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Wolfe v. Garcia

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

April 12, 2017

DAVID LEWIS WOLFE, Plaintiff,
v.
EMILY ANN GARCIA; MAYES COUNTY JAIL, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          GREGOR Y. K. FRIZZELL, JUDGE.

         This is a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights action. Plaintiff is a prisoner in custody at the Mayes County Jail and appears pro se. By Order filed February 15, 2017 (Dkt. # 9), the Court granted Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. By Order filed March 29, 2017 (Dkt. # 15), the Court directed Plaintiff to show cause why his complaint should not be dismissed as barred by the two-year statute of limitations applicable to civil rights claims. On April 5, 2017, Plaintiff filed his response (Dkt. # 16). For the reasons discussed below, the Court dismisses this action with prejudice as barred by the two (2) year statute of limitations.

         A. Legal standards

         1. Dismissal standards

         Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must identify any cognizable claim and dismiss any claim which is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must present factual allegations, assumed to be true, that “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. A court must accept all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true, even if doubtful in fact, and must construe the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Id. at 555. However, “when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a [plausible] claim of entitlement to relief, ” the cause of action should be dismissed. Id. at 558. Twombly articulated the pleading standard for all civil actions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009). The Court applies the same standard of review for dismissals under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) that is employed for Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1217-18 (10th Cir. 2007).

         A pro se plaintiff's complaint must be broadly construed under this standard. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). The generous construction to be given the pro se litigant's allegations “does not relieve the plaintiff of the burden of alleging sufficient facts on which a recognized legal claim could be based.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). A reviewing court need not accept “mere conclusions characterizing pleaded facts.” Bryson v. City of Edmond, 905 F.2d 1386, 1390 (10th Cir. 1990); see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (“While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, 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.” (quotations and citations omitted)). The court “will not supply additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff's complaint or construct a legal theory on a plaintiff's behalf.” Whitney v. New Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997).

         2. Statute of limitations

         Although a statute of limitations bar is an affirmative defense, questions regarding the statute of limitations may be resolved under Rule 12(b)(6) when it is clear from the face of the complaint that the right sued upon has been extinguished. Aldrich v. McCulloch Props., Inc., 627 F.2d 1036, 1041 n.4 (10th Cir. 1980); see also Jackson v. Standifird, 463 F. App'x 736, 738 (10th Cir. 2012) (unpublished)[1] (“Dismissal of a claim as time-barred is treated as a dismissal for failure to state a claim.”). No statute of limitations is expressly provided for claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. However, the Supreme Court has held that courts must look to state law for the appropriate period of limitations in § 1983 cases. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 266-67 (1985), superseded by statute on other grounds as stated in Jones v. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., 541 U.S. 369, 383-85 (2004). The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has stated that the appropriate period of limitations for § 1983 actions brought in the State of Oklahoma is two years, pursuant to Okla. Stat. tit. 12, § 95(3). Titsworth v. Okla. Dep't of Corrs., 561 F. App'x 746, 747 (10th Cir. 2014) (unpublished); Meade v. Grubbs, 841 F.2d 1512, 1522-24 (10th Cir. 1988), abrogation on other grounds recognized in Schneider v. City of Grand Junction Police Dep't, 717 F.3d 760 (10th Cir. 2013).

         Federal law controls the accrual date and the statute of limitations began to run when a plaintiff knew or had reason to know of the injury underlying his claims. See Alexander v. Oklahoma, 382 F.3d 1206, 1215 (10th Cir. 2004); Fratus v. Deland, 49 F.3d 673, 675 (10th Cir. 1995); Johnson v. Johnson Cty. Comm'n Bd., 925 F.2d 1299, 1301 (10th Cir. 1991). Thus, a plaintiff must bring an action within two years of the date when facts that would support a cause of action are or should be apparent. Oklahoma law controls the issue of tolling. See Alexander, 382 F.3d at 1217. Oklahoma permits tolling in limited circumstances:

The first circumstance is the existence of a legal disability, which has been applied in cases where a plaintiff's competency is impaired or where the plaintiff has not yet reached the age of majority. The second circumstance is when defendants engage in false, fraudulent or misleading conduct calculated to lull plaintiffs into sitting on their rights. [Finally, ] in the appropriate case, exceptional circumstances may justify tolling a statute of limitations.

Young v. Davis, 554 F.3d 1254, 1258 (10th Cir. 2009) (quotations, alterations, and citations omitted). Oklahoma's exceptions to a statute of limitations “are strictly construed and are not enlarged on consideration of apparent hardship or inconvenience.” Resolution Trust Corp. v. Grant, 901 P.2d 807, 813 (Okla. 1995).

         B. Plaintiff's claim

         In his complaint, Plaintiff names two defendants: (1) Emily Ann Garcia, employed as Night Shift Supervisor at the Mayes County Jail in 2010, 2011; and (2) Mayes County Jail. See Dkt. # 1 at 1. Plaintiff states that “the defendant listed [Garcia] came onto me by kissing me and fondeling [sic] my genitilia [sic]. Having sexual intercourse. This took place in the Mayes Co. Jail in 2010, 2011.” Id. at 2. Based on that statement, Plaintiff identifies one (1) claim as follows:

Count I: Rape, by kissing, fondeling [sic] my genitilia [sic], sexual intercourse and threatening to use my record against me to see that I get life if I told. Mayes County Investigators conducted an investigation in 2011. Defendant was fired from Mayes County Jail for a sexual relationship ...

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