Griffin v. Heigler et al
OPINION and ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S 14 MOTION to Amend/Correct 1 Complaint - Signed by Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen. (CCie)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith
Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen
LISA HEIGLER, ET AL.,
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT
On January 8, 2016, Plaintiff Nia Griffin filed a pro se civil complaint centered on
the January 7, 2013 entry into and search of her home by Michigan Child Protective
Services (“CPS”) workers and Warren Police Officers. On August 24, 2016, I filed a
Report and Recommendation (“R&R”), recommending that the Defendants’ motions to
dismiss be granted [Doc. #17]. On September 14, 2016, the Court accepted my
recommendation and granted the Defendants’ motions to dismiss [Doc. #18].
Still pending is Plaintiff’s motion to amend her complaint [Doc. #14], which she
filed instead of a response to the Defendants’ motions to dismiss. She seeks to add
numerous claims and several other Defendants.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a) states that after a responsive pleading is filed, a complaint may
be amended only by leave of the court, and that “leave shall be freely given when justice
so requires.” However, despite the general rule of liberality with which leave to file
amended complaints is to be granted, the Sixth Circuit has held that when a proposed
amended complaint would not survive a motion to dismiss, the court may properly deny
the amendment as futile. Neighborhood Development Corp. v. Advisory Council on
Historic Preservation, 632 F.2d 21, 23 (6th Cir. 1980); Thiokol Corporation v.
Department of Treasury, 987 F.2d 376 (6th Cir. 1993). “[T]he grant or denial of an
opportunity to amend is within the discretion of the District Court....” Foman v. Davis,
371 U.S. 178 (1962).
In my R&R, I explained that the statute of limitations for federal civil rights claims
in this district is three years, the same as Michigan’s statute of limitations for personal
injury claims. See Carroll v. Wilkerson, 782 F.2d 44, 45 (6th Cir. 1986). Plaintiff’s
original complaint was based on actions that occurred on January 7, 2013, more than
three years before her complaint was filed; therefore, the claims asserted in that complaint
were time-barred. The same reasoning applies to allegations in her proposed amended
complaint arising out of conduct on January 7, 2013, specifically allegations against the
Defendant police officers and Defendant Rauch.
Moreover, the bulk of the new allegations levelled against the new Defendants1–all
of whom are employees of the State Department of Health and Human Services–relate to
conduct alleged to have occurred in February and March of 2013. Plaintiff filed her
motion to amend on April 5, 2016, more than three years later. Those claims are likewise
time-barred. The “relation back” doctrine of Rule 15 does not apply. Amendments “will
not survive preclusive application of the statute of limitations unless the amendments are
corrections of misnomers.” Collyer v. Darling, 98 F.3d 211, 220 (6th Cir. 1996). Here,
Plaintiff seeks to bring substantive claims of which she was clearly aware in 2013, and
names entirely new Defendants. She does not seek to correct a misnomer.
As to these and other claims against the DHHS workers, which revolve principally
around Plaintiff’s allegations that these workers provided false information in child
protective proceedings in State court, the Defendants are protected by qualified immunity
based on the Sixth Circuit’s decision in Sixth Circuit’s decision in Pittman v. Cuyahoga
County Dept. of Children and Family Services, 640 F.3d 716 (6th Cir. 2011). In Pittman,
the Court assumed that under the Due Process Clause, the plaintiff had “a fundamental
liberty interest in maintaining his parent-child relationship....” Id. at 727.2 The plaintiff in
Pittman alleged that a social worker made false representations to the court in a parental
Plaintiff also names the Department of Health and Human Services in her
proposed amended complaint.
For purposes of the qualified immunity analysis under Pittman, it does not matter
whether the claimed right is grounded in the Due Process Clause or the First Amendment.
termination case, and interfered with his right to participate in those proceedings. Finding
that the social worker was entitled to qualified immunity, the Sixth Circuit held:
“Because the juvenile court has the ultimate decisionmaking power with
respect to placement and custody, it alone could deprive Pittman of his
fundamental right. Therefore, Hurry's conduct did not violate Pittman's
substantive due process rights, and she has qualified immunity against that
claim.” Id. at 729.
Lebeau v. Michigan Dept. of Human Services, 2011 WL 4962386
(E.D.Mich.2011)(Duggan, J.), involved child removal proceedings in which the evidence
showed that social workers were privy to the plaintiff-father’s contact information, but
decided not to contact him. DHS investigators indicated that they had made no effort to
verify the mother’s allegations of abuse. Id. at *3. Citing Pittman, the Court found that
the social workers were protected by qualified immunity. See also Kolley v. Adult
Protective Services, 2012 WL 5819475, *7 (E.D. Mich. 2012)(Goldsmith, J.)(citing
cases)(“Since the May 2011 Pittman decision, multiple district courts in this Circuit have
applied Pittman to reject similar claims.”).
Because Plaintiff’s proposed amended complaint would be subject to dismissal
under Rule 12(b)(6), granting leave to amend would be futile.
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s motion to amend her complaint [Doc. #14] is DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/ R. Steven Whalen
R. STEVEN WHALEN
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Dated: September 22, 2016
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing document was sent to parties of record on
September 22, 2016, electronically and/or by U.S. mail.
s/Carolyn M. Ciesla
Case Manager to the
Honorable R. Steven Whalen
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