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Fuqua v. Turner

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northwestern Division

January 22, 2018

DOUGLAS FUQUA, Plaintiff,
v.
BRETT TURNER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ABDUL K. KALLON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Douglas Fuqua brings this action against the Defendants asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 and state law claims of unlawful entry and search, false arrest, and false imprisonment. Doc. 1. Before the court is Sheriff Frank Williamson's motion to dismiss, doc. 7, which is fully briefed, docs. 9, 15, 17, and ripe for review. For the reasons stated more fully below, the motion to dismiss is due to be granted.[1]

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” “[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Mere “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” are insufficient. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Id. (citing Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 557).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal when a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). A complaint states a facially plausible claim for relief “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citation omitted). The complaint must establish “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.; see also Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555 (“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.”). Ultimately, this inquiry is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[2]

         Fuqua is the owner of an establishment known as “the Pig.” Doc. 1 at 4. Sheriff Williamson asked deputy fire marshal Jimmy Collier to conduct a safety inspection of the Pig on the basis of false complaints of overcrowding and noise, which Collier did on September 16, 2015. Id. at 3-4. Sheriff Williamson was seeking a way to close down the Pig due to allegations of overcrowding, loud noise, disturbances, illegal sales of alcohol, illegal drug use, and fights with law enforcement. Id. at 5. During his search, Collier noticed several firearms on the premises. Id.

         On November 3, 2015, Sheriff Williamson met with Collier, deputies, and ATF agents to formulate a plan whereby Collier would conduct a second visit, and alert the ATF agents to the presence of any firearms he saw so that the agents could obtain a search warrant. Id. Collier carried out the second inspection thereafter, during which he demanded that Fuqua unlock the door to the residential section of the Pig. Based on the firearms he witnessed in the residential section, Collier notified the ATF agents, who obtained a search warrant. Id. Fuqua was subsequently arrested on federal charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Fuqua brings § 1983 claims for conspiracy to violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments (Count I) and unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment (Count II), a § 1985 claim for conspiracy to deprive Fuqua of his equal protection rights (Count III), and state law claims of unlawful entry and search, false arrest, and false imprisonment (Count IV) against all defendants. Id. at 6-10. Presently before the court is Sheriff Williamson's motion to dismiss the claims against him on various grounds, including a statute of limitations defense to the first search and Eleventh Amendment and qualified immunity defenses. Doc. 9 at 5-22. Because the statute of limitations and immunity issues are sufficient to resolve the claims against Sheriff Williamson, the court does not reach the other issues Sheriff Williamson pleads.

         A. Statute of Limitations

         “Because section 1983 does not contain a statute of limitations, reference must be made to the limitation periods prescribed by the state in which the litigation arose.” Majette v. O'Connor, 811 F.2d 1416, 1419 (11th Cir. 1987). “[T]he most appropriate statute of limitations for all section 1983 actions is the personal injury statute of limitations of the state whose law is to be applied.” Id.; see Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261 (1985); Burnett v. Grattan, 468 U.S. 42 (1984). Federal courts in Alabama apply the state's two-year statute of limitations. See Lufkin v. McCallum, 956 F.2d 1104, 1105 (11th Cir. 1992); ALA. CODE § 6-2-38(1). “Under the discovery accrual rule, the discovery of the injury, not discovery of the other elements of a claim, is what starts the clock.” Rotella v. Wood, 528 U.S. 549, 555 (2000); see Rasheed v. McNamara, 2008 WL 594763, at *3 (N.D.Ga. 2008) (applying discovery accrual rule to § 1983 claim).

         Sheriff Williamson contends that the statute of limitations bars Fuqua from bringing §§ 1983 and 1985 claims arising from the September 2015 search of the Pig. Doc. 9 at 5-6. The court agrees because, according to Fuqua, he was present when this allegedly warrantless search occurred. See doc. 1 at 4, 7. Thus, by his own factual allegations, Fuqua knew or should have known of any injury resulting from the September 2015 search when it occurred. Therefore, to the extent that any of Fuqua's claims are premised on the September 2015 search, those claims are barred by the statute of limitations. However, because it is unclear from the Complaint which, if any, of Fuqua's claims arise from the September 2015 search, [3]and because this issue is not dispositive, the court will address next Sheriff Williamson's immunity arguments.

         B. Eleventh ...


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