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Emmit Giles v. City of Philadelphia

February 29, 2012

EMMIT GILES,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Goldberg, J.

Memorandum Opinion

Plaintiff, Emmit Giles, has brought suit against Defendant, the City of Philadelphia, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges that Defendant has violated his Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights in withholding the results of an Atomic Absorption test that was performed during a homicide criminal investigation. (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 23.)

Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. For reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendant's motion.

I. Factual Background

Based upon the averments in the complaint, the pertinent facts, viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, are as follows:

On August 17, 1989, Plaintiff was arrested and charged with the shooting death of his girlfriend. Early the next morning, the police conducted an Atomic Absorption test on Plaintiff's hands. This test is used to determine whether someone recently fired a weapon. Prior to trial, the prosecutor did not provide Plaintiff with the results of this test. On October 31, 1990, following a bench trial, Plaintiff was convicted of second-degree murder. (Compl. ¶¶ 6-9.)

In the years following his conviction, Plaintiff has sought state and federal post-conviction relief, but never received the results of the Atomic Absorption test. On August 9, 2006, Plaintiff requested a copy of the test results via correspondence to then Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson. Through correspondence dated August 15, 2006, Philadelphia Police Lieutenant Michael Dwyer denied Plaintiff's request, stating thatPennsylvania's Right to Know Act excluded disclosure of such test results. (Compl. ¶¶ 9-11.)

On September 14, 2006, Plaintiff filed an action in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, again seeking the test results. This suit was dismissed on June 1, 2007, for lack of prosecution. More than one year later, on October 10, 2008, Plaintiff filed an action against Defendant and the Philadelphia Police Department in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas seeking injunctive relief to compel the release of the Atomic Absorption test results. On February 27, 2010, the Philadelphia court denied Plaintiff's request. Plaintiff commenced the above-captioned matter on June 10, 2011. (Compl. ¶¶ 12-14.)

II. Standard of Review

When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept the facts pled in the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Semerenko v. Cendant Corp., 223 F.3d 165, 173 (3d Cir. 2000). A complaint must "contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The plausibility standard requires more than a "sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id.

III. Analysis

Defendant argues that Plaintiff's § 1983 claim is time-barred by the two-year statute of limitations. Plaintiff counters that his claim is not barred because the statute did not begin to run until he knew that "no other avenues of relief" were available to him. He contends that this date was February 27, 2010 when the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas denied his request for injunctive relief. (Pl.'s Resp. 5-6.)

In a § 1983 action, a federal court applies the relevant state statute of limitations for a personal injury tort action. See Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276 (1985); see also Urrutia v. Harrisburg Cnty. Police Dep't, 91 F.3d 451, 457 n.9 (1996). Federal courts sitting in Pennsylvania have determined that, pursuant to 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5524, a two-year statute of limitations applies. See Sameric Corp. of Del. v. City of Phila., 142 F.3d 582, 599 (3d Cir. 1998).

A § 1983 cause of action accrues "when the plaintiff knew or should have known of the injury upon which its action is based." Sameric Corp. of Del., 142 F.3d at 599. For example, in Derrickson v. Del. Cnty. Dist. Attorney's Office, 2006 WL 2135854 (E.D. Pa. July 26, 2006), the plaintiff initiated a § 1983 suit against the Delaware County District Attorney's Office and related defendants, alleging a violation of due process for refusing to provide him with certain evidence gathered in his criminal investigation. Derrickson, 2006 WL 2135854, at *1. The court determined that the plaintiff's § 1983 cause of action accrued when he received a letter from the prosecutor rejecting his request for ...


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