Civil Action No. 20-367
District Judge William S. Stickman / Magistrate Judge Lenihan ECF No. 3 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
It is respectfully recommended that Plaintiff's Complaint, which was commenced in forma pauperis, be dismissed with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), as frivolous, and for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
A. Relevant Facts
Plaintiff Arthur C. Jackson, proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action against Defendants Washington Auto Mall and Human Relations employee, Dana Philphs. Plaintiff' pro se Complaint was received by the Clerk of Court on March 13, 2020 and docketed on March 18, 2020. Under Section III of the pro se form Complaint entitled "Statement of Claim," Plaintiff Jackson alleges that he was forced to take a urine test in the women's restroom. As a result, Plaintiff alleges that he has been "humiliated, shamed, degraded, belittled [and] brought down lower than man[.]" ECF No. 3 at 4. Plaintiff alleges that these events occurred in January 2016. Id.
Under Section IV of the pro se form Complaint entitled "Relief," Plaintiff indicates that he seeks to stop this unlawful practice which has caused him four (4) years of pain and suffering, harassment, defamation of character, and false accusations. Plaintiff also states that as a result of this incident, he has been forced to work temporary jobs as opposed to full time employment. ECF No. 3 at 4.
B. Legal Standards
The court must liberally construe the factual allegations of Plaintiff's Complaint because pro se pleadings, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation omitted); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). In addition, the court should "'apply the applicable law, irrespective of whether a pro se litigant has mentioned it by name.'" Higgins v. Beyer, 293 F.3d 683, 688 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting Holley v. Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 165 F.3d 244, 247-48 (3d Cir. 1999)).
This Court must review Plaintiff's Complaint in accordance with the amendments promulgated in the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996). Although Plaintiff's claims do not appear to arise from an incarceration, the amendments to the PLRA codified as 28 U.S.C. § 1915 apply to non-incarcerated individuals who have been granted in forma pauperis ("IFP") status. See Powell v. Hoover, 956 F. Supp. 564, 566 (M.D. Pa. 1997) (holding that federal in forma pauperis statute is not limited to prisoner suits); Floyd v. United States Postal Serv., 105 F.3d 274, 276 (6th Cir. 1997) (holding that non-prisoners have the option to proceed in forma pauperis), superseded on other grounds by Callihan v. Schneider, 178 F.3d 800 (6th Cir. 1997). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), Plaintiff is eligible for and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Thus, his allegations must be reviewed in accordance with the directives provided in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).
Pertinent to the case at bar is the authority granted to federal courts for the sua sponte dismissal of claims in IFP proceedings. Specifically, § 1915(e), as amended, requires the federal courts to review complaints filed by persons who are proceeding in forma pauperis and to dismiss, at any time, any action that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). "[A] complaint . . . is frivolous where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Hawkins v. Coleman Hall, C.C.F., 453 F. App'x 208, 210 (3d Cir. 2011) ("An appeal is frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact.") (citing Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 325). Thus, under § 1915(e)(2)(B), courts are "authorized to dismiss a claim as frivolous where 'it is based on an indisputable meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless.'" O'Neal v. Remus, No. 09-14661, 2010 WL 1463011, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 17, 2010) (quoting Price v. Heyrman, No. 06-C-632, 2007 WL 188971, at *1 (E.D. Wis. Jan. 22, 2007) (citing Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327)).
A complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 556 (2007) (rejecting the traditional 12(b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). The court must accept as true all allegations of the complaint and all reasonable factual inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Sec., Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3d Cir. 1985). "To the extent that a complaint filed in forma pauperis which fails to state a claim lacks even an arguable basis in law, Rule 12(b)(6) and § 1915(d) both counsel dismissal." Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 328 (footnote omitted).
In reviewing complaints under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), a federal court applies the same standard applied to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). D'Agostino v. CECOM RDEC, 436 F. App'x 70, 72 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999)). In addition to the complaint, courts may consider matters of public record and other matters of which a court may take judicial notice, court orders, and exhibits attached to the complaint when adjudicating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994) (citing 5A Wright and Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil 2d, § 1357; Chester Cnty Intermediate Unit v. Pennsylvania Blue Shield, 896 F.2d 808, 812 (3d Cir. 1990)).
Here, Plaintiff's Complaint must be dismissed for at least two reasons. First, assuming that Plaintiff is attempting to state a claim pursuant to the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 , Plaintiff's Complaint is time-barred on its face. Congress has not established a time limitation for § 1983 causes of action. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 266 (1985), superseded by statute as recognized in, Kasteleba v. Judge, 325 F. App'x 153, 156 (3d Cir. 2009). The United States Supreme Court has indicated, however, that courts are to consider § 1983 actions as tort actions and borrow the statute of limitations for state tort causes of action. Wilson, 471 U.S. at 278. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for tort actions is two years. 42 Pa. Con. Stat. Ann. § 5524. Therefore, for § 1983 actions brought in Pennsylvania federal courts, the appropriate limitations period is two years. See Smith v. City of Pittsburgh, 764 F.2d 188, 194 (3d Cir. 1985). Plaintiff alleges that the incident in question occurred in January 2016. ECF No. 3 at 4. Plaintiff's attempt to state a claim for a cause of action pursuant to § 1983 is time barred where Plaintiff delivered his Complaint to the Clerk of Court on March 13, 2020, over four (4) years after any cause of action would accrue. Accordingly, Plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act provides as follows:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or any other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . .
In addition, even if Plaintiff's Complaint were not time barred, and construing Plaintiff's allegations liberally and affording him every favorable inference, the Court could uncover no caselaw implicating a federal civil rights action where an employer mandates urine testing in the restroom of the opposite gender. Therefore, Plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed as frivolous.
This Court recognizes that the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has held that, in civil rights cases, a court must give a plaintiff the opportunity to amend a deficient complaint—regardless of whether the plaintiff requests to do so—when dismissing a case for failure to state a claim, unless doing so would be inequitable or futile. See Fletcher-Harlee Corp. v. Pote Concrete Contractors, Inc., 482 F.3d 247, 251 (3d Cir. 2007). Given this Court's above analyses, it would be futile to allow Plaintiff to amend his Complaint.
For the reasons set forth above, it is respectfully recommended that Plaintiff's Complaint be dismissed with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), as frivolous, and for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
In accordance with the Magistrate Judges Act, 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B) and (C), and Rule 72.D.2 of the Local Rules of Court, the parties are allowed fourteen (14) days from the date of service of a copy of this Report and Recommendation to file objections. Any party opposing the objections shall have fourteen (14) days from the date of service of objections to respond thereto. Failure to file timely objections will constitute a waiver of any appellate rights.
Dated: April 1, 2020
BY THE COURT
LISA PUPO LENIHAN
United States Magistrate Judge cc: Arthur C. Jackson
130 W. Wylie Avenue
Washington, PA 15301