United States District Court, D. New Jersey
RENÉE MARIE BUMB UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pro se LeRoy Timmons (hereinafter
"Plaintiff") filed this suit against Defendant
Local #415 Atlantic City, New Jersey under the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et
seq., (hereinafter "ERISA") alleging that Plaintiff
has not been paid pension benefits to which he is entitled.
Since Plaintiff seeks to bring this action in forma
pauperis, the Court has an obligation to screen the
Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The Court finds
Background and Standard of Review.
Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint with an application to
proceed in forma paupuris. [Docket Item 1.] Based on
the information in Plaintiff's financial affidavit, his
application to file this matter without prepayment of fees
was granted by the Court on August 17, 2017 pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915. [Docket Item 3.] The Complaint was filed
with the Clerk of Court, though the Clerk was not directed to
issue a summons at that time. [Id.]
Where a Complaint is filed .in forma pauperis under
28 U.S.C. § 1915, the assigned Judge must review the
Complaint to determine whether the case may proceed. Pursuant
to Section 1915(e) (2) (B), the Court, upon a preliminary
screening, "shall dismiss the case at any time if the
court determines that . . . (B) the action or appeal - (i) is
frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which
relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against
a defendant who is immune from such relief." The Court
also has "a continuing obligation to assess its subject
matter jurisdiction" and may "dismiss a suit
sua sponte for lack of subject matter jurisdiction
at any stage in the proceeding." Zambelli Fireworks
Mfg. Co., Inc. v. Wood, 592 F.3d 412, 420 (3d Cir.
2010). The Court draws the facts of this case from the
Complaint and, for the purposes of this screening, accepts
the factual allegations therein as true.
Pleadings by a person unrepresented by an attorney are to be
construed liberally, but "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). Nonetheless, any complaint must serve the function
of presenting a statement of the grounds upon which relief is
sought, which includes alleging facts such as the place and
approximate dates of the alleged misconduct on which the
claim is based and other facts that would make the claim
the present case, the Complaint asserts that Plaintiff is
entitled to certain pension payments from Defendant. (Compl.
at 3-4.) Plaintiff avers that he was employed by Defendant
for 28 years, but that his employment records were destroyed
in a fire at Defendant's place of business.
(Id.) Plaintiff seeks $539, 000 in damages
(Id. at 4.)
August 21, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiff's request to
proceed in forma pauperis, but simultaneously filed a letter
indicating that the Complaint appears to be time-barred.
(Order [Docket Item 3]; Letter [Docket Item 2].)
Specifically, the Court's letter to Plaintiff stated:
it appears from your Complaint that it may be too late for
you to file this case; that is, that your claim under the
E.R.I.S.A. statute may be time-barred. According to your
Complaint, your claim arose on November 7, 2009. Normally, an
E.R.I.S.A. claim that a defendant has breached its fiduciary
duties to an employee benefit plan must be brought within six
years of "the date of the last action which constituted
a part of the breach or violation." See Section 413 of
E.R.I.S.A., 29 U.S.C. § 1113. However, Section 413 also
contains an exception to this rule: "In the case of
fraud or concealment, such action may be commenced not later
than six years after the date of discovery of such breach or
violation." In other words, if you knew on November 7,
2009 that the defendant denied your pension benefit request,
you had six years to bring a lawsuit about it under Section
413 of E.R.I.S.A. The time for bringing this case would have
expired on November 7, 2015 if you knew of the breach or
violation on the initial date. On the other hand, if an
E.R.I.S.A. fiduciary has concealed a breach of its duties,
the six year statute of limitations period is tolled (that
is, the clock stops) until the plaintiff should have
discovered, or did discover, the breach. This ability to stop
the clock depends upon demonstrating that the defendant has
acted affirmatively to conceal the alleged wrongdoing.
Ranke v. Sanofi-Synthelabo, Inc., 436 F.3d 197, 204
(3d Cir. 2006).
Your present Complaint does not allege that the defendant
affirmatively concealed any wrongdoing. Instead, you have
alleged that a fire destroyed the union hall and the records
that were in it.
If your Complaint is not a fiduciary claim under 29 U.S.C.
§ 1113, then the Court must apply the statute of
limitations of the State claim that is most analogous to the
E.R.I.S.A. claim that you are pursuing. In that event, the
Court would apply New Jersey's six year statute of
limitations that governs contract claims. N.J.S.A. §
2A:14-1. Again, under the State of New Jersey's six-year
limitation upon filing suit, your case would appear to be
time-barred after November 7, 2015.
If you are able to explain why this case is not filed too
late, then I would like to give you an opportunity to do so
at this time. You are requested to send to the Clerk of Court
a letter containing any additional information that could
demonstrate that the statute of limitations period had not
expired before your case was filed. Please submit your letter
within 14 days, and be sure to include the name of your case
and the docket number. If you need more time, then please
write to the Clerk of Court within this 14-day period
explaining your need for more time to make this submission.
If you do not respond within 14 days from the date this
letter is filed with the Clerk of Court, then I will assume
that you have no further information and that your case is
untimely. If it is untimely, then it must be dismissed and
not allowed to proceed.
(Letter [Docket Item 2], 1-2.)
Plaintiff did not respond to the Court's letter until
February 5, 2018, though he has subsequently filed numerous
supplemental submissions on the docket. (See Letter
[Docket Item 4]; Submissions [Docket Item 5]; Submissions
[Docket Item 6]; Letter [Docket Item 7]; Letters [Docket Item
8]; Briefs [Docket Item 9]; Brief [Docket Item 10]; Letter
[Docket Item 11]; Letter [Docket Item 12] .) However, none of
these supplemental materials has responded to the Court's
specific inquiry. (See id.) None of Plaintiff's
supplemental submissions allege that Defendant ...