Edwards v. Abbett et al

Filing 28

OPINION AND ORDER: It is ORDERED that plaintiff Marcus Edwards's motion for leave to file his first amended complaint (doc. no. 24 ) is treated as a motion for permission to file his amended complaint two days late, and granted. It is further O RDERED that plaintiff Edwards's motion for an order to show cause (doc. no. 27 ), which is actually not a motion but instead his response to the court's order to show cause, is denied as improperly docketed. Signed by Honorable Judge Myron H. Thompson on 6/9/2016. (kh, )

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IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA, EASTERN DIVISION MARCUS EDWARDS, Plaintiff, v. SHERIFF JIMMY ABBETT (in his individual and official capacities as Sheriff of Tallapoosa County, Alabama); et al., Defendants. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:13cv871-MHT (WO) OPINION AND ORDER Plaintiff Marcus Edwards was incarcerated in the Tallapoosa County Jail in Dadeville, Alabama from June 7 to November 27, 2011. Amendment claims He raises a number of Eighth (pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983) and claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Edwards claims that, throughout the period of his incarceration, he was denied adequate medical and mental-health treatment; prevented from participating in programs and receiving services due to his medical and mental-health conditions; and subjected to conditions of confinement unsanitary conditions, other such insufficient unconstitutional as overcrowding, nutrition, and deprivation of access to showers and outdoor areas. 1 Finally, he claims that these harms resulted from a failure to train, supervise, adequately at the jail. and instruct staff Edwards is suing Tallapoosa County, the municipality that operates the jail, as well as (in their official and individual capacities) Sherriff Jimmy Abbett, jail administrator Blake 1. The factual allegations made in the complaint are quite serious. Specifically, Edwards alleges that he was denied necessary medication to treat diagnosed mental illnesses as well as pain from a recent femur fracture; that a medical device necessary to treat his obstructive sleep apnea was damaged by chief jail nurse Cathy Dubose and not repaired and that his sleep was disrupted as a result; that he was housed in an overcrowded and roach-infested cell with no running water and denied showers for days at a time; and that he was discriminated against based on his mental and physical disabilities when the defendants denied him access to the yard and the commissary and transportation to receive both physical therapy and mental-health treatment. 2 Jennings, and chief jail nurse Cathy Dubose. 2 court has jurisdiction pursuant to both 28 This U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question) and § 1343 (civil rights). The defendants moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, for a more definite statement, and the court denied the motion to dismiss but granted, without any discussion, the alternative motion, allowing Edwards to file an amended complaint within 14 days. He did file an amended complaint, albeit two days past the deadline, along with a motion styled as seeking leave to amend (without explanation for the delay). The court then ordered the parties to brief why the motion should or should not be granted. Upon consideration of the parties’ responses and for the reasons that follow, Edwards’s motion will be granted. 2. Edwards alleges that Abbett and Jennings not only supervised the operation of the jail and the provision of medical care to its prisoners but had knowledge of his condition and the treatment he was or was not receiving, because he and his family members repeatedly communicated this information to them. Edwards alleges that Dubose was directly responsible for providing his care and therefore had personal knowledge of his condition. 3 Although Edwards states in his motion that he is seeking leave to amend, he has actually already been afforded that leave, in the court’s order granting the defendants’ motion for a more definite statement. Therefore, his motion is more properly considered as a motion for a two-day extension compliance with that order. of the deadline for Hence, the relevant rule is not Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 (governing amended pleadings) but rather Rule 12(e), which states that, when a district court’s order for a more definite statement “is not obeyed within 14 days ..., the court may strike the pleading or issue any other appropriate order.” Withdrawal of the already-given leave to amend would be an exceedingly drastic response to Edwards’s de minimis delay in filing, prejudiced the defendants. 3 which has in no way Edwards will therefore be granted the extension his motion effectively requests. 4 3. The defendants suggest that Edwards engaged in dilatory tactics when he represented to the court, in his response to the defendants’ motion, that he “anticipated” that he would file an amended complaint within two weeks, and then delayed in doing so until 4 The arguments put forward by the defendants in opposition to Edwards’ motion focus not on the minor delay in filing but rather on their contention that his amendment--which, Edwards acknowledges, complaint only slightly--is futile. alters the They argue, as they did in their initial motion to dismiss, that all of Edwards’s limitations. claims are barred by the statute of Because this argument is virtually the the court had ruled on the motion. Pl.’s Resp. to Defs.’ Mot. to Dismiss (doc. no. 22) at 2. Edwards’s counsel is cautioned that he must, in future, be circumspect in making representations regarding the submission of documents to the court. Failure to do so could have serious negative repercussions both for his clients and for his law practice. That said, the delay in this instance was in fact occasioned in large part by the court: the defendants’ motion had been filed in early January 2014, Edwards’s response was filed in the middle of February 2014, and the court did not rule on the motion until the end of March 2015. Even if Edwards’s amended complaint had been filed promptly, the case would have been on hold until the court rendered its decision on the motion. 4. Counsel for Edwards is reminded that the federal rules require careful compliance with all deadlines. The court will not look kindly on any further failures to comply timely with its orders in this case. 5 sole focus of the defendants’ briefing, and because it is likely to be raised again in a renewed motion to dismiss, the court will address it briefly here. “‘[D]ismissal on statute of limitations grounds is appropriate only if it is apparent from the face of the complaint that the claim is time-barred’ because ‘[a] statute of limitations bar is an affirmative defense, and ... plaintiff[s] [are] not required to negate an affirmative defense in [their] complaint.’” Lindley v. City of Birmingham, 515 F. App’x 813, 815 (11th Cir. 2013) (quoting La Grasta v. First Union Sec., Inc., 358 F.3d 840, 845 (11th Cir. 2004)). the motion-to-dismiss dismissed defense on the only if stage, basis it of a appears In other words, “[a]t a complaint may be statute-of-limitations beyond a doubt that Plaintiffs can prove no set of facts that toll the statute.” Id. (quoting Tello v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., F.3d 410 1275, 1288 n.13 (11th Cir. 2005), abrogated on other grounds as recognized in Walter v. Avellino, 564 F. App’x 464, 466 (11th Cir. 2014)). 6 The court concludes that at least some of Edwards’s claims are not due to be dismissed as untimely filed. (Some might well be subject to dismissal as untimely, and it is entirely possible that those claims which did survive would turn out, following discovery and the presentation of evidence at summary judgment, to be time-barred.) For example, Edwards has stated a timely Eighth Amendment claim for denial of healthcare. The applicable statute of limitations in § 1983 actions is drawn from the relevant state statute of limitations for personal-injury tort claims, which is, in Alabama, two years. See Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 387 (2007); 1975 Ala. Code § 6-2-38. 5 Edwards was released from jail, it appears, at 6:09 a.m. on November 27, 2011; he filed the complaint in this case on November 27, 2013. The defendants argue that this “provid[es] a limited window for any claim to have arisen”--a bit more than six hours, to be exact-5. Incidentally, this same statute of limitations applies to ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims as well. See Everett v. Cobb Cnty. Sch. Dist., 138 F.3d 1407, 1409-10 (11th Cir. 1998). 7 and that the original and amended complaints fail to “specify any date when the alleged conduct occurred.” Defs.’ Opp’n to Pl.’s Am. Compl. (doc. no. 26) at 4. But, in fact, Edwards need not allege that his claims first arose on the morning on of November 27, 2011, only that they then accrued. This subtle distinction makes all the difference. Although state law establishes the length of the period for underlying filing, cause “federal of action limitations period to begin.” law controls accrued, when triggering the this Baker v. Sanford, 484 F. App’x 291, 293 (11th Cir. 2012) (citing Wallace, 549 U.S. at 388). “An ‘allegation of a failure to provide needed and requested medical attention constitutes a continuing tort, which does not accrue until the date medical attention is prisoner is released care thus ends). provided,’” or the date the (and the obligation to provide Id. (quoting Lavellee v. Listi, 611 F.2d 1129, 1132 (5th Cir. 1980)) (concluding that the district court had erred in dismissing a prisoner’s 8 claims regarding “prison officials’ prolonged failure to provide adequate medical treatment despite his repeated grievances”). Edwards’s amended complaint is not exactly a model of precise pleading, but he refusals to provide care. does allege ongoing For example, his complaint states that, “During Plaintiff’s incarceration in the Tallapoosa Plaintiff County to Jail, attend Defendants necessary did not appointments allow with his orthopedic surgeon and [] the physical therapist for his rehabilitation.” Am. Compl. (doc. no. 24-1) at 2. The complaint also states that “Defendants failed to provide Plaintiff with adequate medication [that he had been prescribed] to treat” his diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. and Id. at 3. Moreover, the complaint repeatedly states that Edwards or his family members made the defendants aware of his need for this care. In making these allegations, Edwards is not challenging any particular instance in 9 which he was denied care; rather, he contends that he suffered from serious ailments upon entering the jail and consistently requested and was denied treatment for those ailments, throughout his incarceration until the point of his release. It is hardly “apparent from the face of the complaint that th[is] claim is time-barred,” Lindley, 515 F. App’x at 815. at trial, evidence Edwards showing To prevail on summary judgment or would, that of the course, have violations he to offer alleges continued unabated until the day he was released. For now, though, the defendants have not shown that all of his claims are due to be dismissed as time-barred. That said, the court hereby places plaintiff’s counsel on notice that it has serious concerns about the viability of Edwards’s claims in the face of the immunity arguments put forward by the defendants in their original motion to dismiss, and in light of the fact that plaintiff’s counsel did not amend the complaint to address them. 10 meaningfully Assuming that these arguments are renewed, Edwards’s counsel would do well to respond with significantly more substance than he did to the defendants’ initial motion to dismiss. * * * It is ORDERED that plaintiff Marcus Edwards’s motion for leave to file his first amended complaint (doc. no. 24) is treated as a motion for permission to file his amended complaint two days late, and granted. It is further ORDERED that plaintiff Edwards’s motion for an order to show cause (doc. no. 27), which is actually not a motion but instead his response to the court’s order to show cause, is denied improperly docketed. DONE, this the 9th day of June, 2016. /s/ Myron H. Thompson UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE as

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