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Waddle v. Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Correction

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

January 15, 2018

BOBBY WADDLE # 157508, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER, TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, ET AL., Defendants.

          To: The Honorable Denise Page Hood, Visiting Chief United States District Judge.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Joe B. Brown United States Magistrate Judge

         For the reasons stated below, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that: 1) this case be DISMISSED for want of subject matter jurisdiction; 2) plaintiffs motion to amend his complaint (Doc. 176)[1] be DENIED AS FUTILE; 3) all pending motions in this action be TERMINATED AS MOOT; 4) acceptance and adoption of this R&R constitute the FINAL JUDGMENT in this action; 5) any appeal NOT BE CERTIFIED as taken in good faith under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3); 6) a copy of plaintiff s motion to amend his complaint (Doc. 176) BE FILED in Waddle v. TDOC, et al, 3:17-00372 (M.D. Tenn. 2017)(Trauger J.) (hereinafter Case 00372); 7) a copy of this R&R BE FILED in Case 00372; 8) the portion of the order in Case 00372 consolidating Case 00372 with the instant action (Case 00372, Doc. 15) BE VACATED; 7) Case 00372 BE REMANDED to the assigned District Judge for further proceedings.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was a prisoner in the West Tennessee State Penitentiary (WTSP) in Henning, Tennessee (the Western District of Tennessee) at the time of the alleged events that gave rise to this action. Plaintiff alleged that he was beaten and stabbed in his cell on November 9, 2014[2] by other inmates, that no one at WTSP came to his aid during the alleged assault, and that he was not provided proper medical care for his injuries. Plaintiff named the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) as a defendant in this action, as well 11 others - mainly John and Jane Does - who were employed at WTSP at the time of the events alleged.[3] The record shows that plaintiff was transferred from WTSP following the assault (Case 00372, Doc. 1, p. 7 of 19), and that he was incarcerated in the Turney Center Industrial Complex (TCIX) in Only (the Middle District of Tennessee) when he filed his complaint in this case (Doc. 1, p. 8).

         Former Chief Judge Kevin Sharp referred this case to the Magistrate Judge on December 9, 2015. (Doc. 7) Plaintiff eventually filed a motion to amend his complaint through appointed counsel on April 13, 2017.[4] (Doc. 176) Four days later, on April 17, 2017, this case was transferred to Visiting Chief United States District Judge Denise Page Hood, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, upon the resignation of Chief Judge Sharp. On June 26, 2017, the District Judge in Case 00372 ordered that case consolidated with the instant case, and that all further filings in Case 00372 be made in this case. (Case 00372, Doc. 15, p. 3)

         Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint included the following in the context of his amended first cause of action for failure to protect:

Plaintiff filed internal grievances and a claim with the Tennessee Claims Commission [the Claims Commission] for the personal property taken as a direct and proximate result of the Defendants' actions and/or omissions. Initially Plaintiff was awarded $200 from his claim. However, this decision was appealed by TDOC and the decision was vacated. . . .

(Doc. 176-1, ¶ 55, p. 18 of 45) Five days after plaintiff moved to amend, defendants filed a motion to dismiss and supporting memorandum of law on April 18, 2017 (Docs. 180-81) arguing, inter alia, that this case should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because plaintiff filed a prior claim in the Claims Commission based on the same facts alleged in this case which, under Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-307(b), bars further action in any state or federal court on those grounds. (Docs. 180, pp. 1-2 and 181, pp. 4-7) Defendants also filed a response in opposition to plaintiff's motion to amend on April 18, 2017 in which they again argued lack of subject matter jurisdiction under § 9-8-307(b). (Doc. 182) Plaintiff responded in opposition to defendants' motion to dismiss on May 12, 2017 (Doc. 198) to which defendants replied the same day (Doc. 200). Plaintiff did not respond to defendants' objection to plaintiff's motion to amend his complaint.

         On April 26, 2017, defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, a statement of undisputed material facts, and a memorandum of law in support of their motion. (Docs. 189-91) Although they raised other grounds for relief, including exhaustion, defendants repeated their argument that Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-307(b) barred any further action in any state or federal court on the grounds alleged. (Doc. 191, p. 2) Plaintiff responded to defendants' motion for summary judgment on May 23, 2017. (Docs. 203-04)

         Plaintiff's motion to amend his complaint is now properly before the court.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Motion to Amend

         Rule 15, Fed.R.Civ.P. provides that district courts should “freely give leave [to amend complaints] when justice so requires.” The Supreme Court has held that a motion to amend should be liberally granted unless the motion is brought in bad faith or the proposed amendments would cause undue delay, be futile, or unfairly prejudice the opposing party. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1963); see also Colvin v. Caruso, 605 F.3d 282, 294 (6th Cir. 2010). Amending a complaint “would be futile if a proposed amendment would not survive a motion to dismiss.” SFS Check, LLC v. First Bank of Delaware, 774 F.3d 351, 355 (6th Cir. 2014). The district court has broad discretion in determining wether to grant or deny a motion to amend a complaint. Gen. Elec. Co. v. Sargent & Lundy, 916 F.2d 1119, 1130 (6th Cir. 1990)(citing Zenith Radio Corp. v. Hazeltine Research, Inc., 401 U.S. 321, 330-32 (1971)).

         As previously established, defendants' principal argument in opposition to plaintiff's motion to amend his compliant is that, under Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-307(b), the district court does not have subject matter jurisdiction due to plaintiff having sought relief in the Claims Commission on the same grounds that he raises in the instant action. The court may consider the question of subject matter jurisdiction at any time. See Kontrick v. Ryan, 540 U.S. 443, 455 (2004); see also In re Lewis, 398 F.3d 735, 739 (6th Cir. 2005). “If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.” Rule 12(h)(3), Fed. R. Civ. P.

         “Under Tennessee Code § 9-8-307(b) . . . claims filed with the [Claims] Commission ‘operate as a waiver of any cause of action, based on the same act or omission' against any state employee, unless the employee was acting outside the scope of his employment.” Laude v. Knowles, 549 Fed.Appx. 311, 313 (6th Cir. 2013)(quoting Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-307(b)). “The sole exception to this waiver occurs ‘if the [Claims] Commission determines that the act or omission was not within the scope of the officer's or employee's office or employment.'” Laude, 549 Fed.Appx. at 313 (quoting Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-307(b)). The Sixth Circuit clarified § 9-8-307(b) as follows:

This distinction . . . is one spelled out in the statute itself. Section 9-8-307(b) lists only one exception to the waiver provision: a determination that the state employee acted outside the scope of his employment. The statute makes it clear that, in all other cases, a plaintiff's decision to file a claim with the [Claims] Commission waives any corresponding federal claim. Consequently, the Tennessee Supreme Court has held that a plaintiff's decision to file a claim with the [Claims] Commission ‘activates the waiver, regardless of the [claim's] subsequent disposition'. . . . Moreover, ‘once the claim has been filled and the waiver has been activated, it cannot be undone. . . . In Haley [v. University of Tennessee-Knoxville, 188 S.W.2d 518 (Tenn. 2006], for example, the court enforced the waiver where a plaintiff had ...

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