United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss by
Donna L. Woodruff, (Doc. No. 29).
Plaintiff Brandon Michael Pickens is a North Carolina inmate,
currently incarcerated at Catawba Correctional Center in
Newton, North Carolina. Plaintiff filed this action on
December 9, 2015, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against
numerous defendants for deliberate indifference to serious
medical needs while Plaintiff was incarcerated at Mountain
View Correctional Institution (“MVCI”). On
February 1, 2016, following an initial review, this Court
ordered Plaintiff to file an amended complaint, specifying
his factual allegations as to each named Defendant. (Doc. No.
8). The Court also dismissed Plaintiff's claims against
several of the named Defendants. On February 18, 2016,
Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, naming various
Defendants, including movant Donna Woodruff.
Amended Complaint, Plaintiff contends that Defendants were
deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs based
on Defendants' failure to address and treat appropriately
Plaintiff's mental health issues and his dental problems
while he was incarcerated at MVCI from August 2012 to
December 2012. Plaintiff's allegations against movant Dr.
Woodruff (Assistant Dental Director in the North Carolina
Department of Public Safety, Division of Adult Correction and
Juvenile Justice) and Dr. Rickman (a dentist who provides
dental treatment to inmates at MVCI), arise out of dental
care Plaintiff received while housed at MVCI between August
and December, 2012. In essence, Plaintiff contends that Drs.
Woodruff and Rickman violated his civil rights by allegedly
being deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious
dental needs. See (Doc. No. 9 at ¶¶ 6, 50,
73 (as to Dr. Woodruff) and ¶¶ 8, 73 (as to Dr.
Rickman). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that while he was
incarcerated at MVCI, he submitted multiple sick call
requests in an attempt to have two of his teeth treated with
dental fillings, but that the dental staff at MVCI, which
included Dr. Rickman, placed him on the facility's
waiting list rather than scheduling him for immediate
treatment. (Id. at ¶¶ 17, 20, 27, 29, 40,
42, 48). Plaintiff's sole allegations against movant Dr.
Woodruff arise out of her response to a letter Plaintiff had
sent to the Director of Prisons concerning his dental care at
MVCI. Specifically, the only factual allegation of
indifference as to Dr. Woodruff is in paragraph 50 of
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint:
On 11/28/2012, I received two correspondences from the
Department of Public Safety. The first one was from Donna L.
Woodruff and was in reference to a letter addressed to the
Director of Prisons that was dated 11/7/2012, and concerned
issues in which I raised that related to my lack of dental
care at MVCI. (See Exhibit FF). Woodruff's response
simply advised me that I was on the waiting list for fillings
and further advised me to cooperate with MVCI's dental
staff and recognize they are meeting the needs of many
patients. (See Exhibit FF). A copy of Woodruff's response
was sent to both Dr. J. Rickman and the superintendent of
MVCI. (See Exhibit FF). However, neither of the defendants
met my dental care needs nor did I receive my fillings. The
second letter was from R. Beddingfield and was in reference
to a letter addressed Jennie Lancaster, Secretary of
Corrections, that was dated 11/12/2012, and addressed
numerous problems. (See Exhibit GG). Beddingfield advised me
that my letter was forwarded to Ms. White for review and
disposition. (See Exhibit GG).
(Id. at ¶ 50). In Dr. Woodruff's letter in
response to Plaintiff, dated November 28, 2012, Dr. Woodruff
reminded Plaintiff that the dental staff at MVCI had placed
him on the dental clinic's waiting list for fillings;
advised Plaintiff that the dental staff at MVCI would
complete his dental treatment as soon as possible; and
encouraged Plaintiff to cooperate with the dental staff at
MVCI and recognize that the staff was serving the needs of
many patients. See (Doc. No. 9-32 at 1). Plaintiff
does not allege that Dr. Woodruff was involved with his
dental care at any time after corresponding with him on
November 28, 2012.
September 28, 2016, Defendant Woodruff filed the pending
motion to dismiss, arguing that Plaintiff's claim of
deliberate indifference against her should be dismissed as
barred by the applicable statute of limitations. (Doc. No.
29). On October 4, 2016, the Court entered an order granting
Plaintiff fourteen days in which to file a response to the
motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 31). Plaintiff responded to the
motion to dismiss on October 13, 2016, and Defendant filed a
Reply on October 18, 2016. This matter is therefore ripe for
STANDARD OF REVIEW
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court
must accept the factual allegations of the claim as true and
construe them in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party. Coleman v. Maryland Ct. of Appeals, 626 F.3d
187, 189 (4th Cir. 2010). To survive the motion, the
“complaint must 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) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). To be
“plausible on its face, ” a plaintiff must
demonstrate more than “a sheer possibility that a
defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. A
plaintiff therefore must “articulate facts, when
accepted as true, that ‘show' that the plaintiff
has stated a claim entitling [it] to relief, i.e.,
the ‘plausibility of entitlement to relief.'”
Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir.
2009) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 at 678).
Woodruff contends that Plaintiff's claims against her are
barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The Court
agrees. Because there is no explicit statute of limitations
for actions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, courts
look to the personal injury statute of limitations from the
relevant state. See Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of
Corr., 64 F.3d 951, 955 (4th Cir. 1995) (citing
Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 266-69 (1985));
see also Nat'l Adver. Co. v. City of Raleigh,
947 F.2d 1158, 1161-62 (4th Cir. 1991). In North Carolina,
the statute of limitations for personal injuries is three
years. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-52(16). Although
the statutory limitations period for Section 1983 actions is
borrowed from state law, “[t]he time of accrual of a
civil rights action is a question of federal law.”
Cox v. Stanton, 529 F.2d 47, 50 (4th Cir. 1975).
“Federal law holds that the time of accrual is when
plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is
the basis of the action.” Id.; see Urie v.
Thompson, 337 U.S. 163, 170 (1949) (noting that
“statutes of limitations . . . conventionally require
the assertion of claims within a specified period of time
after notice of the invasion of legal rights”);
Blanck v. McKeen, 707 F.2d 817, 819 (4th Cir. 1983)
(noting that the statute of limitations “does not begin
to run until the plaintiff discovers, or by the exercise of
due diligence should have discovered, the facts forming the
basis of his cause of action”). It is well settled that
a defendant may raise the statute of limitations as a bar to
a plaintiff's complaint by way of a motion to dismiss
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, if the time bar is apparent on the face of the
Complaint. See, e.g., Dean v. Program's
Pride Corp., 395 F.3d 471, 474 (4th Cir. 2005);
Bethel v. Jendoco Constr. Corp., 570 F.2d 1168 (3d
noted above, the only allegation of indifference that
Plaintiff makes against Dr. Woodruff in his Amended Complaint
is that she wrote him a letter, that he acknowledges
receiving on November 28, 2012, in response to a letter he
had written to the Director of the Department of Corrections
regarding his dental care at MVCI. See (Doc. No. 9
at ¶ 50 and Exhibit FF). Plaintiff does not allege that
Dr. Woodruff played any further role in, or had any further
involvement with, his dental care at MVCI after writing her
letter of November 28, 2012. Dr. Woodruff's alleged (but
denied) indifference to Plaintiff's dental needs was,
therefore, complete and Plaintiff's purported cause of
action against Dr. Woodruff accrued on November 28, 2012.
See, e.g., Baker v. Board of Regents, 991
F.2d 628 (10th Cir. 1993) (civil rights action accrues when
plaintiff knows or has reason to know of injury that is basis
of action). Plaintiff, therefore, had three years-until
November 28, 2015-in which to file suit against Dr. Woodruff.
to the “prison mailbox rule” established in
Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266 (1988),
Plaintiff's original Complaint is deemed to have been
filed with this Court on the date that he delivered the same
to prison authorities for forwarding and filing. See also
Wilder v. Chairman of the Cent. Classification Bd., 926
F.2d 367 (4th Cir. 1991). Plaintiff signed and verified his
original Complaint on December 2, 2015, which would have been
the earliest date upon which he could have delivered it to
prison authorities for forwarding to this Court. Therefore,
plaintiff's original Complaint is deemed to have been
filed with this Court no earlier than December ...