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Groomster v. UMC Medical Hospital

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

April 13, 2015

CHARLES T. GROOMSTER #99077397, Plaintiff,
UMC MEDICAL HOSPITAL, et al., Defendants.


WILLIAM J. HAYNES, Jr., Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff, Charles Groomster, an inmate in the Wilson County Jail in Lebanon, Tennessee, filed this pro se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Defendants: UMC Medical Hospital, Frank Deriggi, Jason Ezell and Matt Mang. Plaintiff asserts Fourth Amendment claims arising out of the Defendants' search of his person at a local hospital.

According to his complaint, on August 28, 2012, Defendant Officers Deriggi, Ezell and Mang arrested Plaintiff and transported Plaintiff to Defendant UMC Medical Hospital. Plaintiff alleges that an unnamed doctor at the hospital searched Plaintiff's rectum for drugs without his consent. Plaintiff alleges that the search did not lead to discovery of any drugs. Plaintiff alleges that the officers said that they had a warrant to conduct the search, but that the hospital did not have a warrant. Plaintiff's claims are that the Defendants violated his civil rights and did not act professionally during the alleged incident for which Plaintiff seeks $1 million in damages from each Defendant.

The complaint is before the Court for an initial review under the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e©. Under the PLRA, the Court must conduct an initial review of any civil complaint filed in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), or brought by a prisoner-plaintiff against government entities or officials, 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, or challenging the conditions of confinement, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). Upon conducting this review, the Court must dismiss the complaint, or any portion thereof, that fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, is frivolous, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The dismissal standard in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), "governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under those statutes because the relevant statutory language tracks the language in Rule 12(b)(6)." Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). Thus, to survive scrutiny on initial review, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting 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." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

In reviewing the complaint to determine whether it states a plausible claim, "a district court must (1) view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and (2) take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true." Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)). A pro se pleading must be liberally construed and "held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). Pro se status, however, does not exempt a plaintiff gives rise to a Heck bar. Id. at 394-95. According to Wallace, a § 1983 plaintiff with a Fourth Amendment claim must file within the applicable limitations period even if criminal charges are then pending that would allow the district court to stay the civil action until the criminal action is resolved and either proceed or dismiss under Heck at that point. Id. at 393-94. Only a plaintiff who follows this procedure would be entitled to some additional time to refile if a suit dismissed under Heck is later capable of being revived upon reversal of the conviction. See Wallace, 549 U.S. at 395 n. 4 (2007) (explaining that because the plaintiff had not filed timely and been dismissed under Heck, the court need not determine how much time to refile would have been proper after removal of the Heck bar).

The Sixth Circuit has held that the rule of Wallace applies to claims of unconstitutional searches under the Fourth Amendment, so that the limitations period for a § 1983 claim begins to run on the date of the search. Hornback v. Lexington-Fayette Urban Cnty., Gov't, 543 F.Appx. 499, 502 (6th Cir. 2013). There, the plaintiff's claim was held to accrue on the date of the search, when the plaintiff knew or should have known that the search was unlawful, and that plaintiff could have filed suit at that time. Id. at 501-02. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his claim filed approximately 20 months later as untimely, even though it was filed within a year of the date on which the state court granted the plaintiff's motion to suppress and dismissed the criminal charges against him. Id. at 501-02. Here, the time within which Plaintiff could have filed a timely complaint arising from the August 28, 2012 search expired in August 2013 - more than eighteen months ago. Although Plaintiff is in jail, it is unclear from his complaint whether the search about which Plaintiff complains is connected to any pending criminal proceedings against him.

The clear import of these decisions is that Plaintiff's claims is not timely regardless of whether the search in question played any role in criminal proceedings against him, or whether those proceedings have since been resolved for or against Plaintiff. Because Plaintiff's complaint was filed well beyond the applicable limitations period, Plaintiff's complaint is frivolous for the purpose of the PLRA. Dellis, 257 F.3d at 511 (6th Cir.2001) (cases filed beyond the statute of limitations are properly dismissed as frivolous).

For the reasons set forth above, this action will be DISMISSED as frivolous.

An appropriate Order is filed herewith.

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