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Florence v. Benrostrol

United States District Court, S.D. California

July 12, 2019

DAVID FLORENCE, CDCR #H-42260, Plaintiff,
v.
A. BENROSTROL, et al. Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR FAILING TO STATE A CLAIM PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915(E)(2) AND § 1915A(B)

          HON. CATHY ANN BENCIVENGO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Procedural History

         On March 6, 2019, Plaintiff, David Florence, an inmate currently incarcerated at North Kern State Prison (“NKSP”) located in Delano, California filed a civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (ECF No. 1). In addition, Plaintiff filed a certified copy of his inmate trust account statement which the Court liberally construed as a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (“IFP”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) (ECF No. 2).

         On April 22, 2019, the Court GRANTED Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed IFP and sua sponte DISMISSED his entire Complaint for failing to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) & § 1915A. (ECF No. 3.) In addition, the Court found that Plaintiff's Complaint, which was nearly one hundred and fifty (15) pages and named forty-five (45) defendants violated Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Id. at 4-5.) Plaintiff was granted leave to file an amended pleading in order to correct the deficiencies of pleading identified in the Court's Order. (Id. at 9.) On June 18, 2019, Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). (ECF No. 5.)

         II. Sua Sponte Screening per 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) & § 1915A

         As the Court previously informed Plaintiff, because he is a prisoner and is proceeding IFP, his FAC requires a pre-Answer screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A(b). Under these statutes, the Court must sua sponte dismiss a prisoner's IFP complaint, or any portion of it, which is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks damages from defendants who are immune. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)); Rhodes v. Robinson, 621 F.3d 1002, 1004 (9th Cir. 2010) (discussing 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)). “The purpose of [screening] is ‘to ensure that the targets of frivolous or malicious suits need not bear the expense of responding.'” Nordstrom v. Ryan, 762 F.3d 903, 920 n.1 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Wheeler v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., 689 F.3d 680, 681 (7th Cir. 2012)).

         “The standard for determining whether a plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the same as the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) standard for failure to state a claim.” Watison v. Carter, 668 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012); see also Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121 (9th Cir. 2012) (noting that screening pursuant to § 1915A “incorporates the familiar standard applied in the context of failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)”). Rule 12(b)(6) requires a complaint to “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted); Wilhelm, 680 F.3d at 1121.

         A. 42 U.S.C. § 1983

         Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides a cause of action for the “deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws” of the United States. Wyatt v. Cole, 504 U.S. 158, 161 (1992). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Long v. Cty. of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006).

         B. Statute of Limitations

         All of the claims contained in Plaintiff's FAC, like his original Complaint, are allegations of constitutional violations arising from the time he was housed at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (“RJD”) in 2013 and 2014. (See FAC at 1, 3-24.) As the Court previously informed Plaintiff, “[a] claim may be dismissed [for failing to state a claim] on the ground that it is barred by the applicable statute of limitations only when ‘the running of the statute is apparent on the face of the complaint.'” (ECF No. 3 at 5 citing Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena, 592 F.3d 954, 969 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Huynh v. Chase Manhattan Bank, 465 F.3d 992, 997 (9th Cir. 2006)). “‘A complaint cannot be dismissed unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts that would establish the timeliness of the claim.'” Id. (quoting Supermail Cargo, Inc. v. U.S., 68 F.3d 1204, 1206 (9th Cir. 1995)); see also Cervantes v. City of San Diego, 5 F.3d 1273, 1276-77 (9th Cir. 1993) (where the running of the statute of limitations is apparent on the face of a complaint, dismissal for failure to state a claim is proper, so long as Plaintiff is provided an opportunity to amend in order to allege facts which, if proved, might support tolling); see also Tahoe-Sierra Pres. Council, Inc. v. Tahoe Reg'l Planning Agency, 216 F.3d 764, 788 (9th Cir. 2000) (court may raise the defense of statute of limitations sua sponte), overruled on other grounds by Gonzalez v. Arizona, 677 F.3d 383, 389 (9th Cir. 2011) (en banc); Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1163 (11th Cir. 2003) (upholding sua sponte dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) of prisoner's time-barred complaint).

         Because section 1983 contains no specific statute of limitation, federal courts apply the forum state's statute of limitations for personal injury actions. 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 was one year. Jones, 393 F.3d at 927. Effective January 1, 2003, the limitations period was extended to two. Id. (citing Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 335.1). The law of the forum state also governs tolling. Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 394 (2007) (citing Hardin v. Straub, 490 U.S. 536, 538-39 (1989)); Jones, 393 F.3d at 927 (noting that in actions where the federal court borrows the state statute of limitation, the federal court also borrows all applicable provisions for tolling the limitations period found in state law).

         Under California law, the statute of limitations for prisoners serving less than a life sentence is tolled for two years. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 352.1(a)[1]; Johnson v. California, 207 F.3d 650, 654 (9th Cir. 2000), overruled on other grounds, 543 U.S. 499 (2005). Accordingly, the effective statute of limitations for most California prisoners is three years for claims accruing before January 1, 2003 (one year limitations period plus two year statutory tolling), and four years for claims accruing thereafter (two year limitations period plus two years statutory tolling). In addition, the limitations period for prisoners is tolled while the “prisoner completes the mandatory exhaustion process.” Brown v. Valoff, 422 F.3d 926, 943 (9th Cir. 2005).

         Unlike the length of the limitations period, however, “the accrual date of a § 1983 cause of action is a question of federal law that is not resolved by reference to state law.” Wallace, 549 U.S. at 388; Hardin, 490 U.S. at 543-44 (federal law governs when a § 1983 cause of action accrues). “Under the traditional rule of accrual ... the tort cause of action accrues, and the statute of limitation begins to run, when the wrongful act or omission results in damages.” Wallace, 549 U.S. at 391. Put another way, “[u]nder federal law, a claim accrues when the plaintiff ...


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