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William A. Matthews v. Town of Jewett; William Dwyer

July 21, 2011

WILLIAM A. MATTHEWS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TOWN OF JEWETT; WILLIAM DWYER, ZONING CODE OFFICER, TOWN OF JEWETT; JIM BROCKET; TAL RAPPLEYEA, ATTORNEY-AT-LAW, TOWN OF JEWETT;
JOEL SUTCH; MIKE FLAHERTY, REPRESENTATIVE OF THE TOWN OF JEWETT;
RICHARD TOMPKINS; JOE DOE; AND JANE DOE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Plaintiff William Matthews commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Town of Jewett, William Dwyer, Jim Brocket, Tal Rappleyea, Mike Flaherty, Richard Tompkins, and Joe and Jane Doe (Town defendants), and Joel Sutch, alleging violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (See Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Pending are defendants' motions to dismiss. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 11.) For the reasons that follow, defendants' motions are granted.

II. Background

William Matthews alleges that on January 12, 2006, while incarcerated at the Clinton Correctional Facility, he was contacted by defendant Rappleyea, attorney for the Town of Jewett. (See Compl. ¶ 13, Dkt. No. 1.) Rappleyea's letter informed Matthews that he was in violation of Town of Jewett local law regarding junk yard regulations, and that Matthews would need to remove several junk vehicles from his property in order to comply with the local law. (See Pl. Ex. B, Dkt. No. 1.) Matthews appeared in Jewett Town Court on June 26, 2006, regarding these violations. (See Pl. Ex. C, Dkt. No. 1.) In those proceedings, it was determined that Matthews was in violation of the Jewett local law and subject to a weekly fine of $350.00 as long as the unregistered vehicles remained on Matthews's property. (See id.)

Matthews alleges that in August 2009, he became aware that sometime prior, defendants entered his property and seized his vehicles, causing damage to his property in the process. (See Compl. ¶¶ 16-18, Dkt. No. 1.) On November 12, 2009, Matthews commenced this lawsuit.

III. Standard of Review

The standard of review under FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6) is well established and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standard the court refers the parties to its decision in Ellis v. Cohen & Slamowitz, LLP, 701 F. Supp. 2d 215, 217-18 (N.D.N.Y. 2010).

IV. Discussion

Defendants assert that Matthews's claims are time barred because all of the events at issue here are alleged to have occurred before August 2006. (See Town Defs. Mem. of Law at 2-3, Dkt. No. 8:2; see also Sutch Mem. of Law at 2-3, Dkt. No. 11:2.) Section 1983 actions are governed by the "general or residual state statute of limitations for personal injury actions." Ormiston v. Nelson, 117 F.3d 69, 71 (2d Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). As a result, New York's three-year statute of limitations for a personal injury, N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 214(5), applies to § 1983 actions in New York. See id. Consequently, absent any tolling of the limitations period, Matthews's claims would be time barred because they were filed more than three years after the seizure of his vehicles.

Matthews asserts two bases for the statute of limitations to be tolled in this case: mental incapacity and continuing violations. (See Pl. Resp. Mem. of Law at 3-6, Dkt. No. 33.)

A. "Insanity" Under N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 208

Matthews first argues that he is entitled to a hearing to determine whether his mental incapacity triggers the ten-year statute of limitations provided by N.Y. C.P.L.R. §208.*fn1 (See id. at 3.)

"[T]he condition of an individual's mental capabilities is largely a factual question ...." McCarthy v. Volkswagen of Am., Inc., 55 N.Y.2d 543, 548 (N.Y. 1982). The tolling of the statute of limitations is intended to apply "only [to] those individuals who are unable to protect their ...


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