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Gipbsin v. Kernan

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 30, 2015

SCOTT KERNAN et al., Defendants.


DALE A. DROZD, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a civil rights action seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the court on defendants' motions to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff has filed an opposition to the motions, and defendants have filed a reply.


Plaintiff is proceeding on a second amended complaint. Therein, he alleges that the defendants failed to transfer him to mental health facility in a timely fashion pursuant to a Lassen County Superior Court order. According to the allegations of plaintiff's complaint and the exhibits attached thereto, a judge of the Lassen County Superior Court determined that plaintiff was not mentally competent to stand trial and ordered him committed to Atascadero State Hospital in 2007. Instead of transferring plaintiff to Atascadero State Hospital, however, defendants allegedly kept plaintiff in administrative segregation at High Desert State Prison and then transferred him to Corcoran State Prison. Plaintiff alleges that more than two years passed before prison officials eventually complied with the Lassen County Superior Court order and transferred him to the Salinas Valley Psychiatric Program in 2009. (Sec. Am. Compl. at 1-9 & Attachs.)


Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint as barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Specifically, defense counsel contends that plaintiff's cause of action accrued no later than March 1, 2007, requiring him to file this case by March 1, 2011, but plaintiff did not file his complaint until a year after the limitations period expired on March 1, 2012. (Defs.' Mem. of P. & A. 2-7.)

For the reasons discussed below, the court finds defendants' argument unpersuasive and will recommend that defendants' motions to dismiss be denied.

I. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the sufficiency of the complaint. North Star Int'l v. Arizona Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 581 (9th Cir. 1983). Dismissal of the complaint, or any claim within it, "can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). See also Robertson v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 749 F.2d 530, 534 (9th Cir. 1984). In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;" it must contain factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

In determining whether a pleading states a claim, the court accepts as true all material allegations in the complaint and construes those allegations, as well as the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trustees of Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976); Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). In the context of a motion to dismiss, the court also resolves doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). However, the court need not accept as true conclusory allegations, unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. W. Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981).

In general, pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). The court has an obligation to construe such pleadings liberally. Bretz v. Kelman, 773 F.2d 1026, 1027 n.1 (9th Cir. 1985) (en banc). However, the court's liberal interpretation of a pro se complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not pled. Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982); see also Pena v. Gardner, 976 F.2d 469, 471 (9th Cir. 1992).

The court may grant a motion to dismiss based on the statute of limitations "only if the assertions in the complaint, read with the required liberality, would not permit the plaintiff to prove that the statute was tolled." Pisciotta v. Teledyne Industries, 91 F.3d 1326, 1331 (9th Cir. 1996). See also Soliman v. Phillip Morris, Inc., 311 F.3d 966, 971 (9th Cir. 2002); Jablon v. Dean Witter & Co., 614 F.2d 677, 682 (9th Cir. 1980) ("If the running of the statute [of limitations] is apparent on the face of the complaint the defense may be raised by a motion to dismiss.").

II. Discussion

Section 1983 does not contain a specific statute of limitations. Accordingly, federal courts apply the forum state's statute of limitations for personal injury actions. See Jones v. Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 927 (9th Cir. 2004); Maldonado v. Harris, 370 F.3d 945, 954 (9th Cir. 2004); Fink v. Shedler, 192 F.3d 911, 914 (9th Cir. 1999). Before 2003, California's statute of limitations for personal injury actions was one year. See Jones, 393 F.3d at 927. Effective January 1, 2003, however, in California that limitations became two years. See id.; Cal. Civ. P. Code § 335.1. Federal courts also apply the forum state's laws with respect to tolling of the statute of limitations insofar as state law is not inconsistent with federal law. Jones, 393 ...

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