Man nearly beaten to death by Phila. cops cannot move forward with lawsuit, judge rules

Jon Campisi Apr. 11, 2012, 7:18am

A man who was nearly beaten to death by a handful of Philadelphia police officers cannot move forward with his lawsuit because it was time-barred by a two-year statute of limitations, a federal judge has ruled.

In an April 6 ruling, U.S. District Judge Mary A. McLaughlin of the federal court in Philadelphia granted a motion to dismiss that had been filed by the defendants for failure to state a claim.

McLaughlin ordered that the complaint be dismissed with prejudice.

Marquise Stratton had filed a pro se complaint on Dec. 8, 2011 against an Officer Nieves, (no last name given), and other unidentified Philadelphia police officers for allegedly violating his federal civil rights.

Stratton, currently an inmate at the state prison in Dallas, Pa., claimed in his civil action that officers nearly beat him to death following an altercation in early December 2007 during which the officers punched, kicked and stomped on Stratton, causing him to be taken to the hospital and placed in the intensive care unit on life support for about a week, his suit stated.

Stratton survived, and ended up being discharged with a final diagnosis of multiple facial contusions and fractures, concussion with a loss of consciousness, lacerations and fracture to the left supraorbital bone and dental trauma, according to background information contained within the judge’s ruling.

The defendant officers had claimed that Stratton attacked them and resisted arrest, but Stratton was found not guilty of aggravated assault and resisting arrest charges following a jury trial in early December 2009.

McLaughlin’s ruling states that while federal civil rights statutes do not contain a specific statute of limitations for Section 1983 actions, the length of the statute of limitations is governed by the personal injury tort law of the state where the cause of action arose.

In the Stratton case, the judge wrote, the lawsuit was time-barred due to a two-year statute of limitations under Pennsylvania law, which is not extended due to imprisonment.

McLaughlin wrote that Stratton’s cause of injury, which starts the clock, occurred during the alleged beating incident on Dec. 4, 2007, meaning he would have had to file his claim within two years from that date.

Stratton’s civil action was actually not docketed until Dec. 8, 2011.

“There is and can be no allegation in this case that Mr. Stratton was unaware of his injury at the time the incident occurred,” the ruling states.

McLaughlin further wrote that while Stratton argued that he couldn’t file a civil complaint until after his criminal case for aggravated assault and resisting arrest was resolved, that did not defer the accrual of his excessive force claim “or otherwise delay the running of the statute of limitations.”

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