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Collins v. Rhodes

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

November 1, 2019

CARLOS COLLINS, Plaintiff,
v.
KAREN RHODES et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          ROBERT J. JONKER, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (PLRA), 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, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's complaint against Defendants Rhodes and Viven for failure to state a claim.

         Discussion

         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Chippewa Correctional Facility (URF) in Kincheloe, Chippewa County, Michigan. The events about which he complains occurred at that facility and the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility (JCF) in Jackson, Jackson County, Michigan and the Chippewa Correctional Facility (URF) in Kincheloe, Chippewa County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues Dr. Karen Rhodes and Dr. Dorsey Viven, M.D.

         Plaintiff alleges that he was diagnosed with a hernia in 2013. On October 23, 2014, Plaintiff filed a civil rights complaint in the Eastern District of Michigan against MDOC Director Daniel Heyns and Defendant Dr. Rhodes for deliberate indifference toward his serious medical needs. See Collins v. Heyns, et al., No. 2:14-cv-14105 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 15, 2016). On April 15, 2016, Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Rhodes were dismissed without prejudice for lack of service and failure to prosecute. However, Plaintiff alleges that he continues to suffer with a grapefruit sized hernia. Plaintiff seeks to reinstate his claims against Defendant Rhodes in this complaint.

         Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Dorsey and Viven are well aware of Plaintiff's documented hernia, left knee, and lower back conditions, but on March 4, 2019, found that Plaintiff did not need surgery. Plaintiff states that he has continuous problems with lower back and knee pain, which affect all aspects of his life, including standing and lying down. Plaintiff complains that both Defendants have refused to recommend surgery and have instead prescribed conservative treatment, providing Plaintiff with a cane, knee brace, and abdominal binder. Plaintiff also contends that the pain medication prescribed by Defendants makes his abdominal walls thinner and his hernia bigger.

         Plaintiff states that Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages.

         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); Street v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir. 1996). 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).

         III. Defendant Rhodes

         Plaintiff seeks to reinstate the claims he asserted against Defendant Rhodes in Collins v. Heyns, et al., No. 2:14-cv-14105 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 15, 2016). 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(2); 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 claims against Defendant Rhodes are untimely. He asserts claims arising in 2013 and 2014. Plaintiff had reason to know of the “harms” done to him at the time they occurred. Hence, his claims accrued in 2014. When Plaintiff originally asserted his claims against Defendant Rhodes they were timely. However, as noted above, those claims were dismissed on April 15, 2016. Plaintiff did not file the instant complaint until July 12, 2019. Assuming that the statute of limitations was tolled while Plaintiff's action was pending in the Eastern District, three years and three months elapsed before he filed the instant case.[2] Michigan law no longer tolls the running of the statute of limitations when a plaintiff is incarcerated. See Mich. Comp. Laws ยง 600.5851(9). Further, it is well established that ignorance of the law does not warrant equitable tolling of a ...


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