United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
WILLIAM W. CALDWELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
se plaintiff, William Ash, has filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983
action alleging that his detention for about two weeks at the
Luzerne County Prison after he was granted bail violated his
First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Presently
before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss the
Complaint on the basis of the statute of limitations. (ECF
reasons that follow Defendants' motion to dismiss will be
granted and the Complaint dismissed.
Standard of Review
motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P 12(b)(6) authorizes
the dismissal of a complaint “for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted.” Under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the district court must “accept
all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine
whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the
plaintiff is entitled to relief.” Fowler v. UPMC
Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting
Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d
Cir. 2008)). While a complaint need only contain “a
short and plain statement of the claim, ” Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2), and detailed factual allegations are not required,
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127
S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), a complaint must
plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Id. at 570, 127 S.Ct.
at 1974. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a
‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more
than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965).
Formulaic recitations of the elements of a cause of action
will not suffice. See Id. “[L]abels and
conclusions” are not enough, and a court is “not
bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a
factual allegation.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555,
127 S.Ct. at 1965.
this standard in mind, the following is the background to
this litigation, as Plaintiff alleges it.
December 11, 2013, William Ash was picked up on an active
bench warrant, issued after he failed to appear at a court
ordered pre-trial hearing. (ECF No. 1, Compl.) Following a
December 18, 2013, bail hearing, the Honorable William H.
Amesbury of the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas set
Ash's bail at $25, 000 unsecured. (Id., p. 6).
The following day, Ash wrote to Mark Rockovich, the Captain
of Records, asking why he was still being held. He received
no response. (Id., p. 3 and p. 7). On December 22,
2013, still incarcerated, he wrote to Deputy Warden James
Larson asking why he was still being held. (Id., p.
3 and p. 8). On December 28, 2013, he was called down to
“the Lieutenant's office” to learn that his
daughter had been in a car accident. When he asked the
Lieutenant about his release, she responded that he was being
held on $25, 000 bail. (Id., p. 4). The next day Ash
filed a grievance concerning his release. (Id., p. 4
and p. 9). He was released on January 2, 2014, without
receiving a response to his grievance. (Id., p. 4).
Under the prison mailbox rule, see Jenkins v.
Superintendent of Laurel Highlands, 705 F.3d 80, 84 n.2
(3d Cir. 2013), this lawsuit is considered filed on January
is no specific statute of limitations for actions filed
pursuant to 42 U.S.C § 1983. Pearson v. Sec'y
Dept. of Corr., 775 F.3d 598, 602 (3d Cir. 2015).
Rather, the United States Supreme Court has held that the
statute of limitations for personal injury actions in the
state where the cause of action arose is to be employed.
Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 387, 127 S.Ct. 1091,
1094, 166 L.Ed.2d 973 (2007); see also Estate of Lagano
v. Bergen Cty. Prosecutor's Office, 769 F.3d 850,
859 - 60 (3d Cir. 2014). As Pennsylvania has a two-year
statute of limitations for personal injury actions, the
statute of limitations applicable to claims brought under
§ 1983 in Pennsylvania is two years, subject to any
state law tolling provisions which are not inconsistent with
federal law. See 42 PA. CONS. STAT. § 5524(7)
(2014); Kach v. Hose, 589 F.3d 626, 634 (3d Cir.
2009); Lake v. Arnold, 232 F.3d 360, 368-69 (3d Cir.
date when a § 1983 cause of action accrues is determined
by federal law. Under federal law, a civil rights 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 [his] action is based.' ”
Kach, 589 F.3d at 634 (quoted cases omitted)
(brackets added). A “cause of action accrues even
though the full extent of the injury is not then known or
predictable … Were it otherwise, the statute would
begin to run only after a plaintiff became satisfied that he
had been harmed enough, placing the supposed statute of
repose in the sole hands of the party seeking relief.”
Wallace, 549 U.S. at 392, 127 S.Ct. at 1097
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
1983's statute of limitations is subject to tolling.
First, the statute is tolled while an inmate plaintiff
exhausts his administrative remedies. See Pearson,
775 F.3d at 603 (“[T]he PLRA is a statutory prohibition
that tolls Pennsylvania's statute of limitations while a
prisoner exhausts administrative remedies.”) Second,
the statute of limitations may be equitably tolled when the
plaintiff has been prevented from filing in a timely manner
due to sufficiently inequitable circumstances. See
Cunningham v. M&T Bank Corp., 814 F.3d 156, 160 (3d
Cir. 2016) (citing Santos ex rel. Beato v. United
States, 559 F.3d 189, 197 (3d Cir. 2007)). Finally,
“[t]he ‘discovery rule' tolls the limitations
period where the injured party is unable to know that he is
injured and to know what caused the injury, despite the
exercise of reasonable diligence.” Brown v.
Buck, 614 F. App'x 590, 593 (3d Cir. 2015)
there is no dispute that Ash believed that he was
“being held against his will” after he was
granted unsecured bail on December 18, 2013, but was not
released the following day, or the following week. He asked
staff for help, filed a request slip, and a grievance
concerning the situation without a satisfactory response. He
was ultimately released on January 2, 2014. Yet he did not
file this action until January 21, 2016. (ECF No. 1, Compl.)
Clearly, Ash was aware of his injury as of December 19, 2013,
the date he knew he was still being held even though bail had
been granted. Thus he had until December 19, 2015, to file
his action. While he argues that he was unaware that he could
bring his action prior to his March 12, 2015, sentencing
date, this mistake is not a basis to toll the statute of
limitations. Ash also suggests that ...