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Claire v. New Jersey Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 25, 2018




         Currently before the Court is the amended complaint (ECF No. 4) of Plaintiff Sharif St. Claire raising claims against various prison officials pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. As the Court has previously granted Plaintiff in forma pauperis status (see ECF No. 3), this Court is required to screen his amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Pursuant to the statute, this Court must dismiss Plaintiffs claims if they are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or seek damages from a defendant who is immune. For the reasons set forth below, this Court will dismiss Plaintiffs amended complaint as time barred.


         This Court summarized the Plaintiffs basic factual contentions in its previous opinion as follows:

Plaintiff, Sharif St. Claire, is a former state prisoner. (ECF No. 1 at 2-3). According to Plaintiff, he was placed back into prison based on a violation of parole on August 25, 2012. (Id. at 3).

Plaintiff asserts that, upon his incarceration, he informed prison officials of mental health issues which he had suffered throughout his life, which apparently included depression and schizophrenia. (Id.). In September 2012, Plaintiff began to hear voices whose commands were "uncontrollable, " leading to him fighting with other inmates. (Id.). Plaintiff told medical staff about the voices, but received no treatment. (Id.). He was thereafter moved to solitary confinement following the fighting charge. (Id.). While there, Plaintiff continued to tell prison officials that he was hearing voices, and began to display odd behavior, ultimately resulting in his being moved to a different facility and placed under video monitoring. (Id.).

Plaintiff thereafter suffered a further mental break, repeatedly asked for help and received none, and began exhibiting serious psychological issues, resulting in his being moved to the Anne Klein Forensic Center in October 2012. (Id. at 5). While in Anne Klein, Plaintiff continued to deteriorate and received little in the way of real treatment. (Id. at 6-7). Plaintiff states that, after his mental issues went untreated, he was sent back to prison in November 2012, where he was threatened and mistreated by guards, continued to receive no medication or treatment for his mental issues, and continued to deteriorate mentally. (Id. at 7-8). A week later, he was moved to a dry cell, abused, and attacked by prison guards. (Id. at 8). According to Plaintiff, the abuse he suffered and lack of treatment resulted in his suffering a stroke, after which he was moved to a hospital for treatment including emergency brain surgery. (Id. at 9). At the hospital, he was apparently told that he was badly dehydrated, and was lucky to have survived. (Id.).

Plaintiff was thereafter sent back to prison in Trenton. (Id. at 9-10). Plaintiff continued to be mistreated and to not receive proper mental health treatment, but was moved to Northern State Prison ninety days later. (Id. at 10). In April 2013, Plaintiff again reported hearing voices and suffered a mental breakdown, resulting in his being placed back under video monitoring. (Id. at 11). Plaintiff continued to act out based on his mental problems for another twenty five days. (Id.). Because Plaintiffs issues did not abate, he was then moved back to Anne Klein, where he finally received mental health treatment and medication, which apparently caused his mental health issues to abate. (Id.). Based on the facts alleged in Plaintiffs complaint, it appears that all of the mistreatment and abuse he alleges he suffered occurred in 2012 and 2013, and that he began receiving proper treatment in mid-2013. (Id. at 11-13).

(ECF No. 2 at 1-3).

         On November 28, 2017, this Court dismissed Plaintiffs original complaint in this matter without prejudice as time barred. (ECF No. 2-3). A month later, Plaintiff filed his amended complaint. (ECF No. 4). In his amended complaint, Plaintiff essentially repeats the factual assertions of his original complaint. (Id.). In addition to these factual allegations, however, Plaintiff also uses his amended complaint to assert that he has suffered from various mental illnesses throughout his life, has continued to suffer mental illness since he became cogent again in 2013, and was hospitalized for a few weeks in late 2017 because of his mental illness. (ECF No. 4 at 3-5). Plaintiff provides various documents that he asserts establish his continual state of mental illness, and through these documents argues that his statute of limitations should be tolled because of mental illness. (Id.; see also Documents 1-2 attached to ECF No. 4). Unfortunately for Plaintiff, the documents he has submitted only concern two periods of time - when he was in prison during the events in question, and during the period between May and December 2017 during which he was attending therapy and eventually became hospitalized. (Id.). Although the documents do suggest that Plaintiff suffers from schizophrenia, and has suffered for many years, they also state that his symptoms abate to some extent when he is properly medicated, and are silent as to his mental state and ability to understand his rights between 2013 and May 2017. (Documents 1-2 attached to ECF No. 4). Only two documents that Plaintiff has submitted cover the period between 2013 and May 2017. In one, a doctor in East Orange states that Plaintiff has received treatment since 2015, but is otherwise silent as to Plaintiffs ability to understand his rights and recourses, and the other is a letter from Plaintiffs sister providing her personal opinion that Plaintiff is "Mentally Incompetent." (Id.). Although Plaintiff provides records showing that he has been on medications since 2014, he provides no information that would suggest that his being medicated affected his ability to understand his rights. (Id.).


         A. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act, district courts must review complaints in those civil actions in which a prisoner is proceeding in forma pauperis, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), or seeks damages from a state employee, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The PLRA directs district courts to sua sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, is malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. This action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) because Plaintiff has been granted in forma pauperis status.

         According to the United States Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, "[a] pleading that offers 'labels or conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To survive sua sponte 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) (citation omitted).[1] "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." Fair Wind Sailing, Inc. v. Dempster, 764 F.3d 303, 308 n.3 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Moreover, while pro se pleadings are liberally construed, "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) (citation omitted) (emphasis added).

         B. Analysis

         As this Court explained in its prior opinion,

Plaintiffs [amended] complaint presents various claims arising under the Eighth Amendment including excessive force, deliberate indifference to medical needs, and claims for failure to treat his mental health issues. All of Plaintiffs claims, however, arise out of events which occurred between August 2012 and mid-2013. Actions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in New Jersey are subject to a two year statute of limitations. See, e.g., Patyrak v. Apgar,511 Fed.Appx. 193, 195 (3d Cir. 2013). "Under federal law, a 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 its action is based." Kach v. Hose, 589 F.3d 626, 634 (3d Cir. 2009).

In this matter, Plaintiff raises claims based on abuse and failed treatments he received in 2012 and 2013. According to Plaintiffs complaint, Plaintiff recovered his faculties almost "immediately" upon being transferred back to Anne Klein in mid-2013, and all of the events giving rise to his claims occurred before that point. Plaintiff, then, was aware of his injuries at the latest in mid-2013. Plaintiffs various claims had therefore accrued at that ...

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