United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
have filed two motions. The first seeks dismissal of
Plaintiffs' case for failure to state a claim. Rec. Doc.
11. The second seeks, in the alternative, to transfer the
above-captioned matter to the United States District Court
for the Middle District of Louisiana. Rec. Doc. 12. After the
motions were submitted, Plaintiffs filed two opposition
memoranda, which will be considered in the interest of
justice. Rec. Docs. 17, 18.
reasons discussed below, and in further consideration of
findings made during hearing with oral argument, IT
IS ORDERED that the motion to dismiss (Rec. Doc. 11)
is GRANTED, dismissing Plaintiffs'
claims against Defendants;
IS FURTHER ORDERED that the motion to transfer venue
(Rec. Doc. 12) is DISMISSED AS MOOT.
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Crockett was an inmate at the Louisiana Correctional
Institute for Women from 1979 until 1983. See Rec.
Doc. 1-1 at 2. In May 1983, Vallory Crockett allegedly
escaped from custody and was never apprehended. See
Id. Because authorities did not mount a rigorous search
for Vallory Crockett and returned her belongings to her
family the day after she purportedly escaped, Plaintiffs
claim that she actually died in custody. See Id. On
October 16, 2015, a Louisiana state court entered an order
declaring Vallory Crockett legally deceased. See Id.
Crockett, daughter of decedent Vallory Crockett, filed a
wrongful death action in Louisiana state court on October 14,
2016. See Id. at 1-8. Lucy Crocket subsequently
passed away; her daughter, Monica Crockett, and
grandchildren, Tasha Miller and William Miller, Jr., were
substituted as Plaintiffs. See Id. at 43-46. On June
8, 2017, Plaintiffs amended their petition to incorporate
claims arising under federal law. See Id. at 32.
Defendants removed the case to federal court and now seek to
dismiss the case for failure to state a claim or, in the
alternative, to transfer the case to the United States
District Court for the Middle District of
Louisiana. See Rec. Docs. 11, 12.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), “[a] claim
will not be dismissed unless the plaintiff[s] cannot prove
any set of facts in support of [their] claim that would
entitle [them] to relief.” Alexander v. Verizon
Wireless Servs., LLC, 875 F.3d 243, 249 (5th Cir. 2017).
When analyzing a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), courts
“take all factual allegations as true and construe the
facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff[s].”
Id. “[D]ismissal under [R]ule 12(b)(6) may be
appropriate based on a successful affirmative defense
[when] that defense . . . appear[s] on the face of the
complaint.” Id. Failure to comply with the
applicable statute of limitations is an affirmative defense
that can merit dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6). See Kansa
Reinsurance Co. v. Cong. Mortg. Corp. of Tex., 20 F.3d
1362, 1366-71 (5th Cir. 1994); Songbyrd, Inc. v.
Bearsville Records, Inc., 104 F.3d 773, 775 n.3 (5th
claims are subject to a one year statute of limitations that
began to run no later than 1993. Plaintiffs' pleadings
mention various provisions of state law, but the only state
law claim actually alleged is for the wrongful death of
Vallory Crockett. See Rec. Doc. 1-1 at 1
(explaining that Plaintiffs are Vallory Crockett's
“wrongful death beneficiar[ies]”); id.
at 3 (alleging that Defendants caused Vallory Crockett's
death); id. at 33 (same). Under Louisiana Law, a
wrongful death claim “prescribes one year from the
death of the deceased.” La. Civ. Code art. 2315.2.
federal claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985
borrow the one year prescriptive period from Plaintiffs'
wrongful death claim. See Heath v. Bd. of
Supervisors, 850 F.3d 731, 739-40 (5th Cir. 2017)
(“The statute of limitations for section 1983 is
supplied by state law, so Louisiana's one year
prescriptive period applies.”); Burge v. Par. of
St. Tammany, 996 F.2d 786, 787-88 (5th Cir. 1993)
(applying Louisiana's one year prescriptive period to
plaintiff's claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1985).
Plaintiff's claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1986 is also
subject to a one year prescriptive period because “no
action under [42 U.S.C. § 1986] shall be sustained which
is not commenced within one year after the cause of action
has accrued.” 42 U.S.C. § 1986. In Louisiana, a
wrongful death claim accrues when the decedent passes away.
See Anderson v. Avondale Indus., Inc., 2000-2799,
pp. 3-5 (La. 10/16/01); 798 So.2d 93, 97-98. Therefore,
Plaintiffs were required to bring their claims within one
year of Vallory Crockett's death.
result, the critical question is, when did Vallory Crockett
die? Plaintiffs assert that Vallory Crockett disappeared in
May 1983 and has never been heard from again. See
Rec. Doc. 1-1 at 2. Vallory Crocket was declared legally
deceased on October 16, 2015, but the Louisiana state court
did not determine a date of death. See Id. at 15.
Under current Louisiana law, “[o]ne who has been an
absent person for five years is presumed to be dead.”
La. Civ. Code art. 54. From 1978 to 1990, the presumption of
death only arose after ten years of absence. See Ledet v.
La. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 465 So.2d
98, 100 (La. Ct. App. 1985). Therefore, the presumption that
Vallory Crockett was deceased arose no later than 1993, which
would therefore be Vallory Crockett's date of
death. See In re Boyd, 723 So.2d 1107,
1110 (La.App. 1 Cir. 12/28/98)(holding that decedent's
“legal death occurred five years” after her
disappearance, when the presumption of death arose per
Louisiana Civil Code article 54). Plaintiffs did not file
suit until October 14, 2016. See Rec. Doc. 1-1 at
1-8. Because Plaintiffs filed suit more than one year after
Vallory Crockett's death, Plaintiffs' claims are
prescribed on their face.
complaint on its face indicates that the prescriptive period
has elapsed, it is the plaintiff's burden to show that
his claims are not prescribed. See Glasgow v. PAR
Minerals Corp., 2010-2011, p. 5 (La. 5/10/11); 70 So.3d
765, 768. In their opposition memorandum, Plaintiffs assert
that their claims are still viable under theories of
equitable estoppel, equitable tolling, and contra non
valentem. See Rec. Doc. 18 at 7-11. But
Plaintiffs' memorandum offers no analysis about why any
of these theories excuse Plaintiffs' failure to prosecute
their claims for over thirty years.
doctrines of equitable tolling and equitable estoppel remain
available to those plaintiffs who, through no fault of their
own, might otherwise be barred from bringing a claim by
operation of a statute of limitations.” Jones v.
Alcoa, Inc., 339 F.3d 359, 368 (5th Cir. 2003).
Similarly, “[c]ontra non valentem can be applied where
the cause of action is neither known nor reasonably knowable
by the plaintiffs even though the plaintiff's ignorance
is not induced by the defendant.” Watters v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 2077-1174, p. 17 (La.App. 4
Cir. 3/14/12); 102 So.3d 118, 131. But none of ...