United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS'
PARTIAL MOTION TO DISMISS
MATTER is before the Court on Defendants Bernalillo County
Metropolitan Detention Center, the Board of County
Commissioners of Bernalillo County, Donald Vigil, Jessie
Lara, Clinton Christison, and Tina Goebler's Partial
Motion to Dismiss and Memorandum in Support, filed on May 24,
2017 (Doc. 7). Having reviewed the relevant
pleadings and the applicable law, the Court finds
Defendants' Motion is well-taken, and is therefore
Henry Reyes Chavez claims he was attacked by another inmate
on January 19, 2014 while incarcerated in the Bernalillo
County Metropolitan Detention Center. Plaintiff claims
Defendants used excessive force in their attempts to break up
the fight and they used unreasonable or unnecessary force
following the incident and during decontamination from the
use of pepper spray. Plaintiff, proceeding pro se,
filed a complaint alleging violations of the Constitution
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and tort claims under the New
Mexico Tort Claims Act. Plaintiff claims he was subject to
excessive force and/or that Defendants failed to protect him
from another inmate at the Bernalillo County Detention Center
on January 19, 2014. Plaintiff filed the lawsuit on February
argue Plaintiff's state law claims are barred by the
statute of limitations. Defendants point out that Plaintiff
filed the lawsuit on February 24, 2017, more than three years
from the date of the incident. Section 41-4-15(A) of the New
Mexico Tort Claims Act provides that “[a]ctions against
a governmental entity or a public employee for torts shall be
forever barred, unless such action is commenced within two
years after the date of occurrence resulting in loss, injury
or death…” NMSA 1978, § 41-4-15(A).
Defendants also point out that Plaintiff has already
attempted to pursue this matter in state district court.
See e.g. Henry Reyes Chavez v. Bernalillo County
Metropolitan Detention Center No. D-307-CV-2016-00146.
Plaintiff's previous complaint was dismissed without
prejudice for improper venue on November 7, 2016. Yet, that
complaint was filed on January 27, 2016, more than two years
after the date of the original incident. Therefore, even
Plaintiff's prior lawsuit was barred by the statute of
limitations applicable to claims under State law.
response, Plaintiff focuses primarily on the timeliness of
his prior complaint filed in the Third Judicial District
Court. He asserts that for reasons beyond his
control, his state complaint was not filed until January 27,
2016, although he mailed it to the court on January 14, 2016.
He states that he eventually believed that case was
dismissed. Plaintiff attempted to file another complaint in
the proper venue (Second Judicial District Court) but, again,
for reasons beyond his control the complaint was lost or
misplaced. Then, on February 24, 2017, Plaintiff
hand-delivered the instant complaint to Second Judicial
District Court for filing, and the case was subsequently
removed to federal court. Plaintiff argues these
circumstances show his case is not time-barred.
Court is mindful of its duty to construe pro se
pleadings liberally. See Ford v. Pryor, 552 F.3d
1174, 1178 (10th Cir. 2008) (“Because [plaintiff] is
proceeding pro se, we construe his pleadings liberally, but
we do not act as his advocate.”); Ogden v. San Juan
County, 32 F.3d 452, 455 (10th Cir. 1994) (finding that
a litigant's pro se status does not excuse the
obligation to comply with the fundamental requirements of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure). However, Plaintiff has
simply failed to bring his claims under the New Mexico Tort
Claims Act within the required two-year timeframe, so those
claims must be dismissed. See NMSA 1978, §
Mexico Tort Claims Act requires that “[a]ctions against
a governmental entity or a public employee for torts shall be
forever barred, unless such action is commenced
within two years after the date of occurrence resulting in
loss, injury or death…” NMSA 1978, § 41-4-
15(A) (emphasis added). In New Mexico, “[a] civil
action is commenced by filing a complaint with the
court.” NMRA, Rule 1-003. Therefore, even if Plaintiff
mailed his first complaint to the Third Judicial District
Court prior to the expiration of the limitations period, his
first suit was not commenced within the time period
proscribed by the New Mexico Tort Claims Act. Likewise, his
second complaint was not filed until February 24, 2017.
Plaintiff's alleged injuries took place on January 19,
2014. To be timely under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act, his
complaint must have been filed on or before January 19, 2016.
It was not. Therefore, Plaintiff's claims under the New
Mexico Tort Claims Act must be dismissed.
Court further agrees with Defendants that to the extent
Plaintiff is arguing for application of a “prisoner
mailbox rule” there is no such rule for claims under
state law. See Adams v. LeMaster, 223 F.3d 1177,
1183 (10th Cir. 2000) (“We hold the New Mexico Supreme
Court would side with those state courts relying on the plain
meaning of their respective state procedural rules to reject
the prison mailbox rule.”). Under the “prisoner
mailbox rule, ” a prisoner's habeas
petition is deemed filed on the day the prisoner hands it
over to prison authorities for mailing to the court. See
Id. at 1180. The Court cannot locate any authority that
requires the Court to deem a complaint filed on the day a
prisoner leaves it with prison staff in order to be mailed.
the Court concludes that equitable tolling will not save
Plaintiffs state tort claims. In Ocana v. Am. Furniture
Co., 2004-NMSC-018, ¶ 15, 135 N.M. 539, 91 P.3d 58,
the New Mexico Supreme Court recognized that
“[e]quitable tolling typically applies in cases where a
litigant was prevented from filing suit because of an
extraordinary event beyond his or her control.”
Ocana, 2004-NMSC-018, ¶ 15. Under New Mexico
law, the doctrine of equitable tolling is quite limited.
Casanova v. Cent. N.M. Corr. Dep't, 502 F.
App'x 774, 776 (10th Cir. 2012) (unpublished). Plaintiff
has not identified any facts showing he was prevented from
filing suit because of “extraordinary” events
beyond his control.
of whether Plaintiffs original action was timely filed in the
Third Judicial District Court (and the facts show it was
not), Plaintiffs complaint in this lawsuit is untimely under
the New Mexico Tort Claims Act. Therefore, Defendants'
Partial Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 7) is
GRANTED. Plaintiffs claims under the New
Mexico Tort Claims Act, as asserted in Counts IV, V, and VI,
are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE
IS SO ORDERED.