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Walker v. U.S. Department of Justice

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

June 12, 2018

KENNEDY WALKER, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          KAREN K. CALDWELL, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Kennedy Walker is a prisoner who was previously confined at the United States Penitentiary (USP) - McCreary in Pine Knot, Kentucky, and is now incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Jesup, Georgia. Proceeding without a lawyer, Walker filed a civil rights complaint with this Court in which he asserts multiple claims against several different defendants. [R. 1]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will dismiss most of Walker's claims but will allow his Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) claims against the United States to proceed.

         I.

         In November 2017, Walker sent a letter to the Court along with several attachments, including correspondence referencing a potential tort claim that he may have against the United States. See Walker v. FMC - Lexington, No. 5:17-cv-465-JMH at R. 1 (E.D. Ky. 2017). While the Court docketed Walker's submission as a civil action for administrative purposes, it determined that his brief filings were insufficient to invoke the Court's jurisdiction. See Id. at R. 4. That is because Walker simply asked for legal advice regarding the deadline for filing a lawsuit; he did not clearly name a defendant, assert factual allegations, or request a specific form of relief. Ultimately, the Court declined Walker's request for guidance regarding the statute of limitations and dismissed the matter without prejudice, though it noted that Walker could still file a formal civil rights complaint with the Court. See id.at R. 4.

         A few weeks later, Walker did file his first formal civil rights complaint. See Walker v. U.S. Dept. of Justice, No. 6:17-cv-347-GFVT at R. 1 (E.D. Ky. 2017). The Court, however, determined that Walker's complaint did not comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Id. at R. 7. As an initial matter, the Court noted that Walker's complaint violated Rule 8 because it did not contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief” and failed to include allegations that were “simple, concise, and direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), (d)(1). After all, Walker's complaint spanned dozens of hard-to-follow pages, including nearly 100 paragraphs of factual allegations and almost 400 pages of attachments. Walker also appeared to list somewhere between 23 and 28 different defendants, who he labeled as defendants A through Z, A-1, and A-2, and he suggested that each of those defendants ran afoul of various sources of law, including but not limited to multiple constitutional provisions.

         The Court also indicated that Walker's complaint appeared to violate Rule 20's limits on permissive joinder of parties. That rule only allows a plaintiff to join one claim against one defendant and a different claim against a different defendant in one lawsuit if both claims arise out of the same occurrence or series of occurrences. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2)(A). As best as the Court could tell, Walker was alleging several different constitutional and statutory claims against several different defendants. To be sure, some of Walker's claims related to an allegation that he was injured in November 2014, while prison officials transported him in a van to or from a medical facility. However, some of Walker's other claims appeared to relate to a separate incident in December 2014, when he allegedly fell out of bed, and still other claims related to an incident in November 2015, when he allegedly fell in the shower. Walker then asserted even more claims against officials and medical care providers at two different federal prisons-USP McCreary and FCI Jesup. In short, the Court determined that Walker was attempting to bring all of his grievances, against many different parties, in one case, which is not permitted by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         In light of the foregoing problems, the Court did not assess a filing fee and, instead, dismissed Walker's first formal complaint without prejudice. That said, the Court informed Walker that he could complete and file a second formal complaint, and it sent him the proper forms to do so. The Court, however, noted that Walker could not assert numerous, distinct claims against dozens of different defendants in one lawsuit; rather, the Court informed Walker that he must file a proper, streamlined complaint that complied with the rules set forth in the Court's order. See Walker, No. 6:17-cv-347-GFVT at R. 7.

         Walker has now filed his second formal civil rights complaint, see R. 1, and this matter is before the Court on initial screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A. Walker's complaint is now limited to events that allegedly occurred while he was incarcerated here in the Eastern District of Kentucky at USP McCreary and before he was transferred in late 2015 to the FCI in Jesup, Georgia. See R. 1 at 2-4; see also R. 1-4 at 161 (indicating that the Bureau of Prisons transferred Walker to FCI Jesup in December 2015).

         Walker alleges that, in November 2014, prison officials transported him in a van from a medical appointment back to USP McCreary. See R. 1 at 24. However, Walker claims that the officials did not properly secure his wheelchair, and when the van driver accelerated aggressively, Walker “flew backwards, hitting the back of his head very hard on the steel wheelchair lift attached to the back doors of the van.” Id. at 25. Walker claims that he was seriously injured as a result of this incident. See, e.g., Id. at 25, 29-30. Walker also alleges that multiple officials at USP McCreary subsequently provided him with legally inadequate medical care. See, e.g., Id. at 33.

         Based on these allegations, Walker primarily puts forth federal constitutional claims pursuant to the doctrine announced in Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), [1] as well as state law negligence claims. Walker brings those claims against nine different officials at USP McCreary, including Officer McCoy, Officer G. Wilson, Officer Dinkins, Officer John Doe, Lieutenant Leroy Chaney, Warden J.C. Holland, Health Services Administrator Rhonda Jones, Captain John Doe, and Unit Manager Pamela Poston. See R. 1 at 1-2, 9-23 (listing the defendants and discussing the claims against each one). Walker repeatedly alleges that these officials ran afoul of his rights under the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. See, e.g., Id. at 10-23. Walker also repeatedly claims that these officials were negligent (or grossly negligent), in violation of state law. See, e.g., Id. at 10-23, 50. Finally, Walker repeatedly asserts claims against the federal government pursuant to the FTCA. See, e.g., R. 1 at 1, 4, 26.

         II.

         Walker's federal constitutional and state law negligence claims against the nine named officials at USP McCreary are plainly barred by the statute of limitations. That is because, in Bivens actions, federal courts “apply the most analogous statute of limitations from the state where the events giving rise to the claims occurred.” Baker v. Mukasey, 287 Fed.Appx. 422, 424 (6th Cir. 2008). Walker's claims arose in Kentucky and, therefore, Kentucky's one-year statute of limitations for asserting personal injury claims applies to both his federal constitutional claims and his state law negligence claims. See id.; see also Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 413.140(1)(a); Hornback v. Lexington-Fayette Urban Co. Gov't., 543 Fed.Appx. 499, 501 (6th Cir. 2013); Mitchell v. Chapman, 343 F.3d 811, 825 (6th Cir. 2003).

         Those federal constitutional and state law negligence claims are plainly barred by that one-year statute of limitations. After all, the Bureau of Prisons transferred Walker out of USP McCreary in December 2015 and, thus, his various claims against the USP McCreary officials clearly began accruing by no later than that point in time. However, Walker did not file even his first submission with this Court until nearly two years later, in November 2017. See Walker v. FMC - Lexington, No. 5:17-cv-465-JMH at R. 1 (E.D. Ky. 2017).

         To be sure, Walker did spend some time exhausting his administrative remedies with respect to these federal constitutional and state law negligence claims, and the statute of limitations period would have been tolled while he did so. See Brown v. Morgan, 209 F.3d 595, 596 (6th Cir. 2000). But the documents that Walker attaches to his complaint show that he finished the exhaustion process by no later than October 2016, when he received a final response from the BOP's Central Office. See R. 1-1 at 12; see also R. 1 at 4, 51 (where Walker indicates he fully exhausted his administrative remedies much earlier, in 2015); R. 1-1 at 1-12 and R. 1-2 at 1-20 (other exhaustion documents that predate the October 2016 correspondence from the BOP's Central Office). And, still, Walker did not file even his first submission with this Court until more than one year later, in November 2017. See Walker, No. 5:17-cv-465-JMH at R. 1. Thus, even under the most generous construction of the facts, Walker's federal constitutional and state law negligence claims against the nine USP McCreary officials are untimely, and the Court will dismiss those claims for failure to state a claim. See Jones v. ...


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