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Alderman v. Patrick County

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

September 12, 2019

STEVEN CRAIG ALDERMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
PATRICK COUNTY and PATRICK COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JACKSON L. KISER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on Defendants Patrick County and the Patrick County Board of Supervisors' Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 6]. The motion was fully briefed and, on June 18, 2019, I heard oral argument from the parties. I have reviewed the pleadings, arguments, and relevant law. For the reasons stated herein, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss will be granted.

         I. STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff Steven Alderman (“Plaintiff”) owned and operated Blue Ridge Restaurant in Patrick County, Virginia, which his family built in 1958. In 1978, his family “installed a properly designed septic system.” (Compl. ¶ 8 [ECF No. 1].) He contends that, although Blue Ridge Restaurant was among the oldest in the area, “they were never offered the option of using a ‘pump and haul' approach to handling waste or any ‘grandfathering' of unlawful sewage handling.” (Id. ¶ 9.) Instead, Plaintiff's family was required to install an expensive septic system. With its septic system, Blue Ridge Restaurant is permitted to have only 55 seats.

         In 2002, Plaintiff and his sister bought the Mountain House Restaurant, which was built in 1982 with a full and expensive septic system. That restaurant is permitted to have only 85 seats with its septic system. Operating both restaurants yields an annual profit of $640, 000.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Patrick County and the Patrick County Board of Supervisors (collectively “Defendants”) engaged in “discriminatory and unlawful acts that damaged plaintiff's businesses” when, in 2000 and 2001, Defendants approved an unlawful “pump and haul” sewage system for a competing business. (Id. ¶ 18.) At the time, the permission was contingent on the future installation of a permanent sewage system. To date, however, no such system has been installed. Another business was granted the same permission for a “pump and haul” system in 2009. (Id. ¶ 23.)

         Plaintiff contends these other businesses were granted this “unfair and unlawful advantage by Patrick County to operate without septic systems . . . to inhibit or punish plaintiff's exercise of his constitutional rights or a bad faith intent to injure plaintiff.” (Id. ¶ 25.) As a result, Plaintiff was forced to close Blue Ridge Restaurant in 2007 and Mountain House Restaurant in 2012. Efforts to sell the restaurants “have not been possible because no one will buy them or pay a market price because of the discriminatory acts of Patrick County, and the resulting unfair competition.” (Id. ¶ 30.) He now brings suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the alleged violation of his “right to equal protection of the law” under the 14th Amendment. (Id. ¶ 35.)

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on January 25, 2019, forty-one years after his family installed the septic system at Blue Ridge Restaurant, seventeen years after he bought Mountain House Restaurant, twelve years after he closed Blue Ridge Restaurant, and seven years after he closed Mountain House Restaurant. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), on May 15, 2019, arguing the statute of limitations applicable to actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 barred Plaintiff's action. [ECF Nos. 6 & 7.] Plaintiff responded [ECF No. 10], and Defendants replied [ECF No. 14]. I heard oral arguments on June 18, 2019, making this matter ripe for disposition.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, 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)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. In determining facial plausibility, the court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true. Id. The Complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” and sufficient “[f]actual allegations . . . to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . .” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation marks omitted). Therefore, the Complaint must “allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of [the] claim.” Bass v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003). Although “a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, ” a pleading that merely offers “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code is the statutory provision that provides a civil remedy to vindicate one's constitutional rights. That section gives private individuals a right of action against persons[2] who, acting under color of law, deprive a plaintiff of “any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws” of the United States. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2019). The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees that no citizen will be deprived “of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, ” nor will any person be denied “equal protection of the laws.” U.S. Const. amend. XIV.

         Although § 1983 does not set forth a statute of limitations, it is well-settled that “[t]he statute of limitations for a § 1983 claim is borrowed from the applicable state's statute of limitations for personal-injury actions, even when a plaintiff's particular § 1983 claim does not involve personal injury.” Tommy Davis Constr., Inc. v. Cape Fear Pub. Util. Auth., 807 F.3d 62, 66-67 (4th Cir. 2015) (citing Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 275-80 (1985)). Virginia has a two-year statute of limitations for personal-injury actions, see Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-243(A) (Cumm. Supp. 2019), which applies in § 1983 actions. See Lewis v. Richmond City Police Dep't, 947 F.2d 733, 735 (4th Cir. 1991).

         Plaintiff's claims is barred by the two-year[3] statute of limitations applicable to his claim. “Generally speaking, a federal claim ‘accrues when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know that the act providing the basis of his or her injury has occurred,' and therefore [the court] ‘typically determine[s] the accrual of a § 1983 action by looking to the event that should have alerted the typical lay person to protect his or her rights.'” Owens v. Baltimore City State's Attorneys Office, 767 F.3d 379, 404-05 (4th Cir. 2014) (quoting D'Ambrosio v. Marino, 747 F.3d 378, 384 (6th Cir. 2014)). Stated another way, a claim under § 1983 accrues “when the plaintiff ...


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