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Taylor v. Jackson

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

January 20, 2017

DANIEL W. TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
RODNEY JACKSON, et al, Defendants.


         Defendants move for judgment on the pleadings and dismissal of plaintiff Daniel Taylor's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Complaint. Doc. 10. Taylor opposes. Doc. 13.

         A. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is incarcerated at Coastal State Prison. Doc. 1-1. On August 22, 2016, he and defendant Shanae Curtis were involved in a heated confrontation, after which he was punished by segregation from the main prisoner population. Id. at 6-8. Officials first confined him in a "black molded shower" for eight hours without his being able to use the restroom, then they placed in a cell with a rusted steel bunk and leaking water on the floor. For good measure, they confiscated his property. Id. at 8-9. While in segregation, he was unable to litigate any of his pending cases or access a law library. Id. And since leaving segregation, he is "now sick and being denied medical and mental health treatment." Id. at 9.

         The disciplinary report explains that he was placed in segregation for cursing at Curtis during the confrontation. Taylor insists the disciplinary report is false and was fabricated specifically to deprive him of the ability to file legal documents in his other lawsuits and obtain parole. Id. at 8-9. Plaintiff asserts federal claims for conspiracy and violation of the First and Eighth Amendments, as well as several state law tort claims. Id. at 11-13; see also doc. 13 at 15-21 (an apparent "Amended Complaint" snuck into his objection as an exhibit, rather than separately filed as such, expanding his denial of medical care and medical negligence claims, and alleging for the first time a failure to train claim).


         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), "[a]fter the pleadings are closed -- but early enough not to delay trial -- a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A judgment on the pleadings is appropriate only "where there are no material facts in dispute and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Cannon v. City of W. Palm Beach, 250 F.3d 1299, 1300 (11th Cir. 2001). A fact is "material" if "it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing [substantive] law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). "In other words, a judgment on the pleadings alone, if sustained, must be based on the undisputed facts appearing in all the pleadings." Stanton v. Larsh, 239 F.2d 104, 106 (5th Cir. 1957).

         The legal standards governing Rule 12(c) motions are the same as those governing Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss. Roma Outdoor Creations, Inc. v. City of Cumming, Ga., 558 F.Supp.2d 1283, 1284 (N.D.Ga. 2008) ("A motion for judgment on the pleadings is subject to the same standard as is a Rule 12(b) (6) motion to dismiss."). Therefore, plaintiffs complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Wooten v. Quicken Loans, Inc., 626 F.3d 1187, 1196 (11th Cir. 2010). To be "plausible on its face, " the complaint must have enough "factual content that allows the Court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic, v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 5444, 570 (2007)). In applying this standard, factual allegations are accepted as true, but legal conclusions are not. Id.

         C. DISCUSSION

         1. Jurisdiction

          Plaintiff contends that jurisdiction properly lies with Chatham County Superior Court, and that this case was improperly removed by defendants. See docs. 7 & 13. A defendant may remove to federal court any civil action brought in state court if the federal court has original jurisdiction over the matter. See 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Federal courts have original jurisdiction over cases "arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. 1331. A plaintiff, as "master of the claim, " "may avoid federal jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on state law." Caterpillar, Inc., v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). When, however, a plaintiff presents one or more claims that arise under federal law, he subjects himself to the possibility that the defendant will remove the case to federal court. City of Chicago v. Intl College of Surgeons, 522 U.S. 156, 164 (1997). This is just such a case: Taylor asserts both federal claims and state law tort claims. Doc. 1-1 at 11-13. His state tort claims do not obviate his federal claims -- the propriety of removal is determined only by the question of whether he raises one (or more) claims under federal law. City of Chicago, 522 U.S. at 164. Defendants' removal of the case to federal court was, therefore, proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         2. Exhaustion

         Defendants argue that dismissal is appropriate because plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, as well as on the merits. Because Taylor has not exhausted either his Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) or Georgia Tort Claims Act (GTCA) administrative remedies, dismissal is appropriate.

         a. Federal Claims

         Under the PLRA exhaustion provision, a prisoner must exhaust all available administrative remedies before filing an action that challenges the conditions of his confinement. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Exhaustion is a "pre-condition to suit" that must be enforced even if the available administrative remedies are either "futile or inadequate." Harris v. Garner,190 F.3d 1279, 1285-86 (11th Cir. 1999), affd in part and vacated and remanded on other grounds by Harris v. Garner,216 F.3d 970 (2000) (en banc); see also Jones v. Bock,549 U.S. 199, 199-200 (2007) ("There is no question that exhaustion is mandatory under the PLRA"). When a defendant moves to dismiss and puts forward proof showing that plaintiff failed to exhaust and defendant did not inhibit his efforts to do so, the PLRA requires the Court to dismiss the unexhausted claims.[1]See Turner v. Burnside, 541 F.3d 1077, 108-83 (11th Cir. 2008) (describing the two-prong "facial" and "factual" evaluation of exhaustion as a "matter in abatement, " as it is ...

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