United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the court on Defendants Shea Brown, Ron
Smith, and Dominique Bridges' Motion to Dismiss. (Doc.
45). Plaintiff Lacey Daniel brings this claim under §
1983 of the United States Code and the Fourteenth Amendment
to the United States Constitution against Shea Brown, Ron
Smith, and Dominique Bridges and other defendants who have
either not appeared or who the court has already dismissed.
Defendants Shea Brown, Ron Smith, and Dominique Bridges move
to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), arguing that the statute of
limitations bars Plaintiff's complaint. For the following
reasons, Defendants Shea Brown and Ron Smith's motion to
dismiss will be DENIED, and Defendant Dominique Bridges'
motion to dismiss will be GRANTED.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss attacks the legal sufficiency of
the complaint. The Eleventh Circuit permits Rule 12(b)(6)
dismissals on statute of limitations grounds only when the
untimeliness of the complaint “is apparent from the
face of the complaint.” Boyd v. Warden, Holman
Correctional Facility, 856 F.3d 853, 872 (11th Cir.
2017) (citing La Grasta v. First Union Sec.,
Inc., 358 F.3d 840, 854-46 (11th Cir. 2004).
Constitutional claims brought under § 1983 are tort
claims subject to the personal injury statute of limitations
of the state where the action arises. Id. Alabama
has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury
claims. Ala. Code § 6-2-38.
absence of a timely filed complaint, the United States
Supreme Court has recognized the availability of equitable
tolling in cases “where the claimant has actively
pursued his judicial remedies by filing a defective pleading
during the statutory period.” Irwin v. Dep't of
Veterans Affairs, 498 U.S. 89, 96 (1990). The Eleventh
Circuit has clarified that the standard for equitable tolling
is the “interests of justice” and that the
interests of justice align “with the plaintiff when . .
. she timely files a technically defective pleading and in
all other respects acts with the proper diligence which
statutes of limitations were intended to insure.”
Justice v. United States, 6 F.3d 1474, 1479 (11th
Cir. 1993) (quotations and citations omitted).
STATEMENT OF FACTS
Daniel alleges deliberate indifference to serious medical
needs under § 1983 and the Fourteenth Amendment to the
United States Constitution. Ms. Daniel alleges that, while
detained in the Talladega County Jail in June 2015, various
correctional officers and administrators knew about her
serious “ulcer condition, ” but failed to provide
necessary medical attention. (Doc. 41 ¶¶ 13-15).
Daniel filed the original complaint in June 2017, before the
two-year statute of limitations barred the claim. (Doc. 1).
The statute of limitations expired no later than early August
court, on November 8, 2017, dismissed without prejudice
several vaguely named defendants for failure to provide
service under Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. (Doc. 30). Among these unserved defendants was
someone identified only as “CO Dominique.”
(See Doc. 1 ¶ 8). The Order reads, in part,
that despite “several months and several leads on the
identity of those unserved defendants . . . [Plaintiff] has
failed to make any effort at serving them . . . [and] has
failed to show good cause for her failure to serve the
unserved defendants within the allowed 90 days.” (Doc.
30, at 2). This court concluded its Order by inviting
Plaintiff to move to amend her complaint if she learned
additional information about the unserved defendants'
January 17, 2018, this court granted Defendants Shea Brown
and Ron Smith's motion to dismiss for failing to meet the
pleading requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. (Doc. 35). In its accompanying Memorandum Opinion,
this court explicitly stated that the dismissal was without
prejudice “because the deficiency [of the complaint]
may be due to unartful pleading.” (Doc. 34, at 7).
February 2, this court dismissed the only remaining party at
the time for failure to serve and granted Plaintiff until
March 5 to file an amended complaint that named recognizable
defendants and complied with the pleading requirements of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff complied with the
court's deadline and filed an amended complaint on March
5, again naming Shea Brown and Ron Smith as defendants but
also naming as a defendant Dominique Bridges, presumably the
defendant “CO Dominique” from the original
complaint. (See Doc. 41 ¶¶ 4-6).
Defendants Brown, Smith, and Bridges now move to dismiss
Plaintiff's amended complaint as untimely, filed no fewer
than eight months after the applicable statute of limitations
barred this claim. (Doc. 45).
the three Defendants all move to dismiss together, the
analysis for Defendants Brown and Smith is importantly
distinct from the analysis for Defendant Bridges, but the
legal standard for all three is identical-did Plaintiff
“timely file a technically defective pleading and in
all other respects act with the proper diligence”
such that the interests of justice align with her plea for
equitable tolling? See Justice v. United States, 6
F.3d at 1479. This court will apply this standard to the
defendants in turn.
original complaint did not adequately identify Defendant
Bridges, instead only referring to her as “CO
Dominique, ” and Defendant Bridges did not properly
receive service. (Doc. 13). In November 2017, this court
dismissed without prejudice the claims against “CO
Dominique, ” noting that Plaintiff “failed to
make any effort” to properly identify and serve the
defendant. (See Doc. 30). Nearly four months later
and only after this court explicitly invited Plaintiff to
amend her complaint to satisfy Rule 8 pleading requirements,
Plaintiff filed her amended complaint, naming for the first
time “Dominique Bridges” as a defendant.
(See Doc. 41). This court now concludes waiting four
months to amend a complaint to add a party previously
dismissed for failure to properly identify and serve that
party does ...