ST. CLAIRE v. NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al.
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jose L. Linares on 11/28/17. (cm, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
SHARIF ST. CLAIRE,
Civil Action No. 17-11848 (JLL)
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF
CORRECTIONS, et at.,
LINARES, Chief District Judge:
Currently before the Court is the complaint (ECF No. 1) and application to proceed in
forrnapattperis (Document I attached to ECF No. 1) of Plaintiff, Sharif St. Claire, raising claims
against various prison officials pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Based on Plaintiffs application, it
is clear that leave to proceed in forma pattperis is warranted in this matter, and the Court will
therefore grant Plaintiffs application to proceed in forma pauperis. As the Court is granting
Plaintiff in )orma pauperis status in this matter, this Court is required to screen his complaint
pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B). Pursuant to the statute, this Court must dismiss Plaintiffs
claims if they are frivolous, are malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or seek damages from a
defendant who is immune. For the reasons set forth below, this Court will dismiss Plaintiffs
complaint without prejudice as time barred.
Plaintiff, Sharif St. Claire, is a former state prisoner. (ECF No. 1 at 2-3). According to
Plaintiff, he was placed back into prison based on a violation of parole on August 25, 2012. (Id.
at 3). Plaintiff asserts that, upon his incarceration, he infornied prison officials of mental health
issues which he had suffered throughout his life, which apparently included depression and
schizophrenia. (Id.). In September 2012, Plaintiff began to hear voices whose commands were
“uncontrollable,” leading to him fighting with other inmates. (Id.). Plaintiff told medical staff
about the voices, but received no treatment.
He was thereafter moved to solitary
confinement following the fighting charge. (Id.). While there, Plaintiff contintied to tell prison
officials that he was hearing voices, and began to display odd behavior, ultimately resulting in his
being moved to a different facility and placed under video
Plaintiff thereafter suffered a further mental break, repeatedly asked for help and received
none, and began exhibiting serious psychological issues, resulting in his being moved to the Anne
Klein Forensic Center in October 2012. (Id. at 5). While in Anne Klein, Plaintiff continued to
deteriorate and received little in the way of real treatment. (Id. at 6-7). Plaintiff states that, after
his mental issues went untreated, he was sent back to prison in November 2012, where he was
threatened and mistreated by guards, continued to receive no medication or treatment for his
mental issues, and continued to deteriorate mentally. (Id. at 7-8). A week later, he was moved
to a dry cell, abused, and attacked by prison guards. (Id. at 8). According to Plaintiff, the abuse
he suffered and lack of treatment resulted in his suffering a stroke, after which he was moved to a
hospital for treatment including emergency brain surgery. (Id. at 9). At the hospital, he was
apparently told that he was badly dehydrated, and was lucky to have survived. (Id.).
Plaintiff was thereafter sent back to prison in Trenton. (Id. at 9-10). Plaintiff continued
to be mistreated and to not receive proper mental health treatment, but was moved to Northern
State Prison ninety days later. (Id. at 10). In April 2013, Plaintiff again reported hearing voices
and suffered a mental breakdown, resulting in his being placed back under video monitoring. (Id.
at 11). Plaintiff continued to act out based on his mental problems for another twenty five days.
(Id.). Because Plaintiffs issues did not abate, he was then moved back to Anne Klein, where he
finally received mental health treatment and medication, which apparently caused his mental
health issues to abate. (Id.). Based on the facts alleged in Plaintiffs complaint, it appears that
all of the mistreatment and abuse he alleges he suffered occurred in 2012 and 2013, and that he
began receiving proper treatment in mid-2013. (Id. at 1 1-13).
Per the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, §sS 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66
to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996) (“PLRA”), district courts must review complaints in those civil actions
in which a prisoner is proceeding in forma patiperis, see 28 U.S.C.
damages from a state employee, see 2$ U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B), or seeks
§ 1915A. The PLRA directs district courts to stta
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 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B) because
Plaintiff has been granted in forma pauperis status.
According to the United States Supreme Court’s decision inAshcroft v. Iqbal, “[a] pleading
that offers ‘labels or conclusions’ or ‘a fommlaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.” 556 U.S. 662. 678 (2009) (quoting Be//At/antic Corp. v. Twomblv, 550 U.S. 544,
555 (2007)). To survive sua sponte screening for failure to state a claim, the complaint must
allege “sufficient factual matter” to show that the claim is facially plausible. Fowler v. UPMC
Shadyside, 57$ 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) (quoting lqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Moreover, while pro se pleadings
are liberally construed.
support a claim.” Ma/a
litigants still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to
Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation
omitted) (emphasis added).’
In his complaint, Plaintiff seeks to raise claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for violations
of his Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment. “To establish a claim
under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate a violation of a right protected by the
Constitution or laws of the United States that was committed by a person acting under the color of
state law.” Nicini v. Morra, 212 F.3d 798, 806 (3d Cir. 2000): see also Woodvard v. Cntv. of
Essex, 514 F. App’x 177, 180 (3d Cir. 2013) (Section 1983 provides “private citizens with a means
to redress violations of federal law committed by state [actors]”). “The first step in evaluating a
section 1983 claim is to ‘identify the exact contours of the underlying right said to have been
violated’ and to detennine ‘whether the plaintiff has alleged a deprivation of a constitutional right
at all.” Nicini, 212 F.3d at 806 (quoting Cottnt’ of Sacramento
Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 841 n.5
Plaintiffs complaint presents various claims arising under the Eighth Amendment
including excessive force, deliberate indifference to medical needs, and claims for failure to treat
his mental health issues. All of Plaintiffs claims, however, arise out of events that occurred
“The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).” Schreane v. Seana, 506 F. App’x 120, 122 (3d Cir. 2012)
(citing Allah v. Seiverting, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000)); Mitchell v. Beard, 492 F. App’x
230, 232 (3d Cir. 2012) (discussing 42 U.S.C. § l997e(c)(1)); Courtean v. United States, 287 F.
App’x 159, 162 (3d Cir. 200$) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)).
between August 2012 and mid-2013.
Actions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 in New
Jersey are subject to a two-year statute of limitations. See, e.g., Pati’rak v. Apgar, 511 F. App’x
193, 195 (3d Cir. 2013).
“Under federal law, a cause of action accrues and the statute of
limitations begins to run when the plaintiff knew or should have known of the injury upon which
its action is based.” Koch v. Hose, 589 F.3d 626, 634 (3d Cir. 2009).
In this matter, Plaintiff raises claims based on abuse and failed treatments he received in
2012 and 2013.
According to Plaintiffs complaint, Plaintiff recovered his faculties almost
“immediately” upon being transferred back to Anne Klein in mid-2013, and all of the events giving
rise to his claims occurred before that point. Plaintiff, then, was aware of his injuries at the latest
in mid-2013. Plaintiffs various claims had therefore accrued at that time. Plaintiff, however,
did not file his current complaint until November 20, 2017, some four years later. (ECF No. 1;
ECF Docket Sheet). Because Plaintiffs claims accrued in 2013, his two-year limitations period
expired more than two years before he filed his complaint.
As such, and because this Court
perceives no basis for the tolling of the statute of limitations based on the facts presented in
Plaintiff s complaint, it appears that Plaintiffs
§ 1983 claims are time barred by more than two
years, and Plaintiffs complaint must be dismissed as such.2 Because Plaintiff did not address the
time bar issue in his complaint, however, this Court will dismiss Plaintiffs complaint without
Throughout his complaint, Plaintiff repeatedly states that the doctors at the prisons who
treated him ignored his complaints or were otherwise negligent. To the extent Plaintiff wished
to also raise a state law medical malpractice or medical negligence claim in addition to his §
1983 claims, this Court declines to extend supplemental jurisdiction over those claims as the
Court is dismissing all of the claims over which it has originaljurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. §
1367(c)(3). Plaintiff is free to pursue those claims in state court if he so chooses. The Court
notes, however, that medical malpractice claims in New Jersey are also subject to a two-year
limitations period, and that any malpractice or medical negligence claim Plaintiff may have is
most likely also time barred. See Troitm v. Newark Beth Israel Med. Ctr., 33$ N.J. Super. 1, 1516 (App. Div. 2001).
prejudice at this time, and will permit Plaintiff to file an amended complaint raising any basis for
tolling of the statute of limitations he may have within thirty days.
for the reasons stated above, Plaintiffs complaint is DISMISSED WITHOUT
PREJUDICE as time barred, and Plaintiff is granted leave to file an amended complaint raising
any basis for the tolling of the statute of limitations he may have within thirty days.
appropriate order follows.
JOSÉ L. LARkS,
ç2hief Judge, United States District Court
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