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Penman v. Correct Care Solutions

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah

November 26, 2018

ALICE PENMAN, PLAINTIFF
v.
CORRECT CARE SOLUTIONS, et al., DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS B. RUSSELL, SENIOR JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant Robert Harris. (R. 47). Plaintiff Ms. Alice Penman has responded (R. 50), and this matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (R. 47).

         BACKGROUND

         On April 23, 2018 Ms. Penman filed a Complaint against multiple defendants, including Robert Harris, for events alleged to have taken place on April 25, 2017 inside Kentucky State Penitentiary, which resulted in Inmate Marcus Penman's death. Harris is an officer at Kentucky State Penitentiary. In her initial Complaint, Ms. Penman brought claims against Harris for failure to intervene under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, negligence under Kentucky common law, and intentional infliction of emotional distress under Kentucky common law. The Complaint failed to expressly state that Harris was sued in his individual capacity.

         On July 26, 2018 Harris filed a motion to dismiss Ms. Penman's claims against him pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Harris argued that because the Complaint did not expressly state he was being sued in his individual capacity, he received no notice that Ms. Penman intended to hold him personally liable. On August 15, 2018, instead of responding to Harris's motion to dismiss, Ms. Penman filed her Amended Complaint. In it, she expressly states that she is suing Harris in his individual capacity. The Amended Complaint also adds Harris to a deliberate indifference claim already pending against other defendants.

         Harris now moves to dismiss the Amended Complaint. He again argues that Ms. Penman's original Complaint only brought claims against him in his official capacity because it failed to expressly state otherwise. Thus, according to Harris, the individual capacity claims brought against him in the Amended Complaint are new claims and fall outside the applicable statute of limitations. Relying heavily on Lovelace v. O'hara, 985 F.2d 847, 850 (6th Cir. 1993), Harris argues further that the new individual capacity claims do not relate back to the original Complaint. Ms. Penman responds arguing that her initial Complaint provided Harris with sufficient notice that he was being sued in his individual capacity, and that in any event, the individual capacity claims brought by the Amended Complaint relate back to the original pursuant to Rule 15(c)(1)(B) and 15(c)(1)(C).

         STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a plaintiff's complaint include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” “Rule 12(b)(6) provides that a complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Bloch v. Ribar, 156 F.3d 673, 677 (6th Cir. 1998). Importantly, “[w]hen considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the district court must accept all of the allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the complaint liberally in favor of the plaintiff.” Lawrence v. Chancery Court of Tennessee, 188 F.3d 687, 691 (6th Cir. 1999). Thus, “unless it can be established beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief, ” the motion should be denied. Achterhof v. Selvaggio, 886 F.2d 826, 831 (6th Cir. 1989). “However, the Court need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences.” Blakely v. United States, 276 F.3d 853, 863 (6th Cir. 2002). A “complaint must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory.” Andrews v. Ohio, 104 F.3d 803, 806 (6th Cir. 1997).

         Even though a “complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). This means that the plaintiff's “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. The concept of “plausibility” denotes that a complaint should contain sufficient facts “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. The element of plausibility is met “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). But where the court is unable to “infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but has not show[n]-that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. at 1950 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Although generally a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), which considers only the allegations in the complaint, is an “inappropriate vehicle for dismissing a claim based upon the statute of limitations, ” when “the allegations in the complaint affirmatively show that the claim is time-barred, ” “dismissing the claim under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate.” Cataldo v. U.S. Steel Corp., 676 F.3d 542, 547 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215, 127 S.Ct. 910, 166 L.Ed.2d 798 (2007)).

         DISCUSSION

         It is undisputed that the applicable statute of limitations is one year[1], and that Ms. Penman's Amended Complaint was filed past that time. Thus, Harris's Motion to Dismiss raises only two issues: First, did Ms. Penman's initial Complaint provide Harris with sufficient notice that he was being sued in his individual capacity? Second, do the individual capacity claims relate back to the original Complaint? Starting with whether the initial Complaint provided Harris with sufficient notice that he was being sued in his individual capacity, the Court will address each issue respectively.

         A. The Original Complaint Provided Harris with Sufficient Notice that was Being Sued in His Individual Capacity.

         Relying on Wells v. Brown,891 F.2d 591, 593 (6th Cir. 1989), Harris argues that Ms. Penman's original complaint only brought claims against him in his official capacity because it failed to expressly state that he was being sued in his individual capacity. However, the Sixth Circuit has “relaxed the holding set forth previously in ...


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