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Garrett v. Corizon LLC

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

May 28, 2019

SHELENA GARRETT, as Administratrix for the Estate of Henry Lewis Garrett, Plaintiff,
v.
CORIZON, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          W. KEITH WATKINS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the court are two motions to dismiss and a motion to set aside service. Defendants Corizon LLC, Jefferson Dunn, and Ruth Naglich filed the first motion to dismiss. (Doc. # 19.) Defendants Jerry E. Robbins and Shahla Poursaied filed the second. (Doc. # 45.) These motions are due to be granted in part and denied in part. Additionally, based upon the court's inherent authority, Plaintiff will be required to replead her shotgun complaint. Therefore, the motion to set aside service (Doc. # 26) is due to be denied as moot.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Henry Lewis Garrett was incarcerated in Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) facilities from July 29, 2013, to June 13, 2016. (Doc. # 1, at 8-11.) On July 11, 2016, Mr. Garrett was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer, and he passed away as a result on November 17, 2016. (Doc. # 1, at 12.) While Mr. Garrett was incarcerated, he was dependent on Defendants for medical services. (Doc. # 1, at 2.) Plaintiff, Administratrix for Mr. Garrett's estate, alleges that Defendants' inadequate medical care resulted in Mr. Garrett's contracting cancer and ultimately in his death. Plaintiff filed her complaint on November 16, 2018 - two years, four months, and five days after Mr. Garrett was diagnosed with cancer.

         Plaintiff brings claims for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (Count One); denial of due process purportedly under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments (Count Two); wrongful death (Count Three); negligent hiring, training, supervision, and/or retention (Count Four); and wanton conduct (Count Five). (Doc. # 1, at 12-18.) Counts One, Two, and Three purport to be federal-law claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Counts Four and Five are state-law claims.

         Defendants Corizon LLC, Dunn, Naglich, Robbins, and Poursaied seek dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) of Counts One and Two arguing that those claims are untimely. They also seek dismissal of Counts Four and Five on grounds that those claims do not survive the decedent's death and are untimely. (Docs. # 19, 45.) Additionally, Defendants Dunn and Naglich seek dismissal of Count Three on the basis of qualified immunity. (Doc. # 19.) Furthermore, Defendant Corizon seeks to set aside service on Defendants Wolke, Shell, Geonagan, Barefield, Daniel, Whitaker, Robbins, Poursaied, Hooper, Baker, and Hamilton. (Doc. # 26.)

         II. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

         This court has subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343, and 1367. Personal jurisdiction and venue are uncontested.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint against the legal standard articulated by Rule 8: “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The court accepts the plaintiff's factual allegations as true, Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984), and construes “them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff[], ” Duke v. Cleland, 5 F.3d 1399, 1402 (11th Cir. 1993). “A plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (cleaned up). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations.” Instead, it must contain “only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. The factual allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Counts One and Two plead a plausible basis for tolling Alabama's two-year statute of limitations.

         Because a statute-of-limitations bar is an affirmative defense, “a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal on statute of limitations grounds is appropriate only if it is ‘apparent from the face of the complaint' that the claim is time-barred.” La Grasta v. First Union Sec., Inc., 358 F.3d 840, 845 (11th Cir. 2004) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Where the complaint pleads a plausible basis for tolling the statute of limitations, dismissal is not appropriate. Cf. Henderson v. Reid, 371 Fed.Appx. 51, 54 (11th Cir. 2010) (affirming 12(b)(6) dismissal on statute-of-limitations grounds where the plaintiff filed the complaint outside the limitations period and his complaint did not “plausibly allege any facts showing that he is entitled to equitable tolling”); Brown v. Montgomery Surgical Ctr., No. 2:12-CV-553-WKW, 2013 WL 1163427, at *11 (M.D. Ala. Mar. 20, 2013) (“[W]here the complaint's allegations facially demonstrate that the claim is untimely and omit allegations to support equitable tolling, the plaintiff generally cannot survive a motion to dismiss on tolling grounds.”).

         Counts One and Two (deliberate indifference to serious medical needs in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and claims under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments) are brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. # 1, at 14-15.) Defendants seek dismissal of these claims (Docs. # 19, 45) on grounds that they are barred by Alabama's two-year statute of limitations. Because the complaint pleads a plausible basis for tolling the statute of limitations, Defendants' argument does not support Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal of Counts One and Two.

         1. The statute of limitations began running at the latest on July 11, 2016.

         Federal courts apply a “forum state's statute of limitations for personal injury actions to actions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.” Lovett v. Ray, 327 F.3d 1181, 1182 (11th Cir. 2003) (per curiam). “[T]he two-year limitations period of Ala. Code § 6-2-38(l) applies to section 1983 actions in Alabama.” Jones v. Preuit & Mauldin, 876 F.2d 1480, 1483 (11th Cir. 1989) (en banc). “The statute of limitations begins to run from the date the facts which would support a cause of action are apparent or should be apparent to a person with a ...


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