United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. BRACK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER is before the Court under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) on the Prisoner's Civil
Rights Complaint filed by Plaintiff Richard Sigala on October
11, 2016. (Doc. 1.) The Court will dismiss the Complaint as
barred by the statute of limitations.
Richard Sigala is a prisoner in the custody of the New Mexico
Corrections Department and is serving a sentence on
convictions for armed robbery with a deadly weapon, first
degree murder, and tampering with evidence. See State v.
Sigala, State of New Mexico, County of Eddy, Fifth
Judicial District Court No. D-503-CR-2002-00064. Sigala is
proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. At the time
of the events giving rise to his Complaint, Sigala was
incarcerated at the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility
(“GCCF”) in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. (Doc. 1 at
September 24, 2010, Sigala submitted a health service request
form, complaining of right-sided testicular pain.
(Id. at 14.) On October 6, 2010, he was escorted to
the medical facility and examined by Dr. Mark Walden.
(Id. at 15.) Sigala claims:
“During said examination, Dr. Walden went beyond the
call of his duty when he performed an extensive examination
by extensively fondling my penis and testicles and
penetrating my anal cavity with his finger.”
(Doc. 43 at 2.) Sigala was again seen by Dr. Walden at a
follow-up appointment on October 21, 2010. (Doc. 1 at 16.)
The record does not show that Sigala had any further care
from or contact with Dr. Walden after October 21, 2010.
filed an Information Complaint on July 1, 2016, and an Inmate
Grievance on July 13, 2016, with the New Mexico Corrections
Department, complaining of Dr. Walden's actions. (Doc. 1
at 10-11.) In his Inmate Grievance, Sigala states that he
“did not report this incident immediately because [he]
was embarrassed of the entire situation.” (Id.
at 11.) He then filed his Complaint in this Court on October
11, 2016. (See Doc. 1.)
Complaint, Sigala contends that Dr. Walden's 2010
examination constituted sexual abuse in violation of his
Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and also constituted
medical malpractice. (Docs. 1 at 2-3; 43 at 1.) Sigala also
claims that Corizon Medical Healthcare failed to review Dr.
Walden's work history prior to employing him as a
physician at GCCF and that Warden Erasmo Bravo was negligent
in over-seeing Dr. Walden's actions and allowing him to
continue to operate at GCCF. (Doc. 1 at 4-5.)
September 25, 2017, the Court entered an Order to Show Cause.
(Doc. 42.) The Court stated that “[i]t appears on the
face of the Complaint and the record that Sigala's claims
are barred by the applicable statute of limitations.”
(Id. at 2.) The Court ordered Sigala to show cause
within thirty days why the Complaint should not be dismissed
as untimely. (Id. at 3.) Sigala filed his Brief in
Support of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, responding to the
Court's show-cause Order, on October 18, 2017. (Doc. 43).
Sigala's Brief in Support argues the merits of his
constitutional and state-law claims but does not address the
timeliness issue raised by the Court's Order to Show
Complaint is for civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. (Doc. 1 at 2.) Sigala also asserts state law
claims for medical malpractice and rape. (Id.)
Sigala's Complaint alleges claims arising out of sexual
assault by Corizon Healthcare provider Dr. Mark Walden in
violation of Sigala's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment
constitutional rights. (Id. at 2-9.) Civil rights
claims arising in New Mexico under § 1983 are governed
by the three-year personal injury statute of limitations
contained in N.M. Stat. Ann. § 37-1-8 (1978).
Varnell v. Dora Consol. Sch. Dist., 756 F.3d 1208,
1212 (10th Cir. 2014); Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S.
261, 269 (1985). The shorter two-year limitation period of
N.M. Stat. Ann. § 41-4-15 applies to the extent Sigala
is asserting state-law claims against a health care provider
under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act.
37-1-8 applies to Sigala's claim and bars personal injury
actions “not brought within three years of accrual of
the cause of action.” Maestas v. Zager, 152
P.3d 141, 146 (N.M. 2007) (internal quotation marks and
citation omitted). The cause of action accrues when
“the plaintiff knows or with reasonable diligence
should have known of the injury and its cause.”
Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted);
Varnell, 756 F.3d at 1216. The extent of the injury
is irrelevant to the analysis and, instead, the statute of
limitations commences as soon as the plaintiff has been
apprised of the general nature of the injury. Wallace v.
Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 391 (2007); Harvey v. United
States, 685 F.3d 939, 949 (10th Cir. 2012); Bolden
v. Village of Corrales, 809 P.2d 635, 636 (N.M. Ct. App.
pleading may be subject to dismissal when an affirmative
defense, such as the statute of limitations, appears on the
face of the complaint or petition. Jones v. Bock,
549 U.S. 199, 214-15 (2007); Vasquez Arroyo v.
Starks, 589 F.3d 1091, 1096 (10th Cir. 2009). In this
case, it appears on the face of the Complaint that the events
giving rise to Sigala's claim occurred, and his cause of
action accrued, more than three years prior to filing of the
Complaint. Sigala specifically alleges that the events giving
rise to his claims took place on or about August or October
2010. (Doc. 1 at 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.) Sigala's Complaint was
not filed until October 11, 2016, more than six years after
the events underlying his claims. On the face of Sigala's
Complaint, his claims are barred by the three-year statute of
limitations of § 37-1-8 or the two-year statute of
limitations of § 41-4-15. Absent tolling of the statute
of limitations, Sigala's claims are subject to dismissal
as time-barred. Varnell, 756 F.3d at 1212.
of tolling, like the limitation period, are determined by
state law in § 1983 actions. Wilson v. Garcia,
471 U.S. 261, 269 (1985); Sain v. City of Bend, 309
F.3d 1134, 1138 (9th Cir. 2002); Varnell, 756 F.3d
at 1212-13. Under New Mexico law, equitable tolling is a
non-statutory tolling principle that provides relief in cases
when exceptional circumstances beyond the plaintiff's
control preclude filing suit within the statute of
limitations. See Snow v. Warren Power & Mach.,
Inc., 354 P.3d 1285, 1290 (N.M. 2015). “Generally,
a litigant seeking equitable tolling bears the burden of
establishing two elements: (1) that he has been pursuing his
rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary
circumstance stood in his way.” Slusser v. Vantage
Builders, Inc., 306 P.3d 524, 531 (N.M. Ct. App. 2013)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Exceptional
circumstances require that a plaintiff demonstrate “an
extraordinary event beyond his or her control.”
Ocana v. Am. Furniture Co., 91 P.3d 58, 66 (N.M.
2004); Little v. Baigas, 390 P.3d 201, 207 (N.M. Ct.
appears to claim that he did not file his Complaint within
the limitations period because he was “embarrassed of
the entire situation.” (Doc. 1 at 11.) Sigala does not
demonstrate that he was diligent in pursuing his rights or
that any extraordinary circumstance beyond his control
prevented his filing of the Complaint. There is no basis for
tolling of the statute of limitations in this case and
Sigala's claims are barred by the three-year or two-year