WILLIAMS v. MERCER COUNTY CORRECTIONAL CENTER et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION filed. Signed by Judge Freda L. Wolfson on 9/5/2017. (mmh)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil Action No. 16-9135 (FLW)
MERCER COUNTY CORRECTIONAL
CENTER, et al.,
This matter has been opened to the Court by Plaintiff’s filing of a civil action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Mercer County Correctional Center and Camden County Jail arising
from incidents that occurred during his incarceration from 2004-2007. The Court previously
granted Plaintiff’s application to proceed in forma pauperis. Federal law requires this Court to
screen Plaintiff’s Complaint for sua sponte dismissal prior to service, and to dismiss any claim if
that claim fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)
and/or to dismiss any defendant who is immune from suit. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). 1 For
Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, §§ 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 pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B),
seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), or brings a
claim with respect to prison conditions, see 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. The PLRA directs district courts
to 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. “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. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000)); Mitchell v. Beard, 492 F. App’x
230, 232 (3d Cir. 2012) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1)); Courteau v. United States, 287 F.
App’x 159, 162 (3d Cir. 2008) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)).
the reasons explained below, the Court will dismiss the Complaint in its entirety pursuant to 28
U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B) and will permit Plaintiff to submit an Amended Complaint within 30 days
of the date of Order accompanying this Opinion.
Plaintiff Complaint is dated November 17, 2016. (ECF No. 1, Complaint at 5.) Plaintiff
has sued Mercer County Correctional Center and Camden County Jail and alleges the following
facts in support of his claims:
I was falsely imprisoned and also beat the charges that were
brought against me[.] Cops in Camden County set me up and for
that I sustained life long issues.
Guards violated my rights by only giving me a blanket to sleep.
(ECF No. 1, Complaint at 3.) In the “Injuries” section of his Complaint, Plaintiff also appears to
allege a “lack of healthcare” in connection with a “lung problem.” (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff states in
his complaint that these incidents occurred during the period of October 2004-November 2007.
(Id. at 2.) Plaintiff seeks damages for his injuries. (Id. at 4.)
The Court liberally construes Plaintiff to allege violations of his civil rights pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 provides in relevant part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory ... subjects,
or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other
person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and
laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in
equity, or other proper proceeding for redress....
Here, Plaintiff has sued only Mercer County Correctional Center and Camden County Jail.
Although a county may be liable under § 1983, a county jail is not a proper defendant under §
1983. 2 See Barrett v. Essex Cty. Corr. Facility, No. CIV.A. 15-595 SDW, 2015 WL 1808523, at
Even if this Court were to consider the defendants to be Mercer and/or Camden County, a local
government entity which may be sued under § 1983, the claim would fail. “[A] local government
*3 (D.N.J. Apr. 16, 2015) (“A county jail, such as the Essex County facility, is not a person
subject to suit under § 1983.”); Ingram v. Atl. Cty. Justice Fac., Civ. No. 10–1375, 2011 WL
65915, *3 (D.N.J. Jan. 7, 2011) (citations omitted) (county jail is not a person under section
1983). As such, the Court will dismiss the Complaint with prejudice as to Mercer County
Correctional Center and Camden County Jail, as these entities are not proper Defendants in a §
1983 action. 3
Here, even if Plaintiff had named as Defendants the officials who allegedly falsely
imprisoned him, set him up, and/or subjected him to unlawful conditions of confinement, it
appears from the face of the Complaint that some or all of his § 1983 claims are untimely. 4 It is
well established that there is no independent statute of limitations for bringing a claim under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 in federal court. Instead, “the [forum] state’s statute of limitations for personal
injury” applies to claims filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Sameric Corp. of Delaware, Inc. v. City
of Philadelphia, 142 F.3d 582, 599 (3d Cir. 1988). In New Jersey, the statute of limitations for a
may not be sued under § 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents. Instead,
it is when execution of a government's policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by
those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury that
the government as an entity is responsible under § 1983.” Ingram, 2011 WL 65915, at *3 (citing
Monell v. Dept. of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). Here Plaintiff
not alleged a Monell claim against Mercer or Camden County.
Instead, Plaintiff must sue the government officials who violated his civil rights. Government
officials may not be held vicariously liable for the actions of their subordinates under a
respondeat superior theory of liability in a § 1983 action. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 67576 (2009). Municipalities and other municipal defendants likewise cannot be held vicariously
liable under § 1983. Id. at 676; see also Monell, 436 U.S. at 691. Because § 1983 claims do not
permit recovery for vicarious liability, Plaintiff must “plead that each Government-official
defendant, through the officials own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 676.
Although the statute of limitations is an affirmative defense that may be waived by a defendant,
the Court may dismiss sua sponte a pro se civil rights claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) where
untimeliness is apparent from the complaint. See Hunterson v. Disabato, 244 F. App’x. 455, 457
(3d Cir. 2007).
civil rights claim under § 1983 is two years. Disque v. New Jersey State Police, 603 F.3d 181,
189 (3d Cir. 2009).
The limitations period begins to run on the accrual date. For federal claims brought
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the accrual date of the claim is determined in accordance with
federal law. Disabled in Action of Pa. v. Se. Pa. Trans. Auth., 539 F.3d 199, 209 (3d Cir. 2008).
Generally, a claim accrues when the facts which support the claim reasonably should have
become known to the plaintiff. Sameric, 142 F.3d at 599 (citing De Botton v. Marple Twp., 689
F. Supp. 477, 480 (E.D. Pa. 1988)); see also Large v. County of Montgomery, 307 F. App'x 606,
606 (3d Cir. 2009). Thus, “a claim accrues as soon as a potential plaintiff either is aware, or
should be aware after a sufficient degree of diligence, of the existence and source of an actual
injury. Podobnik v. U.S. Postal Serv., 409 F.3d 584, 590 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Keystone
Insurance Co. v. Houghton, 863 F.2d 1125, 1127 (3d Cir.1988)); see also Large v. County of
Montgomery, 307 F. App’x. 606, 606 (3d Cir. 2009). Put another way, “a cause of action
accrues when the fact of injury and its connection to the defendant would be recognized by a
reasonable person.” Kriss v. Fayette Cty., 827 F. Supp. 2d 477, 484 (W.D. Pa. 2011) aff'd, 504
F. App'x 182 (3d Cir. 2012); see also Giles v. City of Philadelphia, 542 F. App'x 121, 123 (3d
Cir. 2013) (citing Sandutch v. Muroski, 684 F.2d 252, 254 (3d Cir.1982) (per curiam) (federal
cause of action accrues when the plaintiff is aware, or should be aware, of the existence of and
source of the injury, not when the potential claimant knows or should know that the injury
constitutes a legal wrong)).
The limitations period for Petitioner’s conditions of confinement claims began to run at
the time he was injured, i.e., between 2004 and 2007, and appear time barred. See McCargo v.
Camden Cty. Jail, No. 17-1387, 2017 WL 2226573, at *2 (3d Cir. May 22, 2017) (finding that
Plaintiff’s claims “accrued as he endured the circumstances while confined” and noting that
Plaintiff “waited well more than a decade to file his lawsuit.)
It is well-established that the limitations period for a false arrest/imprisonment claim
begins to run when the arrestee is arraigned. See Alexander v. Fletcher, 367 F. App’x 289, 290
n. 2 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 389-90 (2007); see also Pittman v.
Metuchen Police Dep't, 441 F. App'x 826, 828 (3d Cir. 2011) (“A claim for false imprisonment
accrues when an arrestee appears before a magistrate and is bound over for trial, because, after
that, he is being held pursuant to legal process.”) (citing Wallace, 549 U.S. at 389–90). Based on
the dates provided in Plaintiff’s Complaint, his false imprisonment claim also appear time
barred, as Plaintiff was arrested between 2004 and 2007.
It is not clear whether Plaintiff is also attempting to allege a claim for malicious
prosecution against the officers who allegedly “set [him] up.” Unlike false arrest and false
imprisonment, the statute of limitations for a malicious prosecution claim under § 1983 accrues
on the day that the criminal proceedings against a plaintiff are terminated in his or her favor.
Torres v. McLaughlin, 163 F.3d 169, 177 (3d Cir. 1998); see also Kossler v. Crisanti, 564 F.3d
181, 186–87 (3d Cir. 2009). To plead a claim for malicious prosecution, a plaintiff must show
that (1) the defendants initiated a criminal proceeding; (2) the criminal proceeding ended in
plaintiff's favor; (3) the proceeding was initiated without probable cause; (4) the defendants acted
maliciously or for a purpose other than bringing the plaintiff to justice; and (5) the plaintiff
suffered deprivation of liberty consistent with the concept of seizure as a consequence of a legal
proceeding. Kossler, 564 F.3d at 186 (quotation marks omitted); see also Malcomb v. McKean,
535 F. App'x 184, 186 (3d Cir. 2013). Here, Plaintiff has alleged in a cursory fashion that he
was “set up” by Camden County police and “beat” the alleged charges. Plaintiff has not named
as Defendants (by name or as John Does) the police officers who allegedly set him up or
provided sufficient facts to suggest that these police officers initiated criminal proceedings
against him without probable cause. Furthermore, he has not provided sufficient facts for the
Court to assess whether the dismissal of the charges against him constitutes a favorable
termination. 5 If Plaintiff submits an Amended Complaint that alleges a claim for malicious
prosecution, he shall provide these facts and also provide the date on which the criminal
proceedings allegedly terminated in his favor.
Finally, the Court notes that the statute of limitations may be equitably tolled, and state
law generally governs whether a limitations period should be tolled. See Dique, 603 F.3d at 185.
Tolling is extraordinary relief that is appropriate only “in three general scenarios: (1) where a
defendant actively misleads a plaintiff with respect to his or her cause of action; (2) where the
plaintiff has been prevented from asserting his or her claim as a result of other extraordinary
circumstances; or (3) where the plaintiff asserts his or her claims in a timely manner but has done
so in the wrong forum.” Lake v. Arnold, 232 F.3d 360, 370, n.9 (3d Cir. 2000). To the extent
Plaintiff can cure the deficiencies in his claims and provide facts to showing that his claims are
not time barred and/or that he is entitled to equitable tolling, he may submit an Amended
Complaint within 30 days. An appropriate Order follows.
September 5, 2017
/s/ Freda L. Wolfson
Freda L. Wolfson
United States District Judge
Typically, a dismissal of charges based on insufficient evidence of guilt is considered a
favorable termination. See Hilfirty v. Shipman, 91 F.3d 573, 579–80 (3d Cir. 1996) (applying
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