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Harmon v. Jordan

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

August 15, 2013



MICHAEL J. REAGAN, District Judge.

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff Rickey Harmon brought this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights that allegedly occurred at Illinois' Pickneyville Correctional Center. Plaintiff sued on January 9, 2012, alleging that the Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights by acting with deliberate indifference to serious medical needs he suffered coming off a hunger strike. Two motions are before the Court: a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 46) filed by Defendants Farris, Gale, Joyce, and Melvin, and a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 49). Both motions are premised on the assertion that this suit is barred by the statute of limitations.


1. Motion to Dismiss; Motion for Summary Judgment

Though the instant motions are brought via separate procedural standards, the underlying inquiry is the same: whether the Defendants can show there are no material issues of fact to be resolved.

In moving to dismiss, Defendants Farris, Gale, Joyce and Melvin fail to invoke any provision of law or Rule of Civil Procedure. While complaints are not required to anticipate affirmative defenses, a statute of limitations defense may be raised in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss if the allegations of the complaint set forth everything needed to satisfy the affirmative defense. Indep. Trust Corp. v. Stewart Info. Servs. Corp. , 665 F.3d 930, 935 (7th Cir. 2012); Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 579 (7th Cir. 2009). Technically the motion is properly a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings, but there is no practical difference. Brooks , 578 F.3d at 579. The standards for 12(b)(6) motions and 12(c) motions are identical. Hayes v. City of Chi. , 670 F.3d 810, 813 (7th Cir. 2012).

A written instrument attached to a pleading to help assert a plaintiff's claim (for example, the affidavits and grievances Plaintiff attaches to his Complaint) become part of that pleading for all purposes. FED. R. CIV. P. 10(c); Williamson v. Curran , 714 F.3d 432, 435-36 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing N. Indiana Gun & Outdoor Shows, Inc. v. City of South Bend , 163 F.3d 449, 452-53 (7th Cir. 1998)). At the pleading stage, a court must take the factual allegations of a plaintiff's complaint as true, granting the plaintiff the benefit of every reasonable inference that may be drawn from those allegations. Williamson , 714 F.3d at 435 (citing Bogie v. Rosenberg , 705 F.3d 603, 608 (7th Cir. 2013)).

Dismissal is warranted "only if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff cannot prove any facts that would support his claim for relief." Hayes , 670 F.3d at 813 (quoting Thomas v. Guardsmark, Inc. , 381 F.3d 701, 704 (7th Cir. 2004)). The moving party must demonstrate there are no material issues of fact to be resolved before such a motion will be granted. Moss v. Martin , 473 F.3d 694, 698 (7th Cir. 2007).

Summary judgment, on the other hand, is controlled by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Summary judgment is proper only if the admissible evidence considered as a whole shows the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law and there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. Dynegy Mktg. & Trade v. Multiut Corp., 648 F.3d 506, 517 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating- based on the pleadings, affidavits and/or information obtained via discovery-the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the Court must view the record in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The Court's role is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence, to judge witness credibility, or to determine the truth of the matter, but rather to determine whether a genuine issue of triable fact exists. Nat'l Athletic Sportswear, Inc. v. Westfield Ins. Co. , 528 F.3d 508, 512 (7th Cir. 2008).

2. Statute of Limitations

Neither 42 U.S.C. § 1983 nor its companion 42 U.S.C. § 1988 contains a statute of limitations. Malone v. Corr. Corp. of Am. , 553 F.3d 540, 542 (7th Cir. 2009). Federal courts use the periods of limitations adopted by the states for personal injury suits. Id. (citing Wilson v. Garcia , 471 U.S. 261 (1985)). Illinois has a two year statute of limitations, which thus becomes the applicable statute of limitations for § 1983 claims arising in Illinois. Kalimara v. Illinois Dep't of Corr. , 879 F.2d 276, 277 (7th Cir. 1989). Federal courts also borrow the forum state's tolling principles. Malone , 553 F.3d at 542; Smith v. City of Chi. Heights, 951 F.2d 834, 839-40 (7th Cir. 1992).

Illinois requires tolling where "the commencement of an action is stayed by an injunction, order of the court, or statutory prohibition." 735 ILCS 5/13-216. In cases filed by prisoners in Illinois, such a statutory prohibition exists: the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") provides "no action shall be brought [under federal law] with respect to prison conditions... by a prisoner... until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). In other words, the statute of limitations in § 1983 prisoner lawsuits is tolled while an inmate exhausts the administrative grievance process. Klebanowski v. Sheahan , 540 F.3d 633, 639 (7th Cir. 2008); Johnson v. Rivera , 272 F.3d 519, 522 (7th Cir. 2001). Tolling starts when the prisoner files his grievance and ends when the administrative review process is over. Hatch v. Briley , 230 F.Appx. 598, 599 (7th Cir. 2007) (time that passed between the plaintiff's injury and the when he filed his grievance were not part of the tolling period; rather, the tolling period began the day he filed his grievance).


In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges unconstitutionally deficient medical treatment he received after experiencing post-hunger strike nausea and dizziness starting August 21, 2009. He broadly alleges that Defendant Jordan failed to send him to the infirmary despite his symptoms, and that Defendant Farris should have been monitoring him (because he just came off hunger strike) but ignored him instead. Plaintiff alleges he subsequently passed out and hit his head against the toilet in his cell. Although he was then taken to health care, Doctor Obadina did not refer him to an outside hospital, but instead returned him to his cell. Plaintiff continued to ...

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