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Southern District Dismisses Civil Rights Complaint as Time Barred

Often confusing is what date the statute of limitations for civil rights claims accrue and when do these claims expire. As the Plaintiff in Anderson (14-CV-7162, SDNY) can attest to, Federal District Courts, here the Southern District of New York, will dismiss a claim that is time-barred due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. The Southern District Court here reitterates that:

Under New York law, the statute of limitations for §1983 claims, including false arrest and malicious abuse of process, is three years. See Palmer v. Estate of Stuart, 274 F. App'x 58, 58 (2d Cir. 2008); see also Hadid v. City of N.Y., No. 15-CV-19, 2015 WL 7734098, at *5 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 30, 2015) (malicious abuse of process and false arrest claims are governed by New York's three-year statute of limitations). Further, "the statute of limitations [for false arrest and malicious abuse of process claims] begins to run once the plaintiff knows of the injury on which the claim is based." Jaghory v. N.Y. State Dep't of Educ., 131 F.3d 326, 331 (2d Cir. 1997); see Singleton v. City of N.Y., 632 F.2d 185, 192 (2d Cir. 1980) ("The crucial time for accrual purposes is when the plaintiff becomes aware that he is suffering from a wrong for which damages may be recovered in a civil action. To permit him to wait and toll the running of the statute simply by asserting that a series of separate wrongs were committed pursuant to a conspiracy would be to enable him to defeat the purpose of the time-bar, which is to preclude the resuscitation of stale claims."); cf. Martinez v. City of N.Y., 476 F. Supp. 2d 330, 331 (S.D.N.Y. 2007) ("The date when charges are dismissed does not determine when the plaintiff obtains sufficient knowledge of the violation.").

For claims of false imprisonment, including false arrest, as alleged here, the statute of limitations begins to run once the falsely imprisoned individual becomes held pursuant to legal process. Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 389 (2007); see Kevilly v. New York, 410 F. App'x 371, 375 (2d Cir. 2010)...Abuse of process claims accrue at "such time as plaintiff is aware, or ought to be aware, of those facts providing a basis for his claim." Hadid, 2015 WL 7734098, at *5. "Ordinarily, a claim for abuse of process accrues at such time as the criminal process is set in motion — typically at arrest — against the plaintiff." Duamutef v. Morris, 956 F. Supp. 1112, 1118 (S.D.N.Y. 1997); see DeMartino v. New York, No. 12-CV-3319, 2013 WL 3226789, at *13 (E.D.N.Y. June 24, 2013), aff'd, 586 F. App'x 68 (2d Cir. 2014).

[Pp. 5-6, external quotation marks omitted and internal citations preserved]

This is important for all New York attorneys, especially New York criminal defense attorneys because the Court dismisses this case and leaves the Plaintiff without redress because of time limitations. It is important for New York criminal defense practitioners to either advise their clients accordingly or make the appropriate referral.

The District Court denies leave to amend. While, leave to amend should be "freely give[n]…when justice so requires." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2); see Zucker v. Five Towns Coll., No. 09-CV-4884, 2010 WL 3310698, at *3 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 18, 2010), it is within the discretion of the district court to grant or deny leave to amend, McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 200 (2d Cir. 2007), and "[l]eave to amend, though liberally granted, may properly be denied for: undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, etc.," Ruotolo v. City of N.Y., 514 F.3d 184, 191 (2d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted).

The District Court refuses to do so and the amended complaint is dismissed. The Case is Anderson v. County of Putnam, 14-CV-7162, NYLJ 1202748302027, at *1 (SDNY, Decided January 22, 2016).


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