ONG et al v. SUPERIOR COURT OF HUDSON COUNTY et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Kevin McNulty on 06/05/2017. (ek)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civ. No. 16-06777 (KM)(JBC)
SUPERIOR COURT OF HUDSON
COUNTY, et aL,
The plaintiffs, Johanna Ong and Dr. Beverley Ong, bring this action
against the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office (the “Sheriff’), the Hudson County
Correctional Center (“HCCC”), and the Jersey City Medical Center (“JCMC”), as
well as other State and County institutions and agencies.’ Now before the
Court are motions of the Sheriff and HCCC (ECF no. 8), as well as JCMC (ECF
no. 10) to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated herein, the
motions will be granted.
Standard on a Motion to Dismiss
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole
or in part, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The
moving party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated.
Those other defendants, not involved in the current motions, are the Superior
Court of Hudson County, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, the State
Department of Human Services, Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, and Jersey City
There is a Complaint, with voluminous exhibits. (ECF no. 1) There is also an
“Amended Complaint,” with voluminous exhibits. (ECF no. 3) It is unclear whether it is
intended to supplement or replace the original complaint, so I have considered the
motions to dismiss in relation to both, and “Complaint,” as used herein, refers to both.
Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In deciding a motion
to dismiss, a court must take all allegations in the complaint as true and view
them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.s.
490, 501 (1975); Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. v. Mirage Resorts Inc., 140
F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998); see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d
224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (“reasonable inferences” principle not undermined by
later Supreme Court Twombly case, infra).
Fed. R. Civ. p. 8(a) does not require that a complaint contain detailed
factual allegations. Nevertheless, “a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the
‘grounds’ of his ‘entitlement to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions, and formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will
not do.” Bell Ati. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, the factual
allegations must be sufficient to raise a plaintiff’s right to relief above a
speculative level, such that it is “plausible on its face.” See id. at 570; see also
Umland v. PLANCO Fin. Seru., Inc., 542 F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008). 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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). While “[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a
it asks for more than a sheer possibility.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678 (2009).
Defendants raise the statute of limitations, technically an affirmative
defense which must be pled in an answer. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(c)(1).
Nevertheless, a complaint may be dismissed on statute of limitations grounds
on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, if “the statute of limitations defense is apparent on
the face of the complaint.” Wisniewski v. Fisher,
2017 WL 2112308
at *4 (3d Cir. May 16, 2017) (citing Schmidt v. Skolas, 770 F.3d 241, 249 (3d
Cir. 2014)); see also Fried v. JPMorgan Chase & Co., 850 F.3d 590, 604 (3d
The Complaint attaches a large volume of exhibits. The Court in
considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is generally confined to the allegations of the
complaint. That rule, however, has exceptions:
“Although phrased in relatively strict terms, we have declined to
interpret this rule narrowly. In deciding motions under Rule
12(b)(6), courts may consider “document[sj integral to or explicitly
relied upon in the complaint,” In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec.
Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997) (emphasis in original), or
any “undisputedly authentic document that a defendant attaches
as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff’s claims are
based on the document,” PBGC v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d
1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).”
In re Asbestos Products Liability Litigation (No. VI), 822 F.3d 125, 134 n.7 (3d
Cir. 2016). See also Schmidt v. Skolas, 770 F.3d 241, 249 (3d Cir. 2014)
(“However, an exception to the general rule is that a ‘document integral to or
explicitly relied upon in the complaint’ may be considered ‘without converting
the motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment.’
(quoting In re
Burlington Coat Factory, 114 F.3d at 1426); Pension Ben. Guar. Corp. v. White
Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).
Where the plaintiff, like Ong here, is proceeding pro se, the complaint is
“to be liberally construed,” and, “however inartfully pleaded, must be held to
less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). Nevertheless, “pro se litigants still must
allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim.” Mala v. Crown
Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013). “While a litigant’s pro se
status requires a court to construe the allegations in the complaint liberally, a
litigant is not absolved from complying with Twombly and the federal pleading
requirements merely because s/he proceeds pro Se.” Thakar v. Tan, 372 F.
App’x 325, 328 (3d Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).
Statute of Limitations
All three of the movants seek to dismiss Ong’s Complaint on statute of
limitations grounds. Because the Complaint was filed outside of the two-year
limitations period for
§ 1983 actions, the Complaint will be dismissed as
against those three defendants.
Initially, I must attempt to define the claims being asserted. At one point,
the Complaint has a long list of torts and constitutional violations, but it does
not identilr the particular cause of action that is being asserted against any
specific defendant. Some particulars, however, can be gleaned from the
Complaint in conjunction with the attached exhibits. These claims have their
roots in a bitter dispute between the Ongs and their neighbors, the Pastars
that began in 2006, resulting in the Ongs being indicted for various
harassment-related charges in 2009. (ECF no. 1-7)
As to Sheriff and H CCC, the claims of the Complaint arise out of
courtroom proceedings. The Complaint alleges that Sheriff’s Officers used
excessive force against the plaintiffs on May 29, 2012, and November 1, 2013.
(ECF no. 1-1 at3)
On the earlier date, May 29, 2012, Johanna Ong was in court being
sentenced on charges of harassment and criminal mischief. (ECF no. 1-8; see
also Judgment, ECF no. 1-9 at 4.) She later signed a written internal complaint
stating that, after court, both plaintiffs were brutalized by Sheriff’s Officers,
and then were taken to JCMC. (ECF no. 3 at 4—5) Starting in late May 2012,
the Ongs were transferred to HCCC, where they were allegedly physically
mistreated until finally being released on June 4, 2012. (ECF no. 1-15)
On the latter date, November 1, 2013, Johanna Ong was in Court in
connection with charges of aggravated assault against a Sheriff’s officer and
resisting arrest (arising from the May 29, 2012 incident). (See ECF nos. 1-4, 16) Judge Theemling ordered a psychiatric examination of Johanna Ong to
determine whether she was sane at the time of the offense, and whether she
was fit to proceed. (ECF no. 1-3; ECF no. 3 at 4)3 She alleges that she was
again physically mistreated by the Sheriff’s officers at this time.
As to JCMC, the claims of the Complaint appear to arise, in part, out of
the psychiatric observation of Johanna Ong that was ordered on November 1,
2013. This evaluation allegedly lasted for 6 days, and was followed by transfer
to HCCC and a lengthier evaluation at the Trenton State Psychiatric Hospital
(also named as a defendant). (ECF no. 1; ECF no. 3 at 4—5) Plaintiffs also allege
that on May 29, 2012, Johanna Ong was placed in the psychiatric ward, and
that Beverly Ong was taken to the intensive care unit, of JCMC; both, they say,
were handcuffed. Apparently there was a course of anger management
counseling at JCMC in September—November 2013.
Against the Sheriff’s Office the claim is clearly one of excessive force. As
to HCCC and JCMC plaintiffs are alleging that their temporary commitments
were wrongful and that they were physically mistreated. The likely basis for
such a claim would be a deprivation of constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C.
1983 and/or a state-law personal injury tort claim.
New Jersey state tort claims for personal injury are governed by a two
year statute of limitations. N.J. Stat. Ann.
2A: 14-2. Federal claims under 42
1983 are subject to the same two-year statute of limitations for
personal injury claims. Patyrak v. Apgar, 511 F. App’x 193, 195 (3d Cir. 2013)
(per curiam) (citing Dique v. N.J. State Police, 603 F.3d 181, 185 (3d Cir. 2010));
see also Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384 (2007)
1983 claims borrow the
relevant state’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims).
The Complaint was originally filed on October 7, 2016. Any cause of
action that accrued before October 7, 2014, is therefore barred by the two-year
Eventually she was found unfit and the charges were ordered dropped. (ECF no.
Among the exhibits is a “patient itinerary” reflecting an outpatient psych
evaluation appointment on Nov. 1, 2013. (ECF no. 1-13) There is also a letter from
JCMC stating that Johanna Ong has been enrolled in anger management since
September 2013, and was scheduled to complete it on November 1, 2013 (but would
miss the appointment because of her court date). (ECF no. 1-12)
statute of limitations. All of the claims alleged against JCMC, the Sheriff, or
HCCC accrued before that date. All of the relevant acts occurred in the period
from May 2012 through November 2013.
Accordingly, the complaint is time-barred as against these defendants.
Because it is apparent that amendment would be futile, this dismissal is with
For the foregoing reasons, the defendants’ Rule 12(b)(6) motions (ECF
nos. 8, 10) to dismiss the complaint are GRANTED, and the Complaint is
DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE against defendants Jersey City Medical
Center, the Sheriff of Hudson County, and the Hudson County Correctional
Dated: June 5, 2017
United States District Ju ge
Tolling or delayed accrual are not issues here. These wrongful actions and their
wrongful nature would have been immediately apparent to the plaintiffs.
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