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Crews v. City of Tarrant Mayor

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

January 26, 2018

KEVIN CREWS, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF TARRANT MAYOR, LOXCIL B. TUCK, et al. Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ABDUL K. KALLON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Kevin Crews brings this action asserting a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law torts claims against Mayor Loxcil Tuck; Chief Dennis Reno, Lieutenant Larry Rice, and Detective George Phillip (collectively “the Officers”); and Hatcher Heavy Duty Services, Inc., Terry Hatcher, and Jessica Beech (collectively “the Hatcher Defendants”).[1] Doc. 1. Before the court are Mayor Tuck's motion to dismiss, doc. 2, and the Officers' motion to dismiss, doc. 3. Both motions are fully briefed, docs. 2-1, 3-1, 6, 11, 12, and ripe for review. For the reasons explained more fully below, both motions are due to be granted.

         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. FACTS[2]

         On March 14, 2014, the Officers and the Hatcher Defendants searched a trailer on Crews' residence pursuant to an “alleged search warrant.” Doc. 1 at 4. Subsequently, Lieutenant Rice and Detective George obtained additional “alleged search warrants” for Crews' entire residence, which the Officers and the Hatcher Defendants searched over the course of four days. Id. The Officers and the Hatcher Defendants seized various property belonging to Crews, most of which the Defendants have not returned. Id. The property which the Defendants have returned to Crews is damaged. Id. Crews filed this lawsuit on September 28, 2017. Id. at 1-6.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Crews asserts a § 1983 claim for violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments (Count I), a state law conversion claim (Count II), and a state law theft claim (Count III) against all Defendants. Id. at 4-7. Mayor Tuck moves for dismissal on the grounds that Crews' § 1983 claim is barred by the statute of limitations, that he fails to allege any factual allegations concerning Mayor Tuck, and that his claims are barred by his settlement in a previous civil forfeiture action. Doc. 2-1. The Officers join in Mayor Tuck's motion, and additionally move for dismissal of the § 1983 claim against them on the basis of qualified immunity, and dismissal of the state law claims against them on the grounds of state agent and peace officer immunity. Doc. 3-1. The materials before the court support a finding that Crews' claims are barred by his settlement, which states that “[a]ll other claims to and/or related to said property made by the Claimant or the parties arising out of this action or that could have been asserted within this action, if any, are forever barred.”[3] Doc. 2-5 at 6. Alternatively, the statute of limitations, failure to allege facts, and immunity issues raised by the movants are sufficient to resolve the motions.

         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).

         Mayor Tuck contends that the statute of limitations on Crews' § 1983 claim began to run on March 17, 2014, the date the Officers completed the search in question. Doc. 2-1 at 10. Crews contends that the statute began to run on September 26, 2016, the date of the final order in the civil forfeiture action, arguing that he could not have known his property was damaged or missing until after this date. Doc. 6 at 4 (citing doc. 2-5). However, his § 1983 claim is premised on the alleged violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments related to the search. Doc. 1 at 4-5. To state a claim, he must show that the search at issue violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Skop v. City of Atlanta, GA, 485 F.3d 1130, 1137 (11th Cir. 2007). Alleged damage to his property sustained during the search is not an issue covered by the Constitution, and one he can seek relief for on other grounds. Moreover, Crews' Complaint makes no reference to the civil forfeiture action, instead premising the § 1983 claim solely on the March 2014 search. See doc. 1. Thus, by his own pleadings, Crews knew or should have known of his injury no later than March 17, 2014, the date the search was completed. Accordingly, the § 1983 claim is barred by the statute of limitations and due to be dismissed against Mayor Tuck and the Officers.

         B. The Lack of Factual Allegations against Mayor Tuck

         Crews' complaint contains no factual allegations regarding Mayor Tuck. See doc. 1. Nevertheless, he contends that the court should not dismiss his claims against her because she “is the Commander in Chief, and is responsible for the actions of the Police Department, ” and because he “needs discovery to determine what role the Mayor played in formulating the actions against [him].” Doc. 6 at 4. However, “[t]o 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). Where, as here, a plaintiff makes ...


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