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Velez v. Chatman

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Statesboro Division

February 13, 2015

JOSE ANTONIO VELEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
BRUCE CHATMAN; DOUG WILLIAMS; JOHN PAUL; MAJOR JOHN DOE; MAJOR JANE DOE; CAPTAIN JOHN DOE; CAPTAIN JANE DOE; LIEUTENANT JOHN DOE; LIEUTENAN JANE DOE; SERGEANT JOHN DOE; SERGEANT JANE DOE; and DORM CORRECTIONS OFFICERS ON DUTY MAY 16, 2012, Defendants.

MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

R. STAN BAKER, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, who was formerly incarcerated at Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, Georgia, filed a cause of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to contest certain conditions of his confinement. Defendants Bruce Chatman, Doug Williams, and John Paul ("Movants") filed a Motion to Dismiss, to which Plaintiff failed to file a Response. Based on the reasons which follow, Movants' Unopposed Motion should be DENIED based on a statute of limitations defense but GRANTED as to Movants' arguments that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.[1]

BACKGROUND[2]

Plaintiff contends that, upon his arrival at Georgia State Prison, he asked to be placed in protective custody because he was attacked by other inmates while he was housed at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison. Plaintiff also contends he wrote letters to each of the Movants informing them that he had been assaulted at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison. Plaintiff argues that after his arrival at Georgia State Prison, no one responded to his request for protective custody. Plaintiff asserts that, less than a month after he made his request for protective custody, another inmate assaulted him on May 16, 2012, while he was in the television room.

Specifically, Plaintiff claims another prisoner stood outside of the door to the television room and another stood at the door and acted as lookouts while a third inmate assaulted him. Plaintiff also claims the inmate who assaulted him punched him in the face, slammed his head and body against a cement wall, and kicked him. Plaintiff alleges he fell onto a metal bench, and the other inmate slammed Plaintiff's body and head into this bench. According to Plaintiff, the policies and procedures in place, as well as the acts of omission, indicated Defendants' deliberate indifference to his safety and security. (Doc. 1.)

Movants assert several grounds for dismissal in their instant motion. First, they contend Plaintiff's Complaint is barred by the applicable statute of limitations period. Movants also assert Plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed because he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing this cause of action. Additionally, Movants contend that Plaintiff cannot maintain compensatory damages claims against them in their official capacities and that Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a claim against them. Finally, Movants assert they are entitled to qualified immunity from suit in their individual capacities.

DISCUSSION

I. Statute of limitations

A. Standard of review

Under a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court must "accept[ ] the allegations in the complaint as true and constru[e] them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Belanger v. Salvation Army, 556 F.3d 1153, 1155 (11th Cir. 2009). "A complaint must state a facially plausible claim for relief, and [a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'" Wooten v. Quicken Loans, Inc., 626 F.3d 1187, 1196 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). "A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" does not suffice. Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678. "To dismiss a prisoner's complaint as time-barred... it must appear beyond a doubt from the complaint itself that the prisoner can prove no set of facts which would avoid a statute of limitations bar." McKenzie v. United States Dep't of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency, 143 F.Appx. 165, 168 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1163 (11th Cir. 2003) (internal quotations omitted)).

B. Discussion

Movants state the events giving rise to Plaintiff's Complaint occurred on May 16, 2012, which is the date Plaintiff contends another inmate assaulted him. Movants note that Velez filed his Complaint on July 21, 2014, which is more than two (2) years after Plaintiff knew of the allegations contained in his Complaint. Accordingly, Movants assert, Plaintiff's claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. (Doc. 25-1, p. 4.)

Constitutional claims brought pursuant to section 1983 "are tort actions, subject to the statute of limitations governing personal injury actions in the state where the § 1983 action has been brought." Powell v. Thomas, 643 F.3d 1300, 1303 (11th Cir. 2011). Georgia has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33. Although state law determines the applicable statute of limitations, "[f]ederal law determines when the statute of limitations begins to run." Lovett v. Ray, 327 F.3d 1181, 1182 (11th Cir. 2003). As a general rule, "the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the facts which would support a cause of action are apparent or should be apparent to a person with a reasonably prudent regard for his rights." Id.

Plaintiff signed his Complaint on April 29, 2014. "Under the prison mailbox rule, ' a pro se prisoner's court filing is deemed filed on the date it is delivered to prison authorities for mailing." United States v. Glover, 686 F.3d 1203, 1205 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Williams v. McNeil, 557 F.3d 1287, 1290 n.2 (11th Cir. 2009)). If Plaintiff had placed his Complaint in the prison mail system on that date, his Complaint would be filed timely, even though the Complaint was not filed upon this Court's docket until July 21, 2014. (Doc. 1.) "Unless there is evidence to the contrary, like prison logs or other ...


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