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Porter v. Wexford County Jail

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 20, 2017

JUNIOR A. PORTER, Plaintiff,
v.
WEXFORD COUNTY JAIL, et al. Defendants.

          OPINION

          ROBERT J. JONKER CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), the Court is required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court must read Plaintiff's pro se complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff's allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these standards, Plaintiff's action will be dismissed as frivolous and for failure to state a claim.

         Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff Junior A. Porter is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson, Michigan. He is serving a sentence of 6 to 20 years for delivery or manufacture of methamphetamine. Plaintiff was convicted in Wexford County, Michigan. Plaintiff's complaints of unconstitutional treatment stem not from his incarceration in a state correctional facility, but from his stay as a pretrial detainee in the Wexford County Jail from April 19, 2013 to December 9, 2013.

         Plaintiff alleges that during his stay in the jail he was denied appropriate medical treatment, subjected to inadequate conditions of confinement in light of his medical condition, and denied access to legal research facilities. Plaintiff sues the Wexford County Jail and Jail Administrator Greg Webster. Plaintiff notes that the jail has no grievance process.

         Plaintiff asks that Wexford County pay his medical bills and housing fees, create a law library for county jail inmates, and pay damages to Plaintiff in the amount of $5, 000, 000.

         Discussion

         I. Plaintiff's claims are untimely

         State statutes of limitations and tolling principles apply to determine the timeliness of claims asserted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 268-69 (1985). For civil rights suits filed in Michigan under § 1983, the statute of limitations is three years. See Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.5805(10); Carroll v. Wilkerson, 782 F.2d 44, 44 (6th Cir. 1986) (per curiam); Stafford v. Vaughn, No. 97-2239, 1999 WL 96990, at *1 (6th Cir. Feb. 2, 1999). Accrual of the claim for relief, however, is a question of federal law. Collyer v. Darling, 98 F.3d 211, 220 (6th Cir. 1996); Sevier v. Turner, 742 F.2d 262, 272 (6th Cir. 1984). The statute of limitations begins to run when the aggrieved party knows or has reason to know of the injury that is the basis of his action. Collyer, 98 F.3d at 220.[1]

         Plaintiff's complaint is untimely. He asserts claims arising between April 19 and December 9 of 2013. Plaintiff had reason to know of the “harms” done to him at the time they occurred. Hence, his claims accrued, at the latest, by December 9, 2013. However, he did not file his complaint until January, 2017, past Michigan's three-year limit. Moreover, Michigan law no longer tolls the running of the statute of limitations when a plaintiff is incarcerated. See Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.5851(9). Further, it is well established that ignorance of the law does not warrant equitable tolling of a statute of limitations. See Rose v. Dole, 945 F.2d 1331, 1335 (6th Cir. 1991); Jones v. Gen. Motors Corp., 939 F.2d 380, 385 (6th Cir. 1991); Mason v. Dep't of Justice, No. 01-5701, 2002 WL 1334756, at *2 (6th Cir. June 17, 2002).

         A complaint “is frivolous where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A complaint may be dismissed as frivolous if it is time-barred by the appropriate statute of limitations. See Dellis v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 257 F.3d 508, 511 (6th Cir. 2001). The Sixth Circuit has repeatedly held that when a meritorious affirmative defense based upon the applicable statute of limitations is obvious from the face of the complaint, sua sponte dismissal of the complaint is appropriate. See Dellis, 257 F.3d at 511; Beach v. Ohio, No. 03-3187, 2003 WL 22416912, at *1 (6th Cir. Oct. 21, 2003); Castillo v. Grogan, No. 02-5294, 2002 WL 31780936, at *1 (6th Cir. Dec. 11, 2002); Duff v. Yount, No. 02-5250, 2002 WL 31388756, at *1-2 (6th Cir. Oct. 22, 2002); Paige v. Pandya, No. 00-1325, 2000 WL 1828653 (6th Cir. Dec. 5, 2000). Accordingly, Plaintiff's action must be dismissed as frivolous.

         II. Failure to state a claim

         A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it fails “‘to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's allegations must include more than labels and conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”). The court must determine whether the complaint contains “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although the plausibility standard is not equivalent to a “‘probability requirement, ' . . . it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' - that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); see also Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that the Twombly/Iqbal plausibility standard applies to dismissals of prisoner cases on initial review under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)).

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the federal Constitution or laws and must show that the deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Dominguez v. Corr. Med. Servs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009). Because § 1983 is a method for vindicating federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an action under § 1983 is to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994). Construed liberally, Plaintiff attempts to raise claims for violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights as a pretrial detainee[2] and his First Amendment right of access to the courts.

         A. Wexford County Jail as a defendant

         Plaintiff sues the Wexford County Jail. The jail is a building, not an entity capable of being sued in its own right. However, construing Plaintiff's pro se complaint with all required liberality, Haines, 404 U.S. at 520, the Court assumes that Plaintiff intended to sue Wexford County. Wexford County may not be held vicariously liable for the actions of its employees under § 1983. See Connick v. Thompson, 131 S.Ct. 1350, 1359 (2011); City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 392 (1989); Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). Instead, a county is liable only when its official policy or custom causes the injury. Id.

         1. First ...


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