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Chiacchiarini v. Lowndes County

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Valdosta Division

July 10, 2017




         Before the Court is Defendants Lowndes County, Georgia, Chris Prine, Mike Adams, Jack Priddy, and Stryde Jones' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 27). On January 4, 2017, Plaintiff Nicholas Chiacchiarini filed a lawsuit (Doc.1) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986 and under various state laws alleging violations of his constitutional rights arising from a January 3, 2015 incident. Arguing that Plaintiff neglected to file his lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations, Defendants move the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against them. For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendants' motion.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         On January 3, 2015, Plaintiff was a patron at Rascal's Bar and Grill. Plaintiff alleges that at some point during the evening, Andrea Watford and Brighton Lampert, who worked at the bar, accused Plaintiff of giving Watford a marijuana cigarette. When Defendants Mike Adams and Jack Priddy, law enforcement officers with the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department, arrived at the scene, Plaintiff asserted his innocence. Plaintiff alleges that despite offering his full cooperation, Adams and Priddy without provocation caused Plaintiff “to be lifted up into the air from behind without warning and violently slammed to the ground, thus landing upon a cobblestone-like walkway.” (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 13-15). The deputies then placed Plaintiff under arrest, threw him into the backseat of their vehicle, and transported him to the Lowndes County jail.

         Upon arrival at the jail, medical personnel assessed Plaintiff's injuries and instructed that he be taken to the emergency room at the South Georgia Medical Center in Valdosta, Georgia. The emergency room staff evaluated Plaintiff and determined that he required emergency surgery to correct damage to his hip. Plaintiff then was airlifted to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida.

         During his subsequent hospitalization, Plaintiff learned that all charges against him in Lowndes County had been dismissed. Feeling wronged by those whose actions purportedly caused his injuries, immediately upon being released from the hospital, Plaintiff contacted an attorney to pursue a remedy for the damages he sustained. Plaintiff submitted an open records request to Defendants Lowndes County and Sheriff Chris Prine in the course of investigating the events underlying his claims. That request was denied on the premise that the circumstances leading to Plaintiff's arrest remained under investigation by the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department. Defendants later charged Plaintiff with the misdemeanor offence of obstruction of a peace officer.

         On January 4, 2017, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants Lowndes County, Georgia, Chris Prine, Mike Adams, Jack Priddy, Stryde Jones, and others. In his Complaint, Plaintiff asserts three independent claims under § 1983: (1) Plaintiff accuses Defendants Adams, Priddy, and Jones of subjecting him to alleged use of excessive force in violation of his rights under the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 26-29); (2) Plaintiff asserts that Defendants Prine and Lowndes County are liable for purported negligent hiring, training, and retention, which led to a violation of his constitutional rights (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 34-39); and (3) Plaintiff contends that Defendants Adams and Priddy illegally and maliciously arrested him (Doc. 1, ¶ 42). Plaintiff sets forth a separate claim under § 1986, in which he alleges that Defendants Prine, Adams, Priddy, and Jones, “[i]n an effort to cover-up and hide their misconduct, . . . conspired to misrepresent the facts and circumstances surrounding the injuries and damages suffered by Plaintiff.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 42). Finally, Plaintiff contends that Defendants are liable for the injuries he sustained under the Georgia Constitution and under state law governing assault and battery and malicious arrest.


         A “Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal on statute of limitations grounds is appropriate only if it is apparent from the face of the complaint that the claim is time-barred.” Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen General Committee of Adjustment CSX Transp. Northern Lines v. CSX Transp., Inc., 522 F.3d 1190, 1194 (11th Cir. 2008). Defendants here argue that it is plain from the face of the Complaint that Plaintiff filed this lawsuit the day after the running of the statute of limitations. In the absence of any evidence warranting tolling of the statute, Defendants move the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's claims raised under federal law.

         A. Plaintiff's Claims Raised under Section 1983

         Section 1983 does not contain an express statute of limitation. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. “All constitutional claims brought under § 1983 are tort actions, subject to the statute of limitations governing personal injury actions in the state where the § 1983 action has been brought.” McNair v. Allen, 515 F.3d 1168, 1173 (11th Cir. 2008) (citing Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 275-76 (1985).[2]Under Georgia law, “[a]ctions for injuries to the person shall be brought within two years after the right of action accrues.” O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33; Wellons v. Comm'r, Ga. Dep't of Corr., 754 F.3d 1260, 1263 (11th Cir. 2014) (per curiam).

         It is plain from the face of Plaintiff's Complaint that he filed his lawsuit a day outside of the applicable statute of limitations. The facts as alleged show that Plaintiff's § 1983 claims accrued on January 3, 2015. Plaintiff did not file this action until January 4, 2017, one day too late. Plaintiff does not dispute that the Court's docket shows that he did not file his Complaint until January 4. However, Plaintiff argues that he actually began the filing process on January 3, but due to technical difficulties his filing was not completed until the early hours of the following morning.

         On January 9, 2017, Plaintiff's counsel filed a Declaration of Technical Difficulty (Doc. 3), attempting to invoke the Court's administrative procedure regarding technical difficulties to remedy his late filing. In his affidavit, Plaintiff's counsel notes that he began the filing process from his home computer sometime around 10:30 p.m. on January 3. Counsel apparently did not have the appropriate equipment available to scan all of the necessary documents and had to resort to use of an app downloaded to his cell phone. At approximately 11:30 p.m., counsel states that he uploaded Plaintiff's Complaint, which was assigned Case Number 7:17-CV-1 and showed a filing date of January 3, 2017. But before counsel could successfully upload all of the required documents to complete the filing process, he began experiencing issues with his internet provider as well as with his laptop computer. When he entered Case Number 7:17-CV-1 into CM/ECF, counsel could not access the file. He then had to begin the filing process anew, at which time the case was assigned Case Number 7:17-CV-2 with a filing date of January 4, 2017.

         Plaintiff's counsel filed his affidavit in purported compliance with the Court's local rules. However, counsel misapprehends the nature of the rule upon which he relies in an effort to salvage his client's lawsuit. The Court's CM/ECF Administrative Procedures for Filing, Signing, and Verifying Documents by Electronic Means provides on page four under the heading “Technical Failure & Maintenance” that “[i]n the event of a technical failure, a participant must file a declaration seeking relief from the court for not meeting a deadline as a result of the failure.” “Technical failure” is defined as occurring at any time when “the Middle District of Georgia CM/ECF system is unable to accept filings continuously or intermittently over the course of any period of time greater than four (4) hours.” Id. Specifically excluded from the Court's definition of technical failure is any issue “with a participant's internet server, hardware or software, ” which ...

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