United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
L. WOLFSON U.S. CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE
March 15, 2018, plaintiff, Carl Dwayne Crawford
(“Crawford” or “Plaintiff”), a
federal prisoner, filed pro se with the Court a
complaint alleging claims under Bivens v. Six Unknown
Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403
U.S. 388 (1971), and potentially under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
and Pennsylvania tort law. (See Compl., ECF No. 11.)
Crawford was granted leave to proceed in forma
pauperis, and the Court now undertakes a screening of
his Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. For the
reasons stated herein, Crawford shall respond to an Ordered
to Show Cause why his Complaint should not be dismissed as
the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. 104-134,
§§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (Apr. 26,
1996) (“PLRA”), a district court must review a
complaint when the plaintiff is proceeding in forma
pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Crawford alleges that, on January 16, 2003, while driving in
Philadelphia, a number of FBI agents and Philadelphia police
officers stopped him on suspicion of his involvement in a
bank robbery, “snatched” him from his car,
punched him in the face, and, ultimately, arrested him. (ECF
No. at 3-3(a).) He contends that the defendant officers
lacked any probable cause to stop and arrest him. (See
id.) He further recounts that he was detained pending
trial and was subsequently acquitted of the bank robbery
charges on January 14, 2004. (Id. at 3(a)-3(b).) He
alleges that he was deprived of a judicial probable-cause
hearing when he was initially detained on January 16, 2003.
Crawford indicates in his Complaint that his “Fourth
Amendment claim is solely for unlawful pretrial detention,
” I liberally construe the Complaint as also asserting
potential Fourth Amendment claims for false arrest, malicious
prosecution, and excessive force, as well as a tort claim for
intentional infliction of emotional distress. (See
Id. at 3-3(b).) The Complaint demands declaratory
judgment, compensatory and punitive damages, injunctive
relief, and costs. (Id. at 5-6.)
PLRA directs district courts to sua sponte dismiss
claims that are frivolous or malicious, that fail to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B). “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 Fed.Appx. 120, 122 (3d Cir. 2012). That
standard is set forth in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544 (2007). To survive the Court's screening for
failure to state a claim, the complaint must allege
“sufficient factual matter to show that the claim is
facially plausible.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside,
578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks
omitted). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678; see also Fair Wind Sailing, Inc. v.
Dempster, 764 F.3d 303, 308 n.3 (3d Cir. 2014). “A
pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or
‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action will not do.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
se pleadings, as always, will be liberally construed.
See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972);
Glunk v. Noone, 689 Fed.Appx. 137, 139 (3d Cir.
2017). Nevertheless, “pro se litigants still
must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a
claim.” Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704
F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013).
the Court first assesses the timeliness of Crawford's
Complaint. “Although the running of the statute of
limitations is ordinarily an affirmative defense, where that
defense is obvious from the face of the complaint and no
development of the record is necessary, a court may dismiss a
time-barred complaint sua sponte under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a claim.”
Ostuni v. Wa Wa's Mart, 532 Fed.Appx. 110,
111-12 (3d Cir. 2013); see also Hunterson v.
Disabato, 244 Fed.Appx. 455, 457 (3d Cir. 2007)
(“[A] district court may sua sponte dismiss a
claim as time-barred under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) where
it is apparent from the complaint that the applicable statute
of limitations has run.”). Causes of action under
Bivens, like those asserted under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, are subject to the same limitations period as state
claims for personal injuries. Dique v. N.J. State
Police, 603 F.3d 181, 185 (3d Cir. 2010); see also
Omar v. Blackman, 590 Fed.Appx. 162, 165 (3d Cir. 2014).
Personal-injury claims in Pennsylvania are restricted by a
two-year statute of limitations. 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. §
5524(2). Thus, both Crawford's Bivens claims, as
well as any claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 or
Pennsylvania tort law, are subject to a two-year period of
limitations. See Omar, 590 Fed.Appx. at 165.
limitations period begins to run on the date the specific
claim accrues. For Bivens or § 1983 claims, the
accrual date of the claim is determined in accordance with
federal law. Disabled in Action of Pa. v. Se. Pa. Transp.
Auth., 539 F.3d 199, 209 (3d Cir. 2008); see also
Peguero v. Meyer, 520 Fed.Appx. 58, 60 (3d Cir. 2013).
Generally, a claim accrues when the facts which support the
claim reasonably should have become known to the plaintiff.
Sameric Corp. of Del. v. City of Philadelphia, 142
F.3d 582, 599 (3d Cir. 1998) (citing De Botton v. Marple
Township, 689 F.Supp. 477, 480 (E.D. Pa. 1988)); see
also Large v. County of Montgomery, 307 Fed.Appx. 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 Ins. Co. v. Houghton, 863 F.2d 1125, 1127
(3d Cir.1988)), abrogated on other grounds by Rotkiske v.
Klemm, 890 F.3d 422 (3d Cir. 2018); see also
Large, 307 Fed.Appx. at 606. 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 County,
827 F.Supp.2d 477, 484 (W.D. Pa. 2011) aff'd,
504 Fed.Appx. 182 (3d Cir. 2012); see also Giles v. City
of Philadelphia, 542 Fed.Appx. 121, 123 (3d Cir. 2013)
(citing Sandutch v. Muroski, 684 F.2d 252, 254 (3d
Cir.1982) (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)).
Because a prerequisite to bringing a claim for malicious
prosecution is termination of the criminal proceedings in the
claimant's favor, a malicious-prosecution claim accrues
at the time of favorable termination. Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 489 (1994); Randall v. City
of Phila. Law Dep't, 919 F.3d 196, 198 (3d Cir.
Crawford's claims appear to be untimely from the face of
the Complaint. The bulk of the facts underlying his claims
occurred on January 16, 2003. (See ECF No. 1 at
3-3(a).) Crawford claims that he received favorable
termination of the bank-robbery-related charges on January
14, 2004, and it appears that his allegedly improper pretrial
detention ended around the same time. (Id.)
Therefore, the two-year limitations periods for his claims
for false arrest and excessive force, as well as any other
claims arising from the arrest itself, had run as of January
16, 2005. The limitations period for any claims for false
imprisonment, malicious prosecution, or any other ground
related to his detention or prosecution had run by early
2006. Yet Crawford's Complaint is dated March 7, 2018,
was received by the Clerk's Office on March 15, 2018.
(See ECF No. 1.) Accordingly, it appears Crawford
filed this Complaint more than a decade too late.
Court also considers whether the limitations period was
suspended or tolled. ‘“State law, unless
inconsistent with federal law, also governs the concomitant
issue of whether a limitations period should be
tolled.'” McPherson v. United States, 392
Fed.Appx. 938, 944 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Dique,
603 F.3d at 185). “[E]quitable tolling requires
extraordinary circumstances and diligence in pursuing the
claim.” Rascoe v. Cody, 763 Fed.Appx. 228, 232
(3d Cir. 2019) (citing Kach v. Hose, 589 F.3d 626,
643 (3d Cir. 2009) & Robinson v. Dalton, 107
F.3d 1018, 1023 (3d Cir. 1997). Crawford has not alleged any
extraordinary circumstance or diligence in pursuing his
claim. (See ECF No. 1.) Neither has he identified
any statutory basis for tolling his limitations period.
that Crawford characterizes his claims as “authorized
by 42 U.S.C. § 1983, [Bivens], pursuant to
Supreme Court's recent decision in Manuel v. City of
Joliet, 137 S.Ct. 911 (March 21, 2017).” In that
case, the Supreme Court resolved a circuit split as to
whether civil rights claims arising from pretrial detention
following the start of legal process could properly be raised
under the Unlawful Search and Seizure Clause of the Fourth
Amendment or only under the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment. See Id. The Court held that
“the Fourth Amendment governs a claim for unlawful
pretrial detention even beyond the start of legal
process.” Id. at 920. This holding effectively
saved Manuel's Fourth Amendment claim from dismissal as
untimely, as he had filed his complaint more than two years
after the start of legal process in his criminal case, but
less than two years after his pretrial detention
ended. See Id. The Manuel Court
did not, however, authorize any Fourth Amendment claim
concerning pretrial detention regardless of whether it was
timely filed. See Id. Its holding in no way saves
Crawford's claims, filed 12 years after the latest
possible date of accrual, from dismissal as untimely.
reasons explained above, upon screening the Complaint, the
Court orders Crawford to show cause within 30 days why his
Complaint should not be dismissed as untimely. An appropriate