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Watson v. Lieutenant Prospers

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

September 5, 2019

LIEUTENANT PROSPERS, et al., Defendants.



         Presently pending before the Court is Defendant Tiameka Steele's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 18). For the reasons stated below, the Court recommends that Defendant's motion be granted.


         In 2013, Plaintiff was placed into the Dekalb County, Georgia Jail on charges on burglary. Attach. to Am. Compl. 1, ECF No. 7-1. On May 13, 2014, the Superior Court of Dekalb County sentenced him to six years imprisonment on the charge, and he was eventually transferred to Baldwin State Prison (“BSP”) in 2014. Compl. 1, ECF No. 1; Am. Compl. 1, ECF No. 7; Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. A, at 4, ECF No. 18-3; Attach. to Am. Compl. 1. Plaintiff was released from BSP on November 17, 2015. See Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. A, at 2. On March 19, 2018, Plaintiff filed various claims for relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against multiple BSP officials. See generally Compl. 3, 5; Attach. to Am Compl. 1.

         Upon preliminary review, the Court dismissed all claims without prejudice except Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment excessive force claim against Defendant Steele. See Order Adopting R & R. 1-2, ECF No. 12. On March 19, 2019, Defendant Steele moved for summary judgment, arguing Plaintiff failed to file his claim within the applicable statute of limitations. Br. in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. 1, ECF No. 18-1. On June 28, 2019, the Court ordered Plaintiff to respond to Defendant's motion by July 11, 2019. Order for Resp. 1, ECF No. 20. Plaintiff attempted to respond in three filings: (1) a two-line affidavit on July 15, 2019, (2) “exhibits” concerning Plaintiff's prison grievances on July 30, 2019, and (3) an assault report form on July 31, 2019. See Watson Aff. 1, ECF No. 21; Pl.'s Exs., ECF No. 22; Assault Report Form, ECF No. 23. All three documents were untimely filed.[1] Thus, they will not be considered as responses to Defendant's motion. On August 8, 2019, the Court ordered Defendant to supplement the record to address potential tolling of the state of limitations for the time Plaintiff spent exhausting administrative remedies. Order 1-2, ECF No. 24. Defendant supplemented the record accordingly on August 27, 2019. Def.'s Resp. to Court Order 1-5, ECF No. 25; Lumpkin Decl., ECF No. 25-1. Defendant's motion is now ripe for review.


         I. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment may be granted only “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In determining whether a genuine dispute of material fact exists, the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, drawing all justifiable inferences in the opposing party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A fact is material if it is relevant or necessary to the outcome of the suit. Id. at 248. A factual dispute is genuine if the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

         II. Undisputed Material Facts

         Beginning in 2014, Plaintiff was incarcerated at BSP. Attach. to Am. Compl. 1; Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. A, at 2, 4. On June 25, 2015, Plaintiff filed formal grievance number 19887, which was categorized as “physical force.” Lumpkin Decl. ¶ 5, Attach. 2, at 20-22; see also Attach. to Am. Compl. 1 (“Grievances were filed on all the complaints.”). In this grievance, Plaintiff alleges that he “was assaulted by Lt. Prosser and [Defendant] CO Steele.” Lumpkin Decl. Attach. 2, at 20-22. The assault allegedly took place on “May 10th.” Id. Plaintiff's grievance states that after being escorted to “M-2, ” Defendant Steele “slapped [Plaintiff] in the face . . . then she threatened [Plaintiff] that she'll hit [Plaintiff] with the radio.” Id. The grievance alleges that Defendant Steele “called a code and Lt. Prosser came down and handcuffed [Plaintiff].” Id. According to the grievance, Defendant Steele and Lt. Prosser “slammed [Plaintiff] against the door[, ] then pepper sprayed [Plaintiff] twice[, ] then kicked, punched and kneed [Plaintiff] in the face.” Id. Plaintiff signed and acknowledged a notice that his grievance had been forwarded to the Georgia Department of Corrections Internal Investigations Unit on June 26, 2015. Lumpkin Decl. Attach 3, at 24.

         III. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

         Defendant Steele moves for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff filed his complaint after the applicable statute of limitations (“SOL”). Br. in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. at 1. As explained below, Plaintiff's claim is indeed barred by the applicable SOL.

         It is well settled that the forum state's limitation period applicable to personal injury actions is applied to an action brought pursuant to § 1983. Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 386 (2007). The Georgia SOL for personal injury is two years. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33; see also Bell v. Metro. Atlanta Rapid Transit Auth., 521 Fed.Appx. 862, 865 (11th Cir. 2013) (“The forum state's statute of limitations for personal injury actions applies to § 1983 claims, which in Georgia is two years.”). A SOL begins to run when a cause of action accrues-in other words, 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.” Lovett v. Ray, 327 F.3d 1181, 1182 (11th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         The time a plaintiff spends exhausting administrative remedies may toll the SOL. See Leal v. Ga. Dep't of Corr., 254 F.3d 1276 (11th Cir. 2001) (vacating district court's dismissal of a § 1983 suit on SOL grounds because it was possible plaintiff's exhaustion of administrative remedies had tolled the limitations period); Clark v. Fye, 5:18-cv-71, 2019 WL 1354405 at *3-4 (M.D. Ga. Mar. 26, 2019) (denying a motion to dismiss on SOL grounds where defendants failed to show that the limitations period had not been tolled by plaintiff's pursuit of a prison grievance). Nonetheless, when an inmate files a grievance concerning sexual assault or excessive force which is forwarded to Internal Investigations, the inmate has exhausted administrative remedies, and “the grievance ...

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