CHIACCHIARINI v. LOWNDES COUNTY GEORGIA, ET AL.
ORDER granting 27 Motion to Dismiss Complaint. Defendants Lowndes County, Georgia, Chris Prine, Mike Adams, Jack Priddy, and Stryde Jones are dismissed from this action. Ordered by US DISTRICT JUDGE HUGH LAWSON on 7/10/2017. (aks)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
Civil Action No. 7:17-CV-2
LOWNDES COUNTY, GEORGIA, et al.,
Before the Court is Defendants Lowndes County, Georgia, Chris Prine,
Mike Adams, Jack Priddy, and Stryde Jones’ Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 27). On
January 4, 2017, Plaintiff Nicholas Chiacchiarini filed a lawsuit (Doc.1) pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986 and under various state laws alleging
violations of his constitutional rights arising from a January 3, 2015 incident.
Arguing that Plaintiff neglected to file his lawsuit within the applicable statute of
limitations, Defendants move the Court to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims against them.
For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendants’ motion.
On January 3, 2015, Plaintiff was a patron at Rascal’s Bar and Grill.
Plaintiff alleges that at some point during the evening, Andrea Watford and
Brighton Lampert, who worked at the bar, accused Plaintiff of giving Watford a
The facts are taken from the Complaint and are accepted as true for the
purposes of this motion.
marijuana cigarette. When Defendants Mike Adams and Jack Priddy, law
enforcement officers with the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department, arrived at
the scene, Plaintiff asserted his innocence. Plaintiff alleges that despite offering
his full cooperation, Adams and Priddy without provocation caused Plaintiff “to be
lifted up into the air from behind without warning and violently slammed to the
ground, thus landing upon a cobblestone-like walkway.” (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 13-15). The
deputies then placed Plaintiff under arrest, threw him into the backseat of their
vehicle, and transported him to the Lowndes County jail.
Upon arrival at the jail, medical personnel assessed Plaintiff’s injuries and
instructed that he be taken to the emergency room at the South Georgia Medical
Center in Valdosta, Georgia. The emergency room staff evaluated Plaintiff and
determined that he required emergency surgery to correct damage to his hip.
Plaintiff then was airlifted to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida.
During his subsequent hospitalization, Plaintiff learned that all charges
against him in Lowndes County had been dismissed. Feeling wronged by those
whose actions purportedly caused his injuries, immediately upon being released
from the hospital, Plaintiff contacted an attorney to pursue a remedy for the
damages he sustained. Plaintiff submitted an open records request to
Defendants Lowndes County and Sheriff Chris Prine in the course of
investigating the events underlying his claims. That request was denied on the
premise that the circumstances leading to Plaintiff’s arrest remained under
investigation by the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department. Defendants later
charged Plaintiff with the misdemeanor offence of obstruction of a peace officer.
On January 4, 2017, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants Lowndes
County, Georgia, Chris Prine, Mike Adams, Jack Priddy, Stryde Jones, and
others. In his Complaint, Plaintiff asserts three independent claims under § 1983:
(1) Plaintiff accuses Defendants Adams, Priddy, and Jones of subjecting him to
alleged use of excessive force in violation of his rights under the Fifth, Eighth,
and Fourteenth Amendments (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 26-29); (2) Plaintiff asserts that
Defendants Prine and Lowndes County are liable for purported negligent hiring,
training, and retention, which led to a violation of his constitutional rights (Doc. 1,
¶¶ 34-39); and (3) Plaintiff contends that Defendants Adams and Priddy illegally
and maliciously arrested him (Doc. 1, ¶ 42). Plaintiff sets forth a separate claim
under § 1986, in which he alleges that Defendants Prine, Adams, Priddy, and
Jones, “[i]n an effort to cover-up and hide their misconduct, . . . conspired to
misrepresent the facts and circumstances surrounding the injuries and damages
suffered by Plaintiff.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 42). Finally, Plaintiff contends that Defendants
are liable for the injuries he sustained under the Georgia Constitution and under
state law governing assault and battery and malicious arrest.
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.”
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen General Committee of
Adjustment CSX Transp. Northern Lines v. CSX Transp., Inc., 522 F.3d 1190,
1194 (11th Cir. 2008). Defendants here argue that it is plain from the face of the
Complaint that Plaintiff filed this lawsuit the day after the running of the statute of
limitations. In the absence of any evidence warranting tolling of the statute,
Defendants move the Court to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims raised under federal law.
Plaintiff’s Claims Raised under Section 1983
Section 1983 does not contain an express statute of limitation. See 42
U.S.C. § 1983. “All constitutional claims brought under § 1983 are tort actions,
subject to the statute of limitations governing personal injury actions in the state
where the § 1983 action has been brought.” McNair v. Allen, 515 F.3d 1168,
1173 (11th Cir. 2008) (citing Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 275-76 (1985). 2
Under Georgia law, “[a]ctions for injuries to the person shall be brought within
In the introductory portion of his Compliant, Plaintiff asserts that this lawsuit “is
brought for violations of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983,
1985, and 1986.” (Doc. 1, ¶ 1). However, Plaintiff sets forth no substantive
allegations of any specific claim under § 1985. To the extent that Plaintiff intends
to pursue remedies under §1985, his claims are statutorily barred. Like claims
asserted under § 1983, claims brought under § 1985 are subject to the statute of
limitations for personal injury actions in the forum state. See Trawinski v. United
Technologies, 313 F.3d 1295 (11th Cir. 2002) (§ 1985 claim barred by two-year
statute of limitations); Rozar v. Mullis, 85 F.3d 556, 561 (11th Cir. 1996) (“As to
the claims brought here under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, precedent is clear
that these are measured by the personal injury limitations period of the state.”).
Accordingly, the analysis herein discussed in relation to the timeliness of
Plaintiff’s § 1983 claims also applies to any § 1985 claims for which Plaintiff may
attempt to recover.
two years after the right of action accrues.” O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33; Wellons v.
Comm’r, Ga. Dep’t of Corr., 754 F.3d 1260, 1263 (11th Cir. 2014) (per curiam).
It is plain from the face of Plaintiff’s Complaint that he filed his lawsuit a
day outside of the applicable statute of limitations. The facts as alleged show that
Plaintiff’s § 1983 claims accrued on January 3, 2015. Plaintiff did not file this
action until January 4, 2017, one day too late. Plaintiff does not dispute that the
Court’s docket shows that he did not file his Complaint until January 4. However,
Plaintiff argues that he actually began the filing process on January 3, but due to
technical difficulties his filing was not completed until the early hours of the
On January 9, 2017, Plaintiff’s counsel filed a Declaration of Technical
Difficulty (Doc. 3), attempting to invoke the Court’s administrative procedure
regarding technical difficulties to remedy his late filing. In his affidavit, Plaintiff’s
counsel notes that he began the filing process from his home computer
sometime around 10:30 p.m. on January 3. Counsel apparently did not have the
appropriate equipment available to scan all of the necessary documents and had
to resort to use of an app downloaded to his cell phone. At approximately 11:30
p.m., counsel states that he uploaded Plaintiff’s Complaint, which was assigned
Case Number 7:17-CV-1 and showed a filing date of January 3, 2017. But before
counsel could successfully upload all of the required documents to complete the
filing process, he began experiencing issues with his internet provider as well as
with his laptop computer. When he entered Case Number 7:17-CV-1 into
CM/ECF, counsel could not access the file. He then had to begin the filing
process anew, at which time the case was assigned Case Number 7:17-CV-2
with a filing date of January 4, 2017.
Plaintiff’s counsel filed his affidavit in purported compliance with the
Court’s local rules. However, counsel misapprehends the nature of the rule upon
which he relies in an effort to salvage his client’s lawsuit. The Court’s CM/ECF
Administrative Procedures for Filing, Signing, and Verifying Documents by
Electronic Means provides on page four under the heading “Technical Failure &
Maintenance” that “[i]n the event of a technical failure, a participant must file a
declaration seeking relief from the court for not meeting a deadline as a result of
the failure.” “Technical failure” is defined as occurring at any time when “the
Middle District of Georgia CM/ECF system is unable to accept filings
continuously or intermittently over the course of any period of time greater than
four (4) hours.” Id. Specifically excluded from the Court’s definition of technical
failure is any issue “with a participant’s internet server, hardware or software,”
which will not excuse untimely filing. Id. Plaintiff’s counsel’s declaration describes
a series of technical issues he experienced with his own equipment, not with
CM/ECF. Accordingly, no exception can be made for his ultimately untimely filing
of his client’s Complaint.
Even if the Court’s administrative procedures allowed for a timeliness
exception based on personal technical issues, Plaintiff’s Complaint still would be
subject to dismissal because Plaintiff’s counsel did not timely file his declaration.
The Court’s guidelines provide that the declaration requesting relief from a filing
deadline as a result of a technical failure “must be filed prior to 12:00 noon on the
first day the court is open for business following the original deadline.” Id.
January 4 fell on a Wednesday, an ordinary day of operation for the Court.
Plaintiff’s counsel did not file his declaration until January 9, 2017, several days
There are certain circumstances that may warrant the tolling of a § 1983
claim. In order to determine which tolling principles apply, federal courts typically
refer to state law. Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 394 (2007) (“We have generally
referred to state law for tolling rules, just as we have for the length of statutes of
unrepresented estates, people absent from the state, and fraud. See O.C.G.A.
§§ 9-3-90-99. There is no evidence here that any of the statutory bases for tolling
apply. Nor has Plaintiff demonstrated that he is entitled to equitable tolling. The
application of equitable tolling under Georgia law is extremely limited. See State
v. Private Truck Council, Inc., 258 Ga. 531 (1988). “Equitable tolling is a rare
remedy to be applied in unusual circumstances, not a cure-all for an entirely
common state of affairs.” Wallace, 549 U.S. at 396. However, equitable tolling
may be “appropriate when a movant untimely files because of extraordinary
circumstances that are both beyond his control and unavoidable even with
diligence.” Drew v. Dep’t of Corr., 297 F.3d 1278, 1286 (11th Cir. 2002).
Plaintiff has shown neither extraordinary circumstances nor diligence.
While the Court certainly is sensitive to the fact that the Albany, Georgia
community where Plaintiff’s counsel maintains his practice was impacted by
severe weather on January 2, 2017, counsel has not demonstrated how any
power or internet outages on January 2 prevented him from timely filing his
client’s Complaint on January 3. Rather, it is apparent that counsel tarried in
preparing this case for filing then fell victim to the not uncommon problem of
malfunctioning computer equipment. As Judge Drake adroitly remarked in In re
There is nothing ‘extraordinary’ about computer ‘freezes.’ This is an
event that happens everyday [sic] in both commercial and personal
environments, and is the reason that modern computers have
automatic file back-ups, and that nearly all commercial and
governmental databases are backed up at external locations. Had
the Plaintiff been a hair more diligent and prepared for just such an
eventuality, this matter would not be at issue today. The Court finds
it hard to accommodate a . . . request for equitable tolling of a hard
and fast deadline when [the Plaintiff] sat on its hands and waited
until the last moment to meet said deadline.
489 B.R. 251, 260 (Bankr.N.D.Ga. 2013) (declining to apply equitable tolling
principles where the plaintiff waiting until 11:45 p.m. to begin uploading a
complaint only to experience a computer freeze and miss the 12:00 a.m.
deadline by two minutes and forty-four seconds).
Plaintiff was aware of his claims well in advance of the running of the
statute of limitations and began pursing those claims as soon as he was released
from the hospital. (Doc. 1, ¶ 20).
The problem here thus is not a lack of
knowledge but of preparation and diligence. Plaintiff’s counsel admits that he did
not begin the process of uploading Plaintiff’s Complaint to CM/ECF until
approximately 11:30 p.m., thirty minutes from the midnight deadline. The
technical difficulties he encountered were preventable and far from extraordinary.
Accordingly, finding no basis for tolling the statute of limitation, the Court grants
Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims raised under § 1983.
Plaintiff’s Claims Raised under Section 1986
Plaintiff’s claims asserted under 42 U.S.C. §1986 are also subject to
dismissal. Section 1986 actions must be brought “within one year after the cause
of action has accrued.” 42 U.S.C. § 1986. The question of when a cause of
action accrues is one of federal law. Rozar, 85 F.3d at 561. Under federal law a
cause of action does not accrue until the plaintiff knew or should have known (1)
that he suffered the injury forming the basis for his complaint; and (2) who
inflicted the injury. Chappell v. Rich, 340 F.3d 1279, 1983 (11th Cir. 2003) (citing
Mullinax v. McElhenny, 817 F.3d 711, 716 (11th Cir. 1987)).
It is evident from the ante litem notice3 (Doc. 42-1) Plaintiff provided
Defendants on December 11, 2015, that he knew of his potential conspiracy
claim against Defendants at least as of that date. Plaintiff therefore had until
December 11, 2016 in which to pursue this particular claim. He did not. Plaintiff’s
claims pursuant to § 1986 are accordingly dismissed as statutorily barred.
Plaintiff’s Remaining State Law Claims
Plaintiff’s remaining claims against Defendants involve state law causes of
action over which the Court may, but is not required to, exercise supplemental
jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) (conferring federal courts with supplemental
jurisdiction over “claims that are so related to claims in the action within [the
court’s] original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy).
Once a plaintiff’s federal claims are dismissed, “there remains no independent
original federal jurisdiction to support the Court’s exercise of supplemental
Generally, a court must convert a motion to dismiss to a motion for
summary judgment if it considers material outside the complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b). But a court may consider a document without converting the motion to one
for summary judgment if the document is (1) central to the plaintiff’s claim and (2)
undisputed. See Horsley v. Feldt, 304 F.3d 1125, 1134 (11th Cir. 2002). “[A]
document need not be physically attached to a pleading to be incorporated by
reference into it; if the document’s contents are alleged in a complaint and no
party questions those contents, we may consider such a document provided it
meets the centrality requirement imposed in Horsley.” Day v. Taylor, 400 F.3d
1272, 1276 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing Harris v. Ivax Corp., 182 F.3d 799, 802 n. 2
(11th Cir. 1999)). Plaintiff purported to attach his ante litem notice to his
Complaint as an exhibit. (Doc. 1, ¶ 20). The exhibit, however, was not uploaded.
Defendants attached a copy of the notice to their reply brief, and Plaintiff has not
otherwise contested the centrality of the document.
jurisdiction over the state claims against Defendant.” Bagggett v. First Nat. Bank
of Gainesville, 117 F.3d 1342, 1352 (11th Cir. 1997). Pursuant to § 1367(c)(3), a
court may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over claims after it has
dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction. “The decision to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over pendant state claims rests within the
discretion of the court.” Raney v. Allstate Ins. Co., 370 F.3d 1086, 1088-89 (11th
Cir. 2004). The Eleventh Circuit has “encouraged district courts to dismiss any
remaining state claims when, as here, the federal claims have been dismissed
prior to trial.” Id. at 1089.
The Court has now dismissed Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants arising
under federal law. The only remaining claims against Defendants are founded on
state law, and the Court declines to exercise jurisdiction over those claims.
Plaintiff’s state law claims against Defendants are, therefore, dismissed without
Upon review of Plaintiff’s Complaint, the Court concludes that Plaintiff filed
this lawsuit outside the statute of limitations applicable to his claims pursued
under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986. The Court accordingly GRANTS
Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s federal law claims. The Court declines
to exercise supplemental jurisdiction of Plaintiff’s remaining state law claims and
dismisses those causes of action without prejudice.
SO ORDERED this 10th day of July, 2017.
s/ Hugh Lawson________________
HUGH LAWSON, SENIOR JUDGE
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