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Scales v. Markham

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

September 29, 2014

ONEAL SCALES, Plaintiff,
v.
BYRON TRAVIS MARKHAM, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GLEN E. CONRAD, District Judge.

In this action, which was removed from the Circuit Court for the City of Roanoke, the plaintiff claims that he was attacked and severely beaten by the defendants while he was confined at the Roanoke City Jail. The plaintiff asserts federal and state constitutional claims against the defendants, as well as state tort claims for assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The defendants have moved to dismiss the plaintiff's state law claims, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, on the basis that they are barred by the one-year statute of limitations set forth in Virginia Code § 8.01-243.2. For the reasons that follow, the court will grant the defendants' motions.

Factual and Procedural Background

On August 18, 2011, the plaintiff, Oneal Scales, was arrested and transported to the Roanoke City Jail. The next day, Scales was "attacked and severely beaten" by Byron Travis Markham, William A. Belanger, and Thomas Boone, who were "deputies, officers and/or employees of the Sheriff for the City of Roanoke." Compl. ¶ 2, Docket No. 1-1.

Following the attack, Scales was left unattended in his cell for several hours. Upon being found in a "comatose" state, Scales was rushed to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and a skull fracture. Id . ¶¶ 12-13. A portion of his skull had to be removed, and he "continues to suffer serious and permanent injuries." Id . ¶ 15.

On August 16, 2013, Scales filed the instant action against Markham, Ballenger, and Boone in the Circuit Court for the City of Roanoke. In Count I of his complaint, Scales alleged that the defendants violated his rights under the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, and his rights under Article I, §§ 9 and 11 of the Constitution of Virginia, by attacking and beating him without any justification. In Count II, Scales asserted claims for assault and battery. In Count III, he asserted a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

On December 20, 2013, Boone removed the case to this court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. All three defendants then moved to dismiss Scales' claims under state law on the basis that they are barred by the governing statute of limitations. Specifically, the defendants argued that these claims are based upon the conditions of Scales' confinement at the Roanoke City Jail; that Virginia Code § 8.01-243.2 prescribes a one-year statute of limitations for claims relating to conditions of confinement; and that the one-year period expired before the instant action was filed. In response, Scales argued that § 8.01-243.2 is not applicable to his claims under state law, because they do not relate to his conditions of confinement, and because he was no longer confined at the time the action was filed. The latter argument was supported by this court's decision in Jackson v. Fletcher, No. 7:09CV00408, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4577, at *29 (W.D. Va. Jan. 18, 2011), in which the court held that "the plaintiffs status at the time he files suit... determines whether [§ 8.01-243.2] applies."

The court held a hearing on the defendants' motions on April 28, 2014. On April 17, 2014, eleven days before the hearing, the Supreme Court of Virginia issued an opinion in Lucas v. Woody , 756 S.E.2d 447 (Va. 2014). In Lucas, the Supreme Court of Virginia considered for the first time "whether a plaintiff who brings a personal injury action relating to the conditions of her confinement in a state or local correctional facility must be incarcerated at the time her cause of action is filed in order for the statute of limitations in Code § 8.01-243.2 to be applicable to that action." Id. at 447-48. In a four to three decision, the Supreme Court of Virginia answered this question in the negative:

We rule that the statute of limitations provision in Code § 8.01-243.2 applies to all personal actions relating to the conditions of an individual's confinement regardless of whether the plaintiff is still incarcerated when such action is filed.

Id. at 451.

Following the April 28, 2014 motions hearing, the parties submitted supplemental briefs on the issue of whether Lucas should be applied in the instant action, which was filed before Lucas was decided. In his supplemental briefs, Scales requested that the court postpone its decision on the defendants' motions pending a ruling on a petition for rehearing in Lucas. That petition has since been denied. The defendants' motions are now ripe for review.

Standard of Review

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a party to move for dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To survive dismissal under this rule, "a 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)). When ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations and draw all reasonable factual inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Vitol, S.A. v. Primerose Shipping Co. , 708 F.3d 527, 539 (4th Cir. 2013). The court may consider "the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and judicially noted facts." Bartlett v. Frederick Cnty. , 246 F.Appx. 201, 205 (4th Cir. 2007).

"Although a motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) invites an inquiry into the legal sufficiency of the complaint, not an analysis of potential defenses to the claims set forth therein, dismissal nevertheless is appropriate when the face of the complaint clearly reveals the existence of a meritorious defense." Brooks v. City of Winston-Salem , 85 F.3d 178, 181 (4th Cir. 1996). One such defense is that the governing statute of limitations has run on a claim for relief. Id .; see also United States v. Kivanc , 714 F.3d 782, 789 (4th Cir. 2013) ...


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