United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER & REASONS
M. AFRICK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
25, 2018, pro se plaintiff Tracy Riley
(“Riley”) filed the above-captioned matter
against over 100 individuals and entities. On September 12,
2018, she filed an amended complaint, adding numerous
defendants to the case. On July 26, 2018, the United States
Magistrate Judge granted Riley's motion for leave to
proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915. Riley's amended complaint is unclear,
but it arguably asserts claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1983, 1985, and 1986, Article I §§ 2
and 3 of the Louisiana Constitution, and several additional
state law claims.Riley also seeks attorneys' fees
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988.
“shall dismiss” an in forma pauperis
case “at any time” if the court determines that
the action is frivolous or fails to state a claim on which
relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Consequently, a court may raise the defense of limitations
sua sponte in a lawsuit filed in forma
pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Harris v.
Hegmann, 198 F.3d 153, 156 (5th Cir. 1999) (citing
Gartrell v. Gaylor, 981 F.2d 254, 256 (5th Cir.
1993)); see also Fasola v. Immigration &
Naturalization Serv., No. 02-31161, 2003 WL 21016905, at
*1 (5th Cir. Apr. 11, 2003). “[W]here it is clear from
the face of a complaint filed in forma pauperis that
the claims asserted are barred by the applicable statute of
limitations, those claims are properly dismissed pursuant to
§ 1915(d).” Gartrell, 981 F.2d at 256.
December 27, 2018, the Court issued an order explaining that
plaintiff Tracy Riley's federal law and state tort law
claims appear to be barred by the applicable statutes of
limitations. Numerous defendants had raised the issue
in their motions to dismiss. Although Riley had responded to
several of the motions, the Court gave her additional time to
submit a memorandum of fact and law addressing whether her
federal law and state tort law claims against the defendants
are time-barred. On January 10, 2019, she filed her
memorandum. After reviewing the complaint, Riley's
memorandum, and the applicable law, the Court concludes that
Riley's federal law and state tort law claims are
asserts federal law claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983,
1985, and 1986. “Section 1983 provides a private cause
of action against those who, under color of law, deprive a
citizen of the United States of ‘any rights,
privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and
laws, '” Goodman v. Harris Cty., 571 F.3d
388, 394-95 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983),
and a § 1985 claim alleges a conspiracy to deprive a
person of equal protection of the laws. See 42
U.S.C. § 1985; see also Whitehurst v. Wright,
592 F.2d 834, 840 (5th Cir. 1979) (explaining that the
“essence” of a claim under either § 1983 or
§ 1985 is the deprivation of a person's
constitutional rights). Section 1986 “imposes liability
for neglect in preventing § 1985 violations.”
Doucet v. Wadja, No. 92-4058, 1993 WL 92527, at *4
(E.D. La. Mar. 22, 1993) (Feldman, J.). Accordingly, a
“§ 1986 [claim] requires the existence of a valid
claim under § 1985.” Bradt v. Smith, 634
F.2d 796, 799 n.3 (5th Cir. Unit A Jan. 1981). Riley also
asserts several Louisiana constitutional and tort law claims.
statute of limitations for Section 1983 claims is ‘the
forum state's personal-injury limitations period,'
which in Louisiana is one year.” Smith v. Reg'l
Transit Auth., 827 F.3d 412, 421 (5th Cir. 2016)
(quoting Jacobsen v. Osborne, 133 F.3d 315, 319 (5th
Cir. 1998)). “In applying the forum state's statute
of limitations, the federal court should also give effect to
any applicable tolling provisions.” Id.
(quoting Gartrell v. Gaylor, 981 F.2d 254, 257 (5th
Cir. 1993)). Courts apply the same standard for § 1985
claims. Helton, 832 F.2d at 334; Green v.
Grampre, 388 Fed.Appx. 437, 438 (5th Cir. 2010). Section
1986 explicitly provides for a one-year statute of
limitations. 42 U.S.C. § 1986 (“[N]o action under
the provisions of this section shall be sustained which is
not commenced within one year after the cause of action has
accrued.”). Accordingly, the limitations period for
Riley's federal law claims is one year.
federal law, a cause of action accrues when the plaintiff
knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis
of the action.” Gartrell, 981 F.2d at 257.
“As a result, the limitations period begins ‘when
the plaintiff is in possession of the ‘critical facts
that he has been hurt and who has inflicted the
injury.'” Smith, 827 F.3d at 421 (quoting
Gartrell, 981 F.2d at 257); see also Helton v.
Clements, 832 F.2d 332, 335 (“[A]ny cause of
action against the defendants accrued as soon as plaintiff
knew or should have known of the overt acts involved in the
determine when Riley's federal law claims accrued, the
critical inquiry is when Riley knew or had reason to know of
the injuries forming the basis of her amended complaint.
Knowledge in this context has two components: awareness of
the injuries and the connection between the injuries and the
defendants' actions. King-White v. Humble Indep. Sch.
Dist., 803 F.3d 754, 762 (5th Cir. 2015).
“‘[A]wareness' for accrual purposes does
not mean actual knowledge; rather, all that must be
shown is the existence of ‘circumstances [that] would
lead a reasonable person to investigate further.'”
Id. (quoting Piotrowski v. City of Houston,
237 F.3d 567, 576 (5th Cir. 2001)). Furthermore, Riley need
not have known that a legal cause of action exists for her
claims; she only needed to be aware of the facts that support
such claims. Id.
speaking, Riley alleges that dozens of individuals,
organizations, and government officials conspired to prevent
her from successfully running her business, the Rouge
House. In her opposition, Riley explains that
“evidence will show the conspiracies that ultimately
lead to the Plaintiff's business, The Rouge House
LLC['s] eviction from the business'[s] French Quarter
location.” She alleges that the eviction was the
result of “the denial of the essential revenue
generating Louisiana State Alcohol permit application,
” which “creat[ed] [Riley's] financial
inability to pay for the property . . . [, ] [t]hereby
achieving the Defendants' goal to shut [her] business
down and cause [her] to leave the neighborhood and
district.”This is the core of Riley's amended
specifically, Riley alleges that, in June 2013, she entered
into a lease agreement so that she could open the Rouge
House. Over the course of several months,
starting in July 2013, Riley alleges that she was wrongly
accused of violating local ordinances and the conditions of
certain permits and that, as a result of the accusations, she
was twice denied an alcohol permit. She also alleges that,
because of the false allegations made against her,
Riley's landlords refused to allow her to operate under
their alcohol permit. Riley contends that her inability to
obtain a permit, or to use her landlords' permit,
“interfered with her business activities” in such
a way that she was “unable to pay
rent.” According to Riley, “an alcohol
permit is an important factor for a successful business
operation” in her industry.
allegations of obstructionist conduct and unsubstantiated
accusations extend into August 2013, during which time she
alleges that organizations in the French Quarter launched a
racially discriminatory campaign to prevent her from
obtaining an alcohol permit and operating the Rouge
House. Many of the allegations target the
Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (the
“ATC”) and its handling of her permit
applications. According to Riley, the ATC made an
effort to “catch” her purported wrongdoings-which
she alleges were manufactured.
hearing held to afford Riley an opportunity to provide
additional information in support of her applications, ATC
agents and their associates allegedly yelled at Riley,
directed accusations at her, and accused her of having a
behavior disorder. The amended complaint also alleges that
the ATC conducted numerous inspections of the Rouge House,
“for no cause, ” and issued Riley several
unwarranted citations. Riley's allegations span several
years. Most of the facts comprising the allegations took
place in mid to late-2013 and early 2014. However, the latest
date in the amended complaint that relates to her federal law
claims is January 14, 2014- the date on which Riley received
notice of the ATC's denial of her application for an
alcohol permit, and four years prior to Riley filing the
present lawsuit. In fact, Riley also alleges that she was
ultimately evicted from the building in which she was
operating the Rouge House in January 2014.
has not argued that she only learned about the facts
underlying her claims years after they happened, and nothing
in the amended complaint suggests that it was not until after
January 2014 that Riley become aware that her rights under
federal law were allegedly being violated. Furthermore,
nothing in the amended complaint indicates that Riley did not
understand the connection between the harm she allegedly
suffered and the defendants' alleged conduct. Riley
either knew or should have known of the injuries that form
the basis of her federal law claims by no later than January
2014, and her federal law claims are time-barred by more than
memorandum, Riley argues that “[t]he Defendants'
actions and publications against [her] consecutively occurred
during the years 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and
2018.” According to Riley, “[a]n inquiry
into whether an alleged series of incidents constitutes a
‘continuing violation' and thus exempts [her]
claims from the normal time limitations” is a
fact-specific inquiry. The Court liberally construes
Riley's argument to assert the continuing tort theory.
continuing tort doctrine acts as an exception to the one-year
prescriptive period under Louisiana law. “For the
purpose of determining when prescription starts to run,
Louisiana distinguishes between injuries resulting from
continuous operating causes and those that result from
discontinuous operating causes.” Young v.
United States, 727 F.3d 444, 448 (5th Cir.
When the operating cause of the injury is continuous, giving
rise to successive damages, prescription begins to run from
the day the damage was completed and the owner acquired, or
should have acquired, knowledge of the damage. . . . When the
operating cause of the injury is discontinuous, there is a
multiplicity of causes of action and of corresponding
Hogg v. Chevron USA, Inc., No. 09-2632, p. 16 (La.
7/6/10); 45 So.3d 991, 1003 (citation omitted). When the face
of the complaint establishes that a plaintiff's claims
have prescribed, and she attempts to avail herself of the
continuing tort theory, the plaintiff bears the burden of
establishing its applicability. In re Med. Review
Panel for Maria Moses, 00-2643, p. 6 (La.
5/21/01); 788 So.2d 1173, 1177.
offers several facts in support of this argument, none of
which are availing. First, she notes that the defendants'
“defamatory statements have been published and
republished each year through 2017.” Disputing one
defendant's contention that the bulk of the alleged
conduct underlying her claims occurred in 2013, she argues
that “the harm [she] suffers is rooted in the
Defendants' defaming characterization of Plaintiff and
her business.” However, although ...