MIRANDA-SANCHAEZ v. FLOYD CO. JAIL et al
ENTRY Discussing Second and Third Amended Complaints, Dismissing Action, and Directing Entry of Final Judgment - For the reasons explained in this Entry and the two other screening Entries, dkt. nos. 5 and 9 , this action must be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue (SEE ENTRY). Copy sent to Plaintiff via US Mail. Signed by Judge William T. Lawrence on 3/17/2017.(DW)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
TERRE HAUTE DIVISION
FLOYD CO. JAIL,
DEPUTIES OF SHERIFF OF FLOYD CO.,
JAMES D. SPRINKLE Inmate -- C.I. -Suspect,
KEITH ANDREW HENDERSON Prosecuting
Atty. -- Floyd Co., et al.,
Entry Discussing Second and Third Amended Complaints,
Dismissing Action, and Directing Entry of Final Judgment
Plaintiff Miranda-Sanchaez filed this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, on
October 18, 2016, based on an incident that occurred on or about October 8, 2011, when he was
assaulted by another inmate at Floyd County Jail (“Jail”). He alleges that Jail officials put the
other inmate in his cell knowing that they should be separated. In his original complaint, he
named the Jail, unnamed sheriff deputies, the inmate who assaulted him, and the county
prosecuting attorney as defendants. In screening the complaint, the Court construed the claim
against the sheriff deputies as a failure to protect claim and dismissed it, in part, because no
sheriff deputies were identified by name and “John Doe” claims are not placeholders in district
court. The Court also dismissed those claims because they were barred by the two-year statute of
limitations. The Court dismissed all claims, and directed the plaintiff to show cause why the
action should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Dkt.
The plaintiff responded to the order to show cause by filing an amended complaint,
which the Court also screened. The plaintiff identified more individual officers who allegedly
failed to protect him. He also added claims against public defenders. The Court dismissed the
public defender defendants and dismissed the failure to protect claims again on the basis of being
time-barred. Again, the plaintiff was given an opportunity to show cause why the action should
not be dismissed as untimely.
In response to the second order to show cause, the plaintiff filed a second and a third
amended complaint on February 2, 2017, and February 22, 2017, respectively. The third
amended complaint supersedes the second amended complaint, so the Court will now screen the
third amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. In accordance with that statute, a Court
must dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for relief, or seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id.
The third amended complaint names as defendants the Sheriff of Floyd County, Floyd
County Commissioners, Cpl. Kenneth Mayberry, medical officer Chad Phillips, Officer Travis
Sands, and inmate James Sprinkle. The plaintiff again alleges that he was battered by Mr.
Sprinkle on or about October 8, 2011, and that the defendants acted with deliberate indifference
to his health and safety by putting him in the same cell block as Mr. Sprinkle. The plaintiff
alleges that he suffered serious injuries.
As noted in the Court’s first and second screening Entries, even though the statute of
limitations is an affirmative defense, the Court may dismiss a claim on the pleadings if the
defense “is so plain from the face of the complaint that the suit can be regarded as frivolous.”
Best v. City of Portland, 554 F.3d 698, 700 (7th Cir. 2009). The plaintiff responds to the issue of
timeliness by alleging that after beginning to recover from his injuries, he obtained a new
criminal defense attorney, Mr. Renn. He alleges that Mr. Renn promised the plaintiff on several
occasions that he would prepare documents for a civil suit. The plaintiff alleges that letters were
exchanged for almost five years, including as recently as September 7, 2016. Days before the
plaintiff filed this action, he received a message from his attorney telling him to “seek other
counsel.” Dkt. 21, p. 5. The plaintiff alleges that his late filing was caused by the delay of his
The Court has considered whether the doctrine of equitable tolling may be applicable
under the circumstances alleged by the plaintiff. “[A] litigant is entitled to equitable tolling of a
statute of limitations only if the litigant establishes two elements: (1) that he has been pursuing
his rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way and
prevented timely filing.” Knauf Insulation, Inc. v. Southern Brands, Inc., 820 F.3d 904, 908 (7th
Cir. 2016) (internal quotation omitted).
“Although a lawyer’s error in allowing a statute of limitations to run is not the type of
extraordinary circumstance justifying equitable tolling, the error may give rise to liability for
malpractice.” Rosado v. Gonzalez, 832 F.3d 714, 717 n. 3 (7th Cir. 2016) (citing Modrowski v.
Mote, 322 F.3d 965, 967 (7th Cir. 2013)) (attorney negligence is not grounds for equitable
tolling”). “A lawyer’s ineptitude does not support equitable tolling.” Lee v. Cook County, Ill, 635
F.3d 969, 973 (7th Cir. 2011); see also Lakin v. Skaletsky, 327 Fed.Appx. 636, 637 (7th Cir. May
13, 2009) (Neither an attorney’s “abandonment of the case nor the attorney’s false assertions
about its status are grounds for equitable tolling.”).
“[A] statute of limitations is intended primarily for the benefit of the defendant, to protect
him from having to defend against stale claims.” Stephan v. Goldinger, 325 F.3d 874, 876 (7th
Cir. 2003). “’Statutes of limitation…are designed to promote justice by preventing surprises
through the revival of claims that have been allowed to slumber until evidence has been lost,
memories have faded, and witnesses have disappeared.’” Id. (quoting Order of Railroad
Telegraphers v. Railway Express Agency, Inc., 321 U.S. 342, 348-49 (1944)). “’The theory is
that even if one has a just claim it is unjust not to put the adversary on notice to defend within the
period of limitation and that the right to be free of stale claims in time comes to prevail over the
right to prosecute them.’” Id. (quoting Order of Railroad Telegraphers, 321 U.S. at 349).
In other words, if a plaintiff argues that his attorney is to blame for not filing an action in
a timely manner, the remedy is for a malpractice claim against the attorney, not finding that the
claim was, in fact, timely filed.
The plaintiff has had ample opportunities to show cause why this action should not be
dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because it was filed long
after the applicable statute of limitations expired. He has attempted to do so, but the Court finds
that equitable tolling does not apply here. For the reasons explained in this Entry and the two
other screening Entries, dkt. nos. 5 and 9, this action must be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A. Judgment consistent with this Entry shall now issue.
PUTNAMVILLE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY
1946 West U.S. Hwy 40
Greencastle, IN 46135
Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
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