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Moss v. Georgia Department of Corrections

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

October 10, 2019

SAMUEL MOSS, Plaintiff,
v.
GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTIONS TO DISMISS

          TILMAN E. SELF, III, JUDGE.

         Nine plaintiffs filed virtually identical complaints following an incident involving the June 13, 2017, murder of two Georgia Department of Corrections officers, Sgt. Christopher Monica and Sgt. Curtis Billue. [Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 3, 6, 34]. Plaintiff Samuel Moss filed the seventh of those nine cases, and it is now before the Court on Defendants' Motions to Dismiss [Docs. 33, 34]. The Georgia Department of Corrections (“GDC”)[1] filed the first dismissal motion, and the individual GDC employees Plaintiff named in his Complaint, [Doc. 1], filed the second. As explained below, the Court GRANTS both Motions.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The facts of this case are simple. Plaintiff was one of many GDC inmates allegedly injured on a prison transport bus when Sgt. Monica and Sgt. Billue were overpowered and shot with their own weapons by inmates Donnie Rowe and Ricky Dubose. [Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 2, 6-7]. Rowe and Dubose subsequently fled the scene and escaped. [Id. at ¶¶ 7, 34]. Specifically, following the events that occurred on June 13, 2017, Plaintiff's Complaint alleges verbatim that he “has suffered spinal injury and pain radiation of leg pain and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and other psychiatric maladies as a result of his 44 days of unlawful confinement to solitary confinement sleeping on concrete slab . . . .” [Id. at ¶¶ 3-6]. Plaintiff also claims that his physical injuries were further exacerbated by “detaining . . . Plaintiff . . . in deplorable conditions” and “the deliberate indifference of the Defendants in failing to request medical treatment for Plaintiff's back.” [Id. at ¶¶ 6, 45].

         Generally speaking, Plaintiff casts his factual allegations as violations of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, Georgia law, and GDC rules and regulations. [Doc. 1 at ¶ 45]. However, after a broad reading of Plaintiff's Complaint, Defendants refined Plaintiff's claims as state-law tort claims and claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and Plaintiff never contends otherwise. [Doc. 33-1 at p. 2]; [Doc. 34-1 at p. 2]. Based on his purported injuries, Plaintiff seeks at least $250, 000 in damages for negligence, deliberate indifference, and Defendants' alleged failure to follow GDC rules and regulations. [Doc. 1 at ¶ 45]; see also [id. at p. 27].

         DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (6). With regard to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) jurisdictional motions, attacks on subject-matter jurisdiction come in two forms, “facial” and “factual” attacks. Lawrence v. Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1528-29 (11th Cir. 1990). Facial attacks challenge subject-matter jurisdiction based on the allegations in a complaint. Id. at 1529. District courts take those allegations as true in deciding whether to grant motions based on a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Id. Factual attacks challenge subject-matter jurisdiction in fact, irrespective of the pleadings. Id. In resolving a factual attack, courts may consider extrinsic evidence such as testimony and affidavits. Id. Defendants' Motions under Rule 12(b)(1) are based upon a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, and Defendants argue that they are entitled to immunity under the Eleventh Amendment and Georgia law.

         When deciding a 12(b)(6)-based motion, district courts must accept the facts set forth in a complaint as true. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (2007). A complaint survives a motion to dismiss only if it alleges sufficient factual matter (accepted as true) that states a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. McCullough v. Finley, 907 F.3d 1324, 1333 (11th Cir. 2018) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009)). Although Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, it does require “more than [ ] unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation[s].” McCullough, 907 F.3d at 1333 (citation omitted).

         Ultimately, the issue to be decided when considering a motion to dismiss is not whether the claimant will ultimately prevail, but “whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims.” Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds by Davis v. Scheuer, 468 U.S. 183 (1984). A complaint tendering “‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement'” will not survive against a motion to dismiss; it must allege enough facts “to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” supporting a claim. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557) (alteration in original); see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. Finally, “if [a] complaint contains a claim that is facially subject to an affirmative defense, that claim may be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6). LeFrere v. Quezada, 582 F.3d 1260, 1263 (11th Cir. 2009). In applying the foregoing standard, and taking the facts asserted in Plaintiff's Complaint as true, the Court rules on Defendants' Motions to Dismiss.

         B. GDC's Motion to Dismiss

         As previously stated, Defendant GDC sets forth two main bases for dismissal: (1) that it is immune from suit in this Court under both the United States and Georgia Constitutions, and (2) that Plaintiff's state-law claims are further barred by the Georgia Tort Claims Act (“GTCA”). [Doc. 33-1 at pp. 4-13]. Given that GDC is undeniably immune from suit on Plaintiff's claims the Court need not discuss GDC's procedural-related arguments under the GTCA.

         Rather than address GDC's specific arguments related to its immunity, Plaintiff argued that he should be permitted to take 90-150 days for discovery, the results of which, he asserts, would enable him “to substantiate his claims, ” to determine “the real party of interest, ” and “to properly present his position [in] response to [Defendants'] Motion to Dismiss.” [Doc. 39 at pp. 3-5]. Plaintiff's argument that GDC “has offered no evidence as to the real party of interest, ” appears to reference the Eleventh Amendment's bar to suits where the state is “the real party in interest or when any monetary recovery would be paid from state funds.” [Doc. 41 at p. 2 (quoting Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169 (1985))]; [Doc. 39 at p. 5]. Interpreted broadly, Plaintiff's argument is perhaps an assertion that discovery would determine whether the State of Georgia is the real party in interest regarding suits against GDC.

         However, as GDC states, that question is “well-settled in this circuit.” [Doc. 41 at p. 2]. In Stevens v. Gay, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals unequivocally determined that Section 1983 claims cannot proceed against GDC. 864 F.2d 113, 115 (11th Cir. 1989) (finding in a Section 1983 lawsuit that “[t]he Eleventh Amendment bars this action against the Georgia ...


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