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Parker v. Stephen

June 7, 2006

ELMER PARKER, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
P.O. STEPHEN J. SCYMCYK, SHIELD NUMBER 2935, AND P.O. CALVERT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hurley, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Presently before the Court is the motion by defendants Police Officers Stephen J. Scymcyk ("Scymcyk") and Calvert ("Calvert") (collectively, "Defendants") to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted in its entirety and this case is dismissed.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed, unless noted. Plaintiff Elmer Parker, Jr. ("Plaintiff") commenced this action on June 24, 2002. His original Complaint named the County of Nassau, the Nassau County Police Department, the Nassau County Sheriff's Department, Police Officers John Doe 1-10, and Corrections Officers 1-10 as defendants. Plaintiff claimed violations under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 ("Section 1983"), 1985, and 1986 arising out of his alleged wrongful arrest on April 11, 2001. Plaintiff was represented by counsel when the original Complaint was filed.

On November 8, 2002, and pursuant to Rule 26(a), the original defendants served initial disclosures upon Plaintiff's counsel which included, among other things, the identities of the following three individuals having knowledge of the claims and/or defenses: Police Officers Joseph L. Angelino, Scymcyk, and Calvert. Plaintiff's counsel never sought to amend Plaintiff's Complaint to add or substitute any of these three officers as defendants in this action.

In August 2003, Plaintiff's attorney moved to be relieved as counsel. This application was granted in September 2003 and Plaintiff continued to litigate this case pro se.

On March 21, 2005, present counsel appeared on behalf of Plaintiff. According to counsel, at the time he was retained Plaintiff explained to him that the date listed for his arrest in the Complaint, i.e., April 11, 2001, was incorrect. Plaintiff indicated that the correct date was February 22, 2001.

On July 21, 2005, Plaintiff's new attorney filed an Amended Complaint naming only Scymcyk and Calvert as defendants. The Amended Complaint alleges that Defendants violated Plaintiff's civil rights by falsely and maliciously arresting him on February 22, 2001 without probable cause. The Amended Complaint further charges Defendants with malicious prosecution and alleges that the charges against Plaintiff arising out of his arrest were not dismissed until February 27, 2002. Plaintiff seeks damages under Section 1983 and attorneys' fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988.

Defendants now move to dismiss the Complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) on the grounds that the Amended Complaint is barred by the statute of limitations. For the reasons discussed below, their motion is granted and the Amended Complaint is dismissed.

DISCUSSION

The statute of limitations for claims brought pursuant to Section 1983 in New York is three years. Veal v. Geraci, 23 F.3d 722, 724 (2d Cir. 1994); see also Ormiston v. Nelson, 117 F.3d 69, 71 (2d Cir. 1997) (explaining that Section 1983 claims are governed by the state statute of limitations for personal-injury actions). However, when that statute of limitations begins to run, i.e., when the cause of action "accrues," is governed by federal law. See Ormiston, 117 F.3d at 71; Jaghory v. New York State Dep't of Educ., 131 F.3d 326, 331 (2d Cir. 1997). Under federal law, the accrual date for a Section 1983 claim is when "the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of his action." Pinaud v. City of Suffolk, 52 F.3d 1139, 1156 (2d Cir. 1995). "'[T]he proper focus is on the time of the [unlawful] act, not the point at which the consequences of the act become[ ] painful.'" Eagleston v. Guido, 41 F.3d 865, 871 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting Chardon v. Fernandez, 454 U.S. 6, 8 (1981)).

Here, the parties do not dispute that Plaintiff's claim for false arrest accrued on February 22, 2001, the date of his arrest, and that his claim for malicious prosecution accrued on February 27, 2002, the date the charges against him were dismissed. Thus, the statute of limitations for these claims expired on February 22, 2004, and February 27, 2005, respectively. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, however, was not filed until July 21, 2005. Accordingly, Plaintiff's claims are untimely.

Plaintiff attempts to avoid this conclusion by arguing that, pursuant to Rule 15(c), his claims "relate back" to the date on which the original Complaint was filed. Under Rule 15(c), an amendment adding a new party will "relate back" to the date of the original complaint only when the claim arises out of the same "conduct, transaction, or occurrence" originally pleaded and within the period provided by Rule 4(m) for service of the summons and complaint, the party to be brought in by amendment (A) has received such notice of the institution of the action that the party will not be prejudiced in maintaining a defense on the ...


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