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Huckabone v. City of Jamestown

United States District Court, W.D. New York

August 19, 2014

LONNIE HUCKABONE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF JAMESTOWN, N.Y., at al., Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER

RICHARD J. ARCARA, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

The Plaintiff, Lonnie Huckabone, proceeding pro se, filed this action alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961 et seq., and his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Docket No. 1). On July 30, 2009, the Court ordered Plaintiff to file a response addressing why his RICO and § 1983 claims were not barred by the applicable statutes of limitations ("July 30 Order") (Docket No. 3). Plaintiff timely filed a response to the Court's order ("Response") (Docket No. 4). For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Plaintiff's response provides no basis for tolling of the relevant limitations periods, and that Plaintiff's claims are time-barred and must be dismissed.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's complaint alleges violations of RICO and § 1983 against 15 corporate and individual defendants. In a lengthy narrative, Plaintiff sets forth his belief that a series of actions by the defendants, beginning in January, 1988, amounted to a conspiracy against him, in violation of RICO. Plaintiff's allegations are reviewed extensively in the July 30 Order, familiarity with which is assumed. ( See Docket No. 3 at 1-6).

As summarized in the July 30 Order, Plaintiff's factual allegations in support of his claims go back to 1988 and end in May 1990. Plaintiff's complaint was thus filed in this Court over nineteen years later, well beyond the applicable statutes of limitations. ( Id. at 6). The statute of limitations for RICO claims is four years. Agency Holding Corp. v. Malley-Duff & Assoc., Inc., 483 U.S. 143, 156, 107 S.Ct. 2759, 97 L.Ed.2d 121 (1987). The Second Circuit has applied a "discovery accrual rule" in RICO cases, under which the limitations period begins to run "when the plaintiff discovers - or should reasonably have discovered - the alleged injury." McLaughlin v. American Tobacco Co., 522 F.3d 215, 233 (2d Cir. 2008), abrogated in part on other grounds by, Bridge v. Phoenix Bond & Indem. Co., 553 U.S. 639, 128 S.Ct. 2131, 170 L.Ed.2d 1012 (2008); see also In re Merrill Lynch Ltd. Partnerships Litigation, 154 F.3d at 56, 60 (2d Cir. 1998) (per curiam) ("[T]his Circuit has adopted an injury discovery' rule in RICO cases which holds that a plaintiff's action accrues against a defendant for a specific injury on the date that plaintiff discovers or should have discovered that injury.") (internet citation omitted). In addition, under Second Circuit precedent, "the RICO statute of limitations... runs even where the full extent of the RICO scheme is not discovered until a later date, so long are there were storm warnings' that should have prompted an inquiry." World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. v. Jakks Pacific, Inc. 328 F.App'x 695, 697 (2d Cir. 2009). The Court's July 30 order set forth multiple instances in which Plaintiff's complaint makes clear that "storm warnings" were evident, with the final one coming in May, 1990 (Docket No. 3 at 7-8). The Court accordingly determined that the statute of limitations applicable to Plaintiff's RICO claims had expired many years before the filing of the complaint in this court. The Court further determined that "[g]iven the plethora of storm warnings' plaintiff indicates that he had received concerning the nature of defendants' conduct between 1988-90, it would not appear that plaintiff can demonstrate that defendants' activities were fraudulently concealed during the statute of limitations period or that he exercised due diligence' in pursuing discovery of the RICO claims." (Docket No. 3 at 8). The Court added that Plaintiff's complaint, on its face, did not appear establish any other basis on which his RICO claims could be properly tolled. Plaintiff was thus directed to address any such circumstances in his response. (Docket No. 3 at 8, 12).

The July 30 Order further determined that Plaintiff's numerous § 1983 claims also appeared to be time-barred by the appropriate statute of limitations. Claims under § 1983 are subject to a three year limitations period in New York. As noted above, Plaintiff's complaint alleges incidents giving rise to such claims occurring in May, 1990 or earlier. The Court then summarized the circumstances under which the limitations period can be tolled under relevant New York statutory law (Docket No. 3. at 10), and directed that plaintiff show cause why his § 1983 claims should not be barred by the limitations period, and to provide any information that he believed would provide a basis for tolling the limitations period. ( Id. at 12).

Finally, the July 30 Order advised plaintiff that even if the information he provided with respect to the statute of limitations period would suffice to allow his claims to go forward, the "complaint will be [subject] to further sua sponte review by the Court to determine whether there are any additional bases to dismiss as frivolous plaintiff's claims against one or more of the defendants." ( Id. at 12-13).

PLAINTIFF'S RESPONSE

Plaintiff timely filed a Response to the Court's July 30, order, consisting of an affirmation, supplemented by voluminous exhibits, several of which are attached as exhibits A-F to a copy of his Response, with the remainder contained in a binder consisting of over 300 pages of documents. (Docket No. 4). Plaintiff subsequently filed additional documents as exhibits, which pertain to a lawsuit plaintiff filed in Chautauqua County Supreme Court against the same individuals as those named defendants in the instant action. (Docket Nos. 5-6, related to Huckabone v. City of Jamestown, et al., Index No. K1-2009-1131).[1]

While the first and last paragraphs of Plaintiff's Response note that the July 30 Order directed him to provide additional information relevant to the statutes of limitations applicable to both his RICO and ¶ 1983 claims (Docket No. 4, "Introduction", p. 1, ¶ 8, p. 5), the discussion thereafter references only RICO and the limitations period applicable to RICO claims (see id., ¶¶ 4, 5).

As noted supra, the statute of limitations for civil RICO claims is four years, and begins running "when the plaintiff discovers - or should reasonably have discovered - the alleged injury." McLaughlin, 522 F.3d at 233. As the Court also noted in the July 30 Order, Plaintiff's complaint chronicled many occasions on which he could "reasonably have discovered" the injuries supporting a RICO claim or claims. The problem, however, is that none of these instances occurred less than 19 years before plaintiff filed the complaint in this matter. ( See Docket No. 3 at 7-8), meaning that the RICO claims were filed at least fifteen years after the expiration of the four year limitations period applicable to those claims.

Plaintiff's Response consists of a six-page statement supplemented, as noted above, by myriad exhibits intended to show the basis of plaintiff's belief that the defendants conspired and engaged in a pattern of activities over a period of years designed to harm his business activities and ventures, and to prevent him and those working for or representing him, through harassment and threats of retaliation, to "correct the wrong doings of certain individuals within the Jamestown Government System, who were responsible for Plaintiff's problems, only time and time again [to] reach road blocks. The Plaintiff has been under attack only because he wanted the opportunity to operate a successful business and when the Plaintiff complained he was threatened." (Docket No. 4 at ¶ 3).

The gravamen of the argument offered by Plaintiff as to why the statute of limitations applicable to his RICO claims should be tolled is that the harassment and conspiracies to which he was subjected by the defendants prevented him from obtaining counsel to press his claims. While he concedes that he is subject to the four-year statute of limitations applicable to RICO claims, and that the statutory period began to run when he became aware, or should have realized, that he had been injured (Docket No. 4 at ¶ 4), he argues that he ...


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