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Clark v. Fye

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

March 26, 2019

ROBERT L. CLARK, Plaintiff,
v.
CHIQUITA A. FYE, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          MARC T. TREADWELL, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         United States Magistrate Judge Stephen Hyles recommends granting the Defendants' motion to dismiss. Doc. 51. The Plaintiff has objected to the Recommendation, and pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Court has reviewed the Recommendation de novo. For the following reasons, that Recommendation (Doc. 51) is ADOPTED as modified in part and REJECTED in part, and the Defendants' motion to dismiss (Doc. 39) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Robert Clark brought this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit alleging that “[p]rison officials have refused to treat [him] for Hepatitis B and for bi-polar disorder . . . going on 15 years.” Doc. 1 at 5. Liberally construing his complaint, he claims he arrived at Macon State Prison around May 14, 2013, and immediately (i) requested a transfer for medical reasons, and (ii) informed Defendant Fye, a doctor, of his conditions. Id. Although “the Georgia Department of Corrections” apparently “took blood samples” at some point, the Plaintiff claims he has not been treated. Id. He believes he is dying of liver failure and alleges he suffers severe pain, among other alleged symptoms. Id. In an amendment to the complaint, [1] the Plaintiff added as defendants all wardens of the prisons where he had been incarcerated between 2004 and 2018, alleging that all “were served with a copy of the [P]laintiff's grievances” but did not intervene in his treatment. Doc. 12 at 1. After screening, the remaining claims were Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to serious medical needs claims against Dr. Fye, Warden Howerton, Warden Brown, Warden Hall, Warden Roberts, Warden Tillman, Warden Schofield, and Warden McLaughlin. Doc. 15 at 4.

         The Defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that the claims are time-barred, that the Plaintiff fails to state a claim against the Defendant wardens, and that the claim for injunctive relief against Defendant Fye is moot. See generally Doc. 39-1.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a pleading contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To avoid dismissal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to “‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “At the motion to dismiss stage, all well-pleaded facts are accepted as true, and the reasonable inferences therefrom are construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Garfield v. NDC Health Corp., 466 F.3d 1255, 1261 (11th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). However, “where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). “[C]onclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of facts or legal conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal.” Oxford Asset Mgmt., Ltd. v. Jaharis, 297 F.3d 1182, 1188 (11th Cir. 2002). Where there are dispositive issues of law, a court may dismiss a claim regardless of the alleged facts. Marshall Cty. Bd. of Educ. v. Marshall Cty. Gas Dist., 992 F.2d 1171, 1174 (11th Cir. 1993).

         B. Analysis

         1. Claims for Damages against the Wardens

         The Magistrate Judge recommends granting the motion to dismiss because the claims are untimely. Doc. 51 at 7. The statute of limitations is an affirmative defense. “Because [a] statute of limitations bar is an affirmative defense . . . plaintiff[s] [are] not required to negate the affirmative defense in their complaint.” Alvarez v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enf't, 818 F.3d 1194, 1229 (11th Cir. 2016) (quotation marks and citation omitted). Rather, “[a] complaint is subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim when its allegations, on their face, show that an affirmative defense bars recovery on the claim.” Douglas v. Yates, 535 F.3d 1316, 1321 (11th Cir. 2008) (quotation marks and citation omitted); see Lindley v. City of Birmingham, Ala., 515 Fed.Appx. 813, 815 (11th Cir. 2013) (“[a]t the motion-to-dismiss stage, a complaint may be dismissed on the basis of a statute-of-limitations defense only if it appears beyond a doubt that Plaintiff[] can prove no set of facts that toll the statute.” (quotation marks and citation omitted)).

         The statute of limitations for the Plaintiff's claims is two years, and the statute begins to run when “‘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.'” Doc. 51 at 5 (quoting Lovett v. Ray, 327 F.3d 1181, 1182 (11th Cir. 2003)).

         The Defendants simply assert, conclusorily, that the “Plaintiff's complaint and amended complaint show that his claims are time-barred, especially as to the defendant wardens, ” because none of the Wardens, with the “possibl[e]” exception of McLaughlin, comes within the two-year statute of limitations. Doc. 39-1 at 3. As to McLaughlin and Fye, the doctor, the Defendants argue their failure to treat the Plaintiff in May 2013 was apparent “almost five years before this matter was filed.” Id.

         The Magistrate Judge recommends granting the motion to dismiss because the Defendants have made out a statute of limitations defense.[2] Doc. 51. The Plaintiff objects. In the objection, the Plaintiff claims that he filed “4 grievances against medical over the course of 4 years” and filed this suit after the fourth grievance had gone unanswered for nine months. Doc. 53 at 1.[3] Because time taken to pursue administrative remedies can toll the statute of limitations, Doc. 51 at 6, the Plaintiff's four years and ...


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