Aina v. Smith et al
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry) (eo)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
ANDRE YANICK AINA,
WARDEN RICHARD C. SMITH,
Hon. John E. Jones III
March 9, 2018
Andre Yanick Aina (“Plaintiff”), at all relevant times, an inmate incarcerated
at the Centre County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”), Bellefonte, Pennsylvania,
filed this civil rights action on December 11, 2017, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
alleging, inter alia, deprivation of equal rights and due process violations. (Docs.
1, 1-1, 1-2). The named Defendants include the CCCF’s warden and various
correctional facility employees and medical staff, the district attorney of Centre
County, several assistant district attorneys, a deputy attorney general and two
Pennsylvania State Police (“PSP”) officers. (Id. at p. 2).
Plaintiff seeks to proceed in forma pauperis. (Docs. 2, 7). A federal court
must dismiss a civil action filed in forma pauperis if the court determines that the
complaint “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C.
§1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that the
complaint is subject to dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim
pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is identical to the legal standard used when ruling
on Rule 12(b)(6) motions. Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir.
1999) (applying FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6) standard to dismissal for failure to state a
claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)). In rendering a decision on a motion to dismiss, a
court should not inquire “whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the
claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims.” Scheuer v. Rhodes,
416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 66 (3d Cir. 1996). The
court must accept as true the factual allegations in the complaint and draw all
reasonable inferences from them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Innis
v. Wilson, 334 F. App’x 454, 456 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Phillips v. Cty of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008)). A district court ruling on a motion
to dismiss may consider the facts alleged on the face of the complaint, as well as
“documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a
court may take judicial notice.” Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551
U.S. 308, 322 (2007).
However, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations
contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”).
Under the pleading regime established by [Bell Atl. Corp. v.]
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Iqbal, a court reviewing the
sufficiency of a complaint must take three steps. First, it must “tak[e]
note of the elements [the] plaintiff must plead to state a claim.” Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 675, 129 S.Ct. 1937. Second, it should identify allegations
that, “because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to
the assumption of truth.” Id. at 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937. See also Burtch v.
Milberg Factors, Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 224 (3d Cir. 2011) (“Mere
restatements of the elements of a claim are not entitled to the
assumption of truth.” (citation and editorial marks omitted)). Finally,
“[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, [the] court should
assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give
rise to an entitlement to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct.
Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787–88 (3d Cir.2016) (internal
citations, quotations and footnote omitted). Elements are sufficiently alleged when
the facts in the complaint “show” that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679 (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2)). At the second step, the Court
identities those allegations that, being merely conclusory, are not entitled to the
presumption of truth. Twombly and Iqbal distinguish between legal conclusions,
which are discounted in the analysis, and allegations of historical fact, which are
assumed to be true even if “unrealistic or nonsensical,” “chimerical,” or
“extravagantly fanciful.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681. Deciding whether a claim is
plausible is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its
judicial experience and common sense.” Id.
ALLEGATIONS OF THE COMPLAINT
Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee at the time, identifies the “date and time of
incident(s)” that are the subject of his complaint, as May 15, 2015, May 24, 2015,
May 25, 2015 and October 11, 2015, and the locations of the incidents as the
“Restricted Housing Unit (RHU A1 ) Units B1 and B2” at the CCCF. (Doc. 1-1, p.
3). He alleges that he received inadequate medical care following a May 14, 2015
ankle injury suffered while in the recreation yard. (Id. at pp. 3-5). He also alleges
that, on May 24, 2014, despite warnings that he “had a problem” with Inmate
Tayshawn Quivers (“Quivers”), corrections officers placed him in a cell with
Quivers. (Id. at 5). Quivers immediately attacked him. (Id. at 5-7). Injury to his
left eye required transport to the local hospital. (Id.). Upon his return on Mary 25,
2015, he was housed with a federal inmate. (Id. at 7). There are no allegations
concerning the October 11, 2015 incident.
Plaintiff also alleges that Pennsylvania State Troopers pulled him over on
April 8, 2015, and “gave knowingly false testimony.” (Doc. 1-2, p. 2).
He seeks declaratory relief and punitive damages. (Doc. 1-1, p. 9).
A court may dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim, based on a time-
bar, where “the time alleged in the statement of a claim shows that the cause of
action has not been brought within the statute of limitations.” Bethel v. Jendoco
Construction Corp., 570 F.2d 1168, 1174 (3d Cir. 1978) (citation omitted).
Although the statute of limitations is an affirmative defense which may be waived
by the defendant, it is appropriate to dismiss sua sponte under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2) a pro se civil rights claim whose untimeliness is apparent from the face
of the complaint. See Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 214–15 (2007) (holding if the
allegations of a complaint, “for example, show that relief is barred by the
applicable statute of limitations, the complaint is subject to dismissal for failure to
state a claim”).
The statute of limitations for claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is
subject to the statute of limitations applicable to personal injury tort claims in the
state in which such a claim arises. See Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 387 (2007);
Kach v. Hose, 589 F.3d 626, 639 (3d Cir. 2009). Plaintiff’s claim arose in
Pennsylvania; thus, the applicable statute of limitations is Pennsylvania’s two-year
statute of limitations for personal injury actions. 42 PA.CONS.STAT.ANN. §
The statute of limitations period accrues when the plaintiff knows or has
reason to know of the injury which is the basis of the section 1983 action. See
Garvin v. City of Phila., 354 F.3d 215 (3d Cir. 2003); Genty v. Resolution Trust
Corp., 937 F.2d 899, 919 (3d Cir. 1991). The date on which a prisoner action is
commenced is the date on which the complaint is delivered to prison authorities for
mailing. See Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266 (1988) (holding that that date on
which a prisoner delivers documents to prison authorities for mailing is considered
the filing date). Some courts have extended the Houston doctrine to consider the
date a prisoner signed the pleading as the date he officially handed it to prison
officials. See Henderson v. Frank, 155 F.3d 159, 163–64 (3d Cir.1988) (using date
prisoner signed petition as date he handed it to prison officials for purposes of
calculating timeliness of habeas petition).
Although Plaintiff signed his complaint on October 15, 2017, the mailing
envelope bears a December 7, 2017 United States Postal Service stamp. (Doc. 1,
pp. 6, 7). The passage of almost two months between the date of execution of the
complaint and the mailing date strains the bounds of credulity. However, even if
the date of execution is utilized, the complaint is still untimely. Plaintiff did not
execute the complaint until October 15, 2017, four days after the expiration of the
statute of limitations applicable to the October 11, 2015 incident. Consequently,
the complaint is barred by the statute of limitations.
Further, the facts of the case reveal that Pennsylvania’s tolling exceptions
are unavailable to Plaintiff. “Under Pennsylvania tolling principles, the statute is
tolled until ‘plaintiffs knew or using reasonable diligence should have known of
the claim.’ Urland v. Merrell-Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 822 F.2d 1268, 1272 (3d
Cir. 1987). ‘[T]he Supreme Court of [Pennsylvania] views tolling of the statute of
limitations in terms of the ‘knew or should have known’ standard whether the
statute is tolled because of the discovery rule or because of fraudulent
concealment.’ Id. at 1273.” Vernau v. Vic’s Mkt., Inc., 896 F.2d 43, 46 (3d Cir.
The “discovery rule ‘tolls the limitations period until the plaintiff learns of
his cause of action or with reasonable diligence could have done so’ and ‘is an
exception to the usual principle that the statute of limitations begins to run
immediately upon accrual regardless of whether or not the injured party has any
idea what has happened to him.’ William A. Graham Co. v. Haughey (Graham II),
646 F.3d 138, 141, 150 (3d Cir. 2011).” Stephens v. Clash, 796 F.3d 281, 284 (3d
Cir. 2015). Plaintiff’s case, however, differs from cases in which the discovery
rule has been applied. See e.g., Acker v. Palena, 260 Pa. Super. 214, 393 A.2d
1230 (1978) (finding the rule applied in a case where physician concealed an injury
and offered assurances that the injury would resolve with the passage of time);
Anthony v. Koppers, 284 Pa. Super. 81, 425 A.2d 428 (1980) (statute begins to run
when plaintiff or plaintiff’s decedent first had reason to learn that death of
plaintiff’s decedent may have been caused by occupational exposure to emissions
from defendant’s coke ovens). Plaintiff immediately know of his injuries, knew of
the operative causes of the injuries, and knew of the relationship between the
causes and the injuries.
Nor can he argue that the statute should be tolled because he was not aware
of the severity of his injuries until some future date. “This proposition has never
been accepted to toll the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania. To satisfy the
requirement that plaintiff know, or through the exercise of reasonable diligence
should know of the injury, a plaintiff need only know of its existence. See Petri,
supra, 453 A.2d at 346 (“Although [plaintiff] was not immediately aware of the
nature or extent of the damage, [the fact of the injury] was obvious.”)” Cardone v.
Pathmark Supermarket, 658 F. Supp. 38, 40 (E.D. Pa. 1987).
The fraudulent concealment exception allows tolling of the statute of
limitations where “through fraud or concealment the defendant causes the plaintiff
to relax his vigilance or deviate from the right of inquiry.” Ciccarelli v. Carey
Can. Mines, Ltd., 757 F.2d 548, 556 (3d Cir.1985). Clearly this exception is
inapplicable to the facts of Plaintiff’s case.
LEAVE TO AMEND
Before dismissing a complaint or claims for failure to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted pursuant to the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. §
1915, the court must grant plaintiff leave to amend unless amendment would be
inequitable or futile. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 108, 114
(3d Cir. 2002). In this case, it is clear that allowing Plaintiff leave to amend with
regard to the April and May incidents would be futile as the claims are clearly
barred by the statute of limitations and no tolling exceptions are available to
Plaintiff. However, because there are no allegations concerning the alleged
October 15, 2015 incident, out of an abundance of caution, Plaintiff will be
afforded the opportunity to amend.
Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff’s complaint (Docs. 1, 1-1, 1-2) will be
dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
An appropriate Order will issue.
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