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Biaggi-Pacheco v. City of Plainfield

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 31, 2019

HECTOR W. BIAGGI-PACHECO, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF PLAINFIELD, PLAINFIELD CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, UNION COUNTY, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, ET AL. Defendants.

          OPINION

          HON. KEVIN MCNULTY. U.S.D.J.

         The plaintiff, Hector Biaggi-Pacheco, alleges that the Defendants wrongfully arrested, charged, and detained him. Despite the dismissal of the charges against him, he was allegedly held in Union County jail for an additional six days prior to his release. In his Second Amended Complaint ("2AC"), [1] Mr. Biaggi-Pacheco, for the first time, seeks to add as a defendant the police officer who arrested him, Michael Metz.

         Now before the Court is Officer Metz's motion to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). His principal contention is that the Plaintiff filed the Second Amended Complaint after the expiration of the relevant statutes of limitations, and that it does not relate back to the date of filing of the original, timely-filed complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c). For the reasons stated herein, I will grant Officer Metz's motion to dismiss.

         I. Background

         a. Factual Summary

         Except insofar as they name Officer Metz, the allegations of the Second Amended Complaint are similar to those of the original Complaint and the First Amended Complaint. (See DE 1; DE 11; 2AC). The allegations are assumed to be true for purposes of this motion only. See Section II, infra.

         Mr. Biaggi-Pacheco is a resident of Plainfield, New Jersey, which is in Union County. (2AC at 3 (¶ 1)).[2] Michael Metz is a police officer employed by the Plainfield City Police Department. (2AC at 4 (¶ 3)). While conducting a sweep and mass arrest on December 5, 2014, Officer Metz arrested Mr. Biaggi-Pacheco and he was incarcerated in the Union County Jail. (2AC at 7 (¶ 3); 2AC - at 4, (¶ 3)). Mr. Biaggi-Pacheco was charged with a drug offense. (2AC at 7 (¶ 2)). On January 16, 2015, the charges against Mr. Biaggi-Pacheco were administratively terminated. [Id.) Despite the charges having been dropped, he was not released from incarceration until six days later, on January 22, 2016. (2AC at 8, {¶ 5}). Mr. Biaggi-Pacheco maintained his innocence throughout his incarceration and thereafter. (Id. at 8, (¶ 4)).

         The Second Amended Complaint, like its predecessor, asserts seven causes of action, all of which now include Officer Metz as a defendant:

Count I: Wrongful Arrest and Malicious Prosecution (42 U.S.C. § 1983)
Count II: Wrongful Imprisonment
Count III: Malicious Prosecution
Count IV: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Count V: Abuse of Process
Count VI; Negligence
Count VII: New Jersey Civil Rights Act

[Id. at 12-24).[3] The Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages, as well as attorneys' fees, punitive damages, and costs of suit.

         b. Procedural History

         Plaintiff first filed this action in the Superior Court of New Jersey on May 19, 2016. (DE 1 at 8). The Union County defendants removed the original Complaint to this Court on June 16, 2016 (DE 1 at 1), and moved to dismiss the Complaint. (DE 3). On January 30, 2017, I dismissed certain claims directed against the State of New Jersey and granted the Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint, stating fairly specifically what would need to be alleged to make out a claim. (DE 10).

         On March 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint (DE 11), which Defendants subsequently moved to dismiss. (DE 18; DE 24). On October 13, 2017, 1 dismissed all counts against the State of New Jersey and some of the counts against defendants UCPO and Union County. (DE 29; DE 30).

         On April 6, 2018, Mr. Biaggi-Pacheco filed the Second Amended Complaint, which is the currently operative pleading. (2AC). It is substantially similar to the First Amended Complaint, but for the first time it names Officer Metz as a Defendant. Now before the Court is Officer Metz's motion to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint as untimely. (DE 49).

         II. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The defendant, as the moving party, bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated. Animal Science Products, Inc. v. China Minmetals Corp., 654 F.3d 462, 469 n. 9 (3d Cir. 2011). For the purposes of a motion to dismiss, the facts alleged in the complaint are accepted as true and all reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the plaintiff. New Jersey Carpenters & the Trustees Thereof v. Tishman Const Corp. of New Jersey, 760 F.3d 297, 302 (3d Cir. 2014).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) does not require that a complaint contain detailed factual allegations. Nevertheless, "a plaintiffs obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, the complaint's factual allegations must be sufficient to raise a plaintiffs right to relief above a speculative level, so that a claim is "plausible on its face." Id. at 570; see also West Run Student Housing Assocs., LLC v. Huntington Nat. Bank, 712 F.3d 165, 169 (3d Cir. 2013). That facial-plausibility standard is met "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). While "[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement'. . . it asks for more than a sheer possibility.'' Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         The statute of limitations is an affirmative defense. Nevertheless, if a timeliness defect is apparent from the face of the complaint, it may be subject to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6):

Technically, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that affirmative defenses be pleaded in the answer. Rule 12(b) states that '[e]very defense ... shall be asserted in the responsive pleading thereto if one is required, except that the following defenses may at the option of the pleader be made by motion....' The defenses listed in Rule 12(b) do not include limitations defenses. Thus, a limitations defense must be raised in the answer, since Rule 12(b) does not permit it to be raised by motion. However, the law of this Circuit (the so-called Third Circuit Rule) permits a limitations defense to be raised by a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), but only if the time alleged in the statement of a claim shows that the cause of action has not been brought within the statute of limitations.

Robinson v. Johnson, 313 F.3d 128, 135 (3d Cir. 2002) (citations and quotations omitted).

         III. Analysis

         Officer Metz argues that his inclusion as a defendant in the Second Amended Complaint is barred by the statutes of limitations that correspond to Plaintiffs causes of action. The parties do not dispute that all of the applicable statutes of limitations are two years.[4]

         Mr. Biaggi-Pacheco was arrested on December 5, 2014, and released on January 22, 2015. The causes of action surely accrued in that date range. Thus the complaint would have been timely if filed within two years after those dates: i.e., by ...


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