United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
DWIGHT J. MITCHELL Plaintiff,
WILSON TAYLOR, TOMMY P. THOMPSON, JR., MARY HOLDER, GUARDIAN HOME CARE, CITY OF HARTSVILLE, and TROUSDALE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
H. SHARP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court dismissed Plaintiff's federal claims and
declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over his state
law claim, Defendant Guardian Home Care Holding Inc. filed a
Motion for an Award of Attorneys' Fees and Sanctions
(Docket No. 107). Plaintiff has filed a 35-page response in
opposition (Docket No. 117), the bulk of which is devoted to
arguments on the supposed merits of his underlying claims
against Defendants. The time for making such arguments is
long past, and, indeed, as the Court previously observed,
Plaintiff “has had more than enough bites at the
apple.” (Docket No. 98 at 6).
bites at the apple were discussed in a Report and
Recommendation by the Magistrate Judge, which the Court
quoted in its prior ruling:
In 2010, Plaintiff filed a pro se lawsuit against Citizens
Bank complaining about the foreclosure of his property and
making allegations of discrimination, conspiracy, and
fraudulent activity akin to the allegations made in the
instant lawsuit. Dwight J. Mitchell, et al. v. Citizens
Bank, Case 3:15-cv-01310. That lawsuit was dismissed
with prejudice on January 11, 2011. See Mitchell v.
Citizen's Bank, 2011 WL 101688 (M.D. Tenn. Jan. 11,
2011). In 2013, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the same
defendants named in the instant action based on essentially
the same allegations that he makes in the instant action.
See Dwight J. Mitchell, et al. v. Wilson Taylor, et
al., 3:13-0569. Upon Plaintiff's notice of voluntary
dismissal, made in the face of several pending motions to
dismiss, that lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice.
See Order entered February 20, 2015 (Docket Entry
No. 94) in Case 3:13-0569. Additionally, Plaintiff filed a
pro se state court lawsuit against Defendant Guardian Home
Care in 2010 that was based upon essentially the same
allegations that are made against Guardian Home Care in the
instant action. See Docket Entry No. 70-1. That
lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a
claim. See Docket Entry No. 70-3. Plaintiff has also
filed numerous petitions in the United States Bankruptcy
Court. See Case Nos. 3:08-bk-12244, 3:09-bk-01297,
3:09-bk-04976, 3:09-bk-10241, 3:10-bk-05141, 3:10-bk-06545,
(Id. at 5).
the number of times it has been called on to answer claims
that have as their genesis an administrative hearing
conducted by the State of Tennessee's Department of
Health more than nine years ago, Guardian Home Care asks that
it be awarded attorneys' fees and/or that future filings
be screened by the Court. Such requests should come as no
surprise to Plaintiff.
denying sanctions as a result of the dismissal of the second
action, Judge Haynes “warned that any further attempts
to re-litigate these same issues may result in
sanctions.” (Case No. 3:13-00569, Docket No. 97).
Further, in recommending dismissal in this case, Magistrate
Judge Holmes observed that “the instant action is
merely the latest in a succession of unsuccessful federal and
state lawsuits brought by Plaintiff in the aftermath of the
closure of Sun Valley.” (Docket No. 88 at 6). And in
accepting the Magistrates Judge's recommendation and
denying Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Complaint, this
Court observed that Plaintiff's “request smacks of
bad faith and would be prejudicial to Defendants given the
number of times Plaintiff has aired complaints about the
events of August 2007.” (Docket No. 98 at 5).
record makes clear that Plaintiff has an abiding belief that
Guardian Home Care employees provided false testimony at an
administrative hearing on August 15, 2007 that, in turn, led
to the revocation of his license to operate the Sun Valley
Home for the Aged in Hartsville, Tennessee. It also appears
from the record that the notion that Guardian Home Care has
wronged him is stuck in Plaintiff's craw and that
something must be done to dissuade him from pursuing claims
against Guardian Home Care yet again.
option is to award attorney's fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1988, which gives the Court discretion to award such
fees to a prevailing party in a Section 1983 suit as a part
of the costs. However, unlike the award of fees to a
prevailing plaintiff, the award of fees to a prevailing
defendant is not the norm: “‘a prevailing
defendant should only recover upon a finding by the district
court that the plaintiff's action was frivolous,
unreasonable, or without foundation, even though not brought
in subjective bad faith.'” Wolfe v. Perry,
412 F.3d 707, 720 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting
Wayne v. Village of Sebring, 36 F.3d 517, 530
(6th Cir. 1994) (internal quotation omitted)).
“[I]n applying these criteria, it is important that a
district court resist the understandable temptation to engage
in post hoc reasoning by concluding that, because a
plaintiff did not ultimately prevail, his action must have
been unreasonable or without foundation.” Id.
at 719 (citations omitted).
Home Care raises cogent arguments for the imposition of fees.
This includes the fact that (1) Plaintiff's claims are
time-barred, (2) there is no support for the proposition that
Guardian Home Care is a “state actor” for
purposes of Plaintiff's Section 1983 claims, and (3) this
is Plaintiff's third suit involving basically the same
allegations. Nevertheless, the Court chooses to exercise its
discretion by not awarding attorney's fees.
Plaintiff has brought his case three times, the second was
dismissed voluntarily at his request. Further, while Judge
Haynes noted the possibility of sanctions, he did not
indicate that those may be monetary sanction in the form of
attorney's fees that Guardian Home Care places at almost
$20, 000. And, while the statute of limitations had clearly
run as of the time suit was filed, Plaintiff, who is
proceeding pro se, raised arguments concerning
tolling and a continuing violation theory, neither which
could simply be summarily rejected. Simply put, the Court
does not believe this to be one of the “‘truly
egregious cases of misconduct'” that warrants the
“‘extreme sanction'” of an award of
“attorney fees against a nonprevailing plaintiff in a
civil rights action[.]” Garner v. Cuyahoga Cty.
Juvenile Court, 554 F.3d 624, 635 (6th Cir.
2009) (citation omitted).
second option is to enjoin Plaintiff from filing further
suits in this Court against Guardian Home Care without prior
leave of the Court. That is the approach the Court finds
appropriate and necessary in this case.
courts . . . have inherent and statutory authority to impose
sanctions upon parties for their abuse of the litigation
process.” Maloof v. Level Propane Gasses,
Inc., 316 F. App'x 373, 376 (6th Cir. 2008). This
“includ[es] restrictions on future access to the
judicial system, to deter future frivolous, harassing or
duplicative lawsuits.” Ohio v. Ealy, 2009 WL
1118704, at *1 (S.D. Ohio, April 24, 2009) (collecting
cases). “While this Court cannot absolutely foreclose
an individual from initiating an action or pursuing an appeal
in federal court, . . . the Court may impose prefiling
restrictions on an individual with a history of repetitive or
vexatious litigation.” Id. (internal citation
omitted). Indeed, “[t]here is nothing unusual about
imposing prefiling restrictions in matters with a history of
repetitive or vexatious litigation.” Feathers v.
Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 141 F.3d 264, 269
it seems abundantly clear that, undeterred, Plaintiff will
continue in his attempt to litigate what he perceives to have
been mistreatment by Guardian Home Care and/or its employees
almost a decade ago. This is most recently exemplified in his
lengthy response to the motions for sanctions and his request
for oral arguments on the same (with attached exhibits). It
is unfair to require Guardian Home Care to spend the time,
money and effort to defend ...