United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
prisoner must file his complaint alleging a variety of
physical and psychological injuries caused by graphic
disciplinary actions inflicted upon him by prison officers in
July 2009 within two years of discovering his injuries.
Otherwise, the General Assembly's policy decision
precluding personal injury cases filed after the two year
statute of limitations requires we dismiss his claim as
pro se prisoner before us today pleads his full
awareness of physical injuries arising from the officers'
July 2009 conduct at least as early as 2010. The pro
se prisoner also alleges psychological harm as early as
2010 although he claims not knowing of the diagnostic nexus
between his psychological harm and the 2009 conduct until
October 2016. If timely filed and proven, the officers'
alleged 2009 conduct should be investigated. But we cannot
allow the depravity of the officers' alleged graphic
misconduct to supplant Pennsylvania's longstanding
two-year statute of limitations. As he admits, the pro
se prisoner knew of his injuries, and suffered from
effects of the officers' alleged misconduct, since at
least 2010. He did not sue until October 2016 and absent
concealment or other reason to ignore plead admissions of
knowing his injuries at least six years before filing his
case, we must grant the officers' motion and dismiss the
pro se prisoner's complaint.
Facts alleged in the Complaint
presently unknown date in July 2009, state actors Captain
Falicesano, Major Ottinger, Lieutenant Collins, Captain
Carbo, Cert Banks,  Cert Davis, and Corrections Officer
Pendgraph allegedly harmed 20 year old Augustus Simmons then
in their supervision as a prisoner in the Montgomery County
Simmons claims the July 2009 confrontation started when he
asked Cert Davis to empty the trash from his
cell. After Cert Davis denied Mr. Simmons'
request, Mr. Simmons still attempted to empty his trash into
a garbage can outside his cell. Mr. Simmons alleges his
disobedience led the officers into a series of physical acts
against him which, if proven true, warrant investigation into
proportionate discipline beyond this Court.
Davis told Mr. Simmons, "[Y]ou've just made the
stomp out list." Approximately ten minutes later, Cert
Davis, Cert Banks, Officer Pendgraph and Lt. Collins rushed
to Mr. Simmons' cell, and Lt. Collins instructed Mr.
Simmons to get on his knees and place his hands behind his
back. Mr. Simmons followed Lt. Collins'
officials handcuffed Mr. Simmons, two officers lifted him off
his knees and slammed him back and forth against the cell
walls. The officers then slammed Mr. Simmons to
the floor where they punched and kicked him in his ribs,
chest and face. While transporting Mr. Simmons, the
officers slammed his head into the "K-2 pod bubble . . .
K-pod stairwell . . . the downstairs door ... the first floor
bubble . . . and the K and J block metal
door[s]." The officers continued to beat Mr.
Simmons before tossing him through the "pod door on the
K-6 unit." Lt. Collins told his fellow officers,
"I want something broken on [Mr.
Simmons]."The officers then tossed Mr. Simmons onto
a metal bunk, where they began spraying pepper spray in his
eyes. Cert Davis attempted to jam his fingers
into Mr. Simmons' eyes and rub pepper spray on his
body. Mr. Simmons alleges he passed out, and
woke up to his pants pulled down and pepper spray being put
all over his genitals by Cert Davis while Cert Banks, Lt.
Collins, and Officer Pendgraph laughed. After tossing
Mr. Simmons out of the cell and onto the floor, one of the
correctional officers kicked Mr. Simmons in his testicles
before rushing him down the stairs. While rushing Mr. Simmons
down the stairs, the officers slammed Mr. Simmons' head
repeatedly into multiple metal doors.
transporting Mr. Simmons to the Prison's medical area,
Lt. Collins described their conduct as, "We gave him the
K-pod treatment." Lt. Collins, once at the medical
area, told the head nurse not to clean the pepper spray off
Mr. Simmons' face, but to note in his file a nurse did
the job. Before Mr. Simmons received any medical
treatment, with pepper spray still on his face and genitals
and in his hair and mouth, Lt. Collins rushed Mr. Simmons
back into the K-pod, ripped off his shirt, and threw him on
the floor. Once the officers lifted Mr. Simmons off
the floor, the officers tossed Mr. Simmons against the wall
where Cert Davis choked him and Cert Banks punched him in his
genitals. Cert Banks did not stop punching Mr.
Simmons until he begged Lt. Collins for his
officers then dragged Mr. Simmons back to his cell and left
him in handcuffs for three days. During these three days,
the officers deprived Mr. Simmons of food, showers, exercise
time, and phone calls. Mr. Simmons alleges Lt. Collins
threatened to press charges against him for assault if he
disclosed the incident to anyone. Disregarding this
coercion, Mr. Simmons reported the incident to the shift
commander, and two weeks later, "was sent upstate"
to state prison.
in 2010, Mr. Simmons admits suffering numerous injuries,
including: "serious nerve pain, joint pain, spinal pain,
and constant migraines." Because officers sprayed
pepper spray in Mr. Simmons' eyes, Mr. Simmons "must
wear glasses due to his fading eyesight."
Simmons also alleges he suffered psychological injuries as a
result of the 2009 incident, including terrible dreams,
depression, a sleeping disorder, and post-traumatic stress
disorder. On October 16, 2016, a psychologist at
Pennsylvania's State Correctional Institution at Greene,
where Mr. Simmons is currently incarcerated, formally
diagnosed Mr. Simmons with the sleeping disorder, depression
and post-traumatic stress disorder.
weeks after meeting with the psychologist in the state
prison, Mr. Simmons sued Lt. Collins, Cert Davis, Cert Banks
and Officer Pendgraph for the July 2009 incident, alleging
assault, aggravated assault, terroristic threats, sexual
assault, conspiracy to commit assault, excessive force,
unlawful restraint, psychological torture, and governmental
fraud violating Mr. Simmons' Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendment rights. He also sued Captain Falicesano, Major
Ottinger, and Captain Carbo under the theory of supervisory
liability and government fraud in violation of Mr.
Simmons' First and Fifth Amendment rights. Mr. Simmons
also sued unknown persons described as the "Montgomery
County medical department" for negligence, malpractice,
move to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) because Mr. Simmons "does not
allege a plausible claim that is filed within the applicable
statute of limitations." Defendants argue Mr.
Simmons' § 1983 claims are barred by
Pennsylvania's two-year statute of limitations governing
§ 1983 claims. In the alternative, Defendants request
we consider materials outside the pleadings and convert the
motion to a motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 56.
face of his complaint confirms Mr. Simmons' claims are
barred by the statute of limitations. "Statutes of
limitations are 'designed to promote justice by
preventing surprises through the revival of claims that have
been allowed to slumber until evidence has been lost,
memories have faded, and witnesses have
disappeared.'" The law requires a plaintiff to file
claims "within a specified time period after the
incident that gave rise to the claim
occurred."The "statute of limitations for a
§ 1983 claim is governed by the personal injury tort law
of the state where the cause of action
arose." For § 1983 claims arising in
Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations is two
years. Similarly, to the extent Mr. Simmons
asserts claims for negligence, medical malpractice, and
fraud, the statute of limitations is two years.
Pennsylvania law controls which statute of limitations is
applied, federal law determines when a cause of action
accrues for a [§] 1983 claim." "Accrual
is the occurrence of damages caused by the wrongful
act-'when a plaintiff has a complete and present cause of
action, that is when the plaintiff can file suit and obtain
relief.'" Under federal law, a § 1983 civil
rights claim will accrue, 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.'" The time at which a claim accrues is
determined through an objective inquiry. "We ask
not what the plaintiff actually knew but what a reasonable
person should have known."
a general matter, a cause of action accrues at the time of
the last event necessary to complete the tort, usually at the
time the plaintiff suffers an injury." "The
cause of action accrues even though the full extent of the
injury is not then known or predictable." A plaintiffs
"[l]ack of knowledge, mistake, or misunderstanding
[does] not toll the running of the statute of
Pennsylvania discovery rule is objective. "The
'polestar' of the discovery rule is not the
plaintiffs actual knowledge, but rather whether the knowledge
was known, or through the exercise of diligence, knowable to
the plaintiff. Courts must evaluate a plaintiffs
diligence under the reasonable person standard. "The
very essence of the discovery rule in Pennsylvania is that it
applies only to those situations where the nature of the
injury itself is such that no amount of vigilance will enable
the plaintiff to detect an injury."
reasonable diligence is an objective test, our Court of
Appeals in Miller found the objective test can take
into account "the differences between persons and their
capacity to meet certain situations and circumstances
confronting them at the time in question." "Under
this test, a party's actions are evaluated to determine
whether he exhibited those qualities of attention, knowledge,
intelligence and judgment which society requires of its
members for their protection of their own interest and the
interest of others."
a damaged party, exercising reasonable diligence, could
ascertain that he has been injured, and by what cause, is a
factual determination." The time period for filing a
suit can be extended under some circumstances and in accord
with state law. When a plaintiff, despite the exercise
of due diligence, is unable to discover his injury or its
cause, Pennsylvania courts have applied the discovery rule to
toll the statute of limitations until the plaintiff is
"put in a position to discover the injury and its
cause." Both Pennsylvania and federal courts
"within [the Third] Circuit... have applied the
discovery rule where requiring a plaintiffs knowledge of his
injury would otherwise be unreasonable." "Under
the Pennsylvania discovery rule, the statute of limitations
begins to run when the complaining party 'knows, or
reasonably should know (1) that he has been injured, and (2)
that his injury has been caused by another party's
conduct.'" We apply the discovery rule where
"reasonable minds would not differ in finding that a
party knew or should have known on the exercise of reasonable
diligence of his injury and its cause." This is
normally a jury question, but we may decide this issue if
"the facts are so clear that reasonable minds cannot
Simmons' § 1983 and state law claims are barred by
Pennsylvania's statute of limitations. The incident
resulting in Mr. Simmons' physical and psychological
injuries occurred in 2009. Mr. Simmons alleges in reference
to the 2009 incident, "Since then I have terrable [sic]
dreams, nerve pain, a sleeping disorder, depression that
leaves me in horrible mood and PTSD (post-traumatic stress
disorder)." Based on these allegations, a reasonable
person in Mr. Simmons' position would have discovered his
injuries resulting from the 2009 incident when the incident
occurred in 2009. Mr. Simmons argues he should not be
penalized for a limited education and no knowledge of his
right to sue. Lack of knowledge of your rights does
not toll the statute of limitations unless you can show
Defendants' concealment, lulling representations or other
discovery test is objective, and we do not rely upon Mr.
Simmons' personal perspective, we must find a reasonable
person having suffered this discipline and later suffering
from a sleeping disorder and depression would, along with his
physical injuries, seek to bring a claim in the two years
after he began suffering these symptoms. We have no pleading
suggesting the Defendants concealed Mr. Simmons' injury.
He knew he suffered physical and psychological harm by 2010.
He may not have known, nor would any lay person, of his
medical diagnosis of PTSD until 2016. But he admits knowing
of the symptoms of sleeplessness, anxiety and depression
since the incident.
we allowed Mr. Simmons to amend to plead some other later
onset of another form of damages, his present pleading admits
the onset of his injury. Any amendment would be futile.
Because Mr. Simmons filed this action in 2016, many years
after the statute of limitations had run in 2012, Mr.
Simmons' § 1983 claims and state law claims are
barred under the two-year statute of limitations. "We
will sometimes make an exception to the rule where its rigid
application would be unfair because a defendant concealed its
wrong and prevented a diligent plaintiff from bringing her
claim within the limitations period. This is not such a
extent Mr. Simmons sues for violations of federal or state
criminal statutes, we lack jurisdiction to adjudicate
violations of these criminal statutes because they contain no
private right of action.
Simmons' claims are barred under the two-year statute of
limitations. We dismiss Mr. Simmons' Complaint in the