that
the city itself is the wrongdoer.”). A complaint must plead
facts showing that the relevant Camden County policy-makers are
“responsible for either the affirmative proclamation of a policy
or acquiescence in a well-settled custom.” Bielevicz v. Dubinon,
915 F.2d 845, 850 (3d Cir. 1990).1 In other words, Plaintiff must
set forth facts supporting an inference that Camden County
itself was the “moving force” behind the alleged constitutional
violation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 689. Plaintiff has not pled such
facts to impose liability on CCF.
Second, “plaintiffs who file complaints subject to
dismissal should receive leave to amend unless amendment would
be inequitable under [§ 1915] or futile.” Grayson v. Mayview
State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002). This Court denies
leave to amend at this time as Plaintiff’s Complaint is barred
by the statute of limitations, which is governed by New Jersey's
two-year limitations period for personal injury.2 See Wilson v.
Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276 (1985); Dique v. N.J. State Police,
603 F.3d 181, 185 (3d Cir. 2010). The accrual date of a § 1983
action is determined by federal law, however. Wallace v. Kato,
“Policy is made when a decisionmaker possess[ing] final
authority to establish municipal policy with respect to the
action issues an official proclamation, policy, or edict.
Government custom can be demonstrated by showing that a given
course of conduct, although not specifically endorsed or
authorized by law, is so well-settled and permanent as virtually
to constitute law.” Kirkland v. DiLeo, 581 F. App'x 111, 118 (3d
Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted)
(alteration in original).
2 “Although the running of the statute of limitations is
ordinarily an affirmative defense, where that defense is obvious
from the face of the complaint and no development of the record
is necessary, a court may dismiss a time-barred complaint sua
sponte under § 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to
state a claim.” Ostuni v. Wa Wa's Mart, 532 F. App’x 110, 111–12
(3d Cir. 2013) (per curiam).
549 U.S. 384, 388 (2007); Montanez v. Sec'y Pa. Dep't of Corr.,
773 F.3d 472, 480 (3d Cir. 2014). “Under federal law, a cause of
action accrues when the plaintiff knew or should have known of
the injury upon which the action is based.” Montanez, 773 F.3d
at 480 (internal quotation marks omitted).
Plaintiff states that the alleged events giving rise to his
claims occurred: “Sept 2002.” Complaint § III(B). The allegedly
unconstitutional conditions of confinement would have been
immediately apparent to Plaintiff at the time of detention.
Accordingly, the statute of limitations for Plaintiff’s claims
expired in September 2004. As there are no grounds for equitable
tolling of the statute of limitations,3 the Complaint will be
dismissed with prejudice. Ostuni v. Wa Wa's (affirming dismissal
with prejudice due to expiration of statute of limitations).
Equitable tolling “is only appropriate ‘(1) where the defendant
has actively misled the plaintiff respecting the plaintiff's
cause of action; (2) where the plaintiff in some extraordinary
way has been prevented from asserting his or her rights; or (3)
where the plaintiff has timely asserted his or her rights
mistakenly in the wrong forum.’” Omar v. Blackman, 590 F. App’x
162, 166 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Santos ex rel. Beato v. United
States, 559 F.3d 189, 197 (3d Cir. 2009)).
For the reasons stated above, the Complaint is dismissed
with prejudice for failure to state a claim. An appropriate
February 10, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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