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Landry v. Rogers

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

May 23, 2018

TIFFANY B. LANDRY, ET AL.
v.
JIM ROGERS, WARDEN, ET AL.

          RULING AND ORDER

          JOHN W. deGRAVELLES JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT MIDDLE DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA

         Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Rules”) 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) filed by defendants Frederick Boutte (“Boutte”), Jim Rogers (“Rogers”), Dr. John F. Prejean, Jr. (“Prejean”), and Pamela B. Ross (“Ross”) (collectively “Defendants”). (Doc. 32). It is opposed. (Doc. 37). No reply brief was filed. For reasons which follow, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiffs are Tiffany B. Landry (“Landry”), Patricia Washington (“Washington”), and Tasco Gilmore (“Gilmore”) (collectively “Plaintiffs”). Plaintiffs originally filed suit on April 10, 2017 against the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women (“LCIW”) and Rogers, sued “individually and in his capacity as Warden of LCIW.” (Doc. 1 at 1-2). Plaintiffs also alleged that the Medical Unit Director at LCIW was “John Doe and/or Jane Doe, ” although this individual was not named as a defendant. (Id. at 4). Washington and Gilmore were alleged to be the mother and brother, respectively, of Landry. (Id. at 1-2).

         The original Complaint alleged that Landry was incarcerated at LCIW beginning on June 16, 2015 and, on May 30, 2016, while she was still incarcerated, she suffered a stroke and informed authorities of her serious medical condition and need for immediate treatment. (Id. at 4- 5). It was alleged that, while she was initially brought to the prison infirmary, she was thereafter “ignored and abandoned” until she was released from incarceration on June 6, 2016. (Id. at 5-6).

         It was further alleged that Rogers was aware of Landry's stroke and “made a cognitive decision not to engage a proper resolution for this inmate.” (Id. at 8). Similar allegations were made against the Medical Unit Director and a nurse care practitioner at LCIW, although these individuals were not named as defendants. (Id. at 9). Plaintiffs charged that this conduct violated 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986 “as well as the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.” (Id.). Plaintiffs also alleged liability under “Louisiana Civil Code Articles 2315 and 2316 through the commission of negligence, assault, and the negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.” (Id.). Specific violations of these statutes were enumerated in paragraphs 41 and 42 of the Complaint. (Id. at 9-11).

         On June 12, 2017, LCIW filed a Motion to Dismiss based on LCIW's sovereign immunity. (Doc. 9; see also Doc. 21). While Plaintiffs purported to oppose the motion, Plaintiffs acknowledged that LCIW was entitled to sovereign immunity but asked the Court to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over “pendent [sic] state law claims.” (Doc. 15 at 1). In a later filing, Plaintiffs “apologize[d] with sincere respect that [LCIW] was not omitted” as a defendant and “agree[d] to the Dismissal without Prejudice of LCIW.” (Doc. 29 at 3-4).

         On January 8, 2018, the Court granted LCIW's motion and dismissed Plaintiffs' claims against LCIW without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction. (Doc. 30 at 3). The Court added, “[b]ecause the Motion does not request the dismissal of claims against any defendants other than LCIW, none of Plaintiffs' other claims, whether asserted under federal or state law, are dismissed at this time.” (Id.).

         On July 10, 2017, while the initial Motion to Dismiss was under consideration, Plaintiffs filed their First Amended Complaint, in which the following were expressly added as defendants: Boutte (warden or interim warden of LCIW), “Medical Unit Director Doe” (unit head of medical division at LCIW), “Prejean Doe” (physician at LCIW), “Ross Doe” (nurse care practitioner)[1]and ABC Insurance Company. (Doc. 19 at 2-3). All natural persons were named in both their individual and official capacities. (Id.). Defendant Rogers also remained a defendant in both his individual and official capacities. (Id. at 2). Plaintiffs' substantive factual allegations and allegations of fault are similar and, in some instances, identical to those in the original complaint.[2]

         In the Motion to Dismiss now before the Court, Defendants make essentially two arguments: first, all claims against Rogers, Boutte, Prejean, and Ross in their official capacity should be dismissed based on sovereign immunity, (Doc. 32-1 at 6), and second, all of Plaintiffs' claims have prescribed, (id. at 10-11). As to the first contention, Defendants argue that, when a person is sued in his official capacity, such person enjoys the same immunity as the entity for which he is acting and all official capacity claims in this case should therefore be dismissed as effectively against the State of Louisiana. (Doc. 32-1 at 6). As to the second contention, Defendants argue that, although the original Complaint was filed timely, because this Court is not a court of competent jurisdiction, the filing of the complaint did not interrupt the prescriptive period and, in such circumstances, only service on the defendant can do so. (Doc. 32-1 at 10-11 (citing La. Civ. Code art. 3462)).

         ANALYSIS

         Plaintiffs offer little meaningful opposition to or argument concerning Defendants' sovereign immunity argument. The Court finds that the argument is well founded and the official-capacity claims are dismissed without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction. “A suit against a state official in his official capacity is treated as a suit against the state.” Lesley v. Cain, 2015 WL 1310556 at *2 (M.D. La. Feb. 3, 2015) (citing Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25 (1991)); see also Turner v. Houma Mun. Fire and Police Civil Serv. Bd., 229 F.3d 478, 483 (5th Cir. 2000) (official-capacity suits “‘generally represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.'” (quoting Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985))). As this Court discussed in connection with the first Motion to Dismiss, with exceptions not present in this case, states and their agencies enjoy sovereign immunity barring suit against them in federal court. (See Doc. 30 at 2); see also Raj v. Louisiana State Univ., 714 F.3d 322, 329 (5th Cir. 2013) (sovereign immunity bars federal courts from hearing state law claims brought in federal court against state entities).

         However, Defendants' arguments based on prescription are without merit. Because there is no federal statute of limitations for actions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, federal courts borrow the forum state's general personal injury limitations period. Hamilton v. City of Baton Rouge, 2018 WL 1354461, at *3 (M.D. La. Feb. 28, 2018) (citing, inter alia, Harris v. Hegmann, 198 F.3d 153, 156 (5th Cir. 1999)). The Louisiana prescriptive period is one year. White v. Gousman, 347 Fed.Appx. 66, 67 (5th Cir. 2009) (citing La. Civ. Code art. 3492); Dugas v. City of Ville Platte, 2017 WL 6521660, at *5 (W.D. La. Nov. 11, 2017).

         The tolling rules for a § 1983 action are also governed by state law. White, 347 Fed.Appx. at 68 (citing Hardin v. Straub, 490 U.S. 536, 542 (1989)) (“State tolling law is applicable in a § 1983 action so long as it is not inconsistent with federal law or policy.”). Louisiana law provides that prescription is interrupted against a defendant by the filing of suit against that defendant if the suit is filed in a court of competent jurisdiction and venue. La. Civ. Code art. 3462. If the court in which the suit is filed is not one of competent jurisdiction, prescription is interrupted by service of the suit on the defendant. Id. A “court of competent jurisdiction” is ...


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