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Garrett v. Randolph County Sheriff Department

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division

March 2, 2017

LARRY DEAN GARRETT, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
RANDOLPH COUNTY SHERIFF DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE AND ORDER

          TERRY F. MOORER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action is pending before the court on a complaint filed by Plaintiff on October 16, 2016.[1] When he filed this action, Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Hoover City Jail in Hoover, Alabama. Plaintiff challenges matters which occurred at the Randolph County Jail in Wedowee, Alabama in February 2014. Doc. 1 at 3. He complains Defendants failed to protect him from an inmate assault. Id. at 3-6. Upon review of the complaint, the court concludes that this case is subject to dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i).[2]

         II. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff references claims addressing actions taken against him which occurred at the Randolph County Jail on an unspecified date in February 2014. It is clear from the face of the complaint that any claims for relief presented by Plaintiff arising from actions which occurred, at the latest, on February 28, 2014, are barred by the two-year period of limitations applicable to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 actions filed in this court.

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. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 275-76, 105 S.Ct. 1938, 1946-47, 85 L.Ed.2d 254 (1985). [The plaintiff's] claim was brought in Alabama where the governing limitations period is two years. Ala. Code § 6-2-38; Jones v. Preuit & Mauldin, 876 F.2d 1480, 1483 (11th Cir. 1989) (en banc). Therefore, in order to have his claim heard, [the plaintiff is] required to bring it within two years from the date the limitations period began to run.

McNair v. Allen, 515 F.3d 1168, 1173 (11th Cir. 2008).

         The allegations relative to Plaintiff's failure to protect claim occurred sometime in February of 2014. The limitations period begins to run when the cause of action accrues, and this is a question of federal law. Rozar v. Mullis, 85 F.3d 556, 561 (11th Cir. 1996). Generally, a cause of action accrues when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know (1) that he was injured, and (2) who inflicted the injury. Id. at 561-62. By its express terms, the tolling provision of Ala. Code § 6-2-8(a) provides no basis for relief to Plaintiff from application of the time bar.[3] Thus, the statute of limitations began to run on the claims arising from the challenged conduct, at the latest, on February 28, 2014. The limitation period ran uninterrupted until it expired on February 29, 2016. Plaintiff filed this action on October 16, 2016. This filing occurred after the limitation period expired, and review of these claims is, therefore, barred by the two-year period of limitations.

         Unquestionably, the statute of limitations is usually a matter which may be raised as an affirmative defense. The court notes, however, that in an action proceeding under section 1983, it may consider, sua sponte, affirmative defenses that are apparent from the face of the complaint. Clark v. Georgia Pardons and Parole Board, 915 F.2d 636, 640 n.2 (11th Cir. 1990); see also Ali v. Higgs, 892 F.2d 438 (5th Cir. 1990). “[I]f the district court sees that an affirmative defense would defeat the action, a section 1915[(e)(2)(B)(i)] dismissal is allowed.” Clark, 915 F.2d at 640. “The expiration of the statute of limitations is an affirmative defense the existence of which warrants dismissal as frivolous.” Id. at n.2. In analyzing § 1983 cases, “the court is authorized to test the proceeding for frivolousness or maliciousness even before service of process or before the filing of the answer.” Ali, 892 F.2d at 440. “It necessarily follows that in the absence of . . . defendants the . . . court must evaluate the merit of the claim sua sponte.” Id.

An early determination of the merits of an IFP proceeding provides a significant benefit to courts (because it will allow them to use their scarce resources effectively and efficiently), to state officials (because it will free them from the burdens of frivolous and harassing litigation), and to prisoners (because courts will have the time, energy and inclination to give meritorious claims the attention they need and deserve). “We must take advantage of every tool in our judicial workshop.” Spears [v. McCotter], 766 F.2d [179, 182 (5th Cir. 1985)].

Green v. McKaskle, 788 F.2d 1116, 1120 (5th Cir. 1986).

         Based on the facts apparent from the face of the present complaint, Plaintiff has no legal basis on which to proceed insofar as he presents claims regarding actions which occurred, at the latest, by February 28, 2014. In light of the foregoing, the court concludes this complaint is barred by the applicable statute of limitations and is, therefore, subject to dismissal as frivolous under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i).

         III. CONCLUSION

         Accordingly, it is the Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge that this case be DISMISSED with prejudice prior to service of ...


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