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Womack v. Adams

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

June 11, 2015



DAVID W. CHRISTEL, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff William Womack, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Having reviewed and screened Plaintiff's Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court declines to serve Plaintiff's Complaint but provides Plaintiff leave to file an amended pleading by July 11, 2015, to cure the deficiencies identified herein.


Plaintiff, who is currently incarcerated at Washington State Penitentiary ("WSP"), alleges he was not provided with eyeglasses at Shelton Correctional Center ("SCC") because his 20/60 vision was "too good." Dkt. 8, p. 6. Plaintiff states he was transferred to WSP in April of 2012. Dkt. 8. He maintains Defendants Sergeant Roop and Correctional Unit Supervisor Adams failed to protect Plaintiff from an inmate assault. Id. Plaintiff also alleges his right of access to the courts was violated and he was subjected to cruel and unusual conditions of confinement. Id. Further, Plaintiff contends Defendant Thomas Vicari retaliated against Plaintiff by conducting an unwarranted search of Plaintiff's cell.


Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, the Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must "dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint: (1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Id. at (b); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193 (9th Cir. 1998).

In order to state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must show: (1) he suffered a violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created by federal statute, and (2) the violation was proximately caused by a person acting under color of state law. See Crumpton v. Gates, 947 F.2d 1418, 1420 (9th Cir. 1991). The first step in a § 1983 claim is therefore to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994). To satisfy the second prong, a plaintiff must allege facts showing how individually named defendants caused, or personally participated in causing, the harm alleged in the complaint. See Arnold v. IBM, 637 F.2d 1350, 1355 (9th Cir. 1981).

Plaintiff's Complaint suffers from deficiencies requiring dismissal if not corrected in an amended complaint.

A. Statute of Limitations

A complaint must be timely filed. The Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, contains no statute of limitations. "Thus, the federal courts [ ] apply the applicable period of limitations under state law for the jurisdiction in which the claim arose." Rose v. Rinaldi, 654 F.2d 546, 547 (9th Cir. 1981). In Rose, the Ninth Circuit determined the three year limitations period identified in Revised Code of Washington 4.16.080(2) is the applicable statute of limitations for § 1983 cases in Washington. 654 F.2d at 547; see RCW 4.16.080(2).

The Court also applies the forum state's law regarding equitable tolling for actions arising under § 1983. Jones v. Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 927 (9th Cir. 2004). In Washington, courts permit equitable tolling "when justice requires." Millay v. Cam, 135 Wash.2d 193, 206 (1998). "The predicates for equitable tolling are bad faith, deception, or false assurances by the defendant and the exercise of diligence by the plaintiff." Id. Courts "typically permit equitable tolling to occur only sparingly, and should not extend it to a garden variety claim of excusable neglect." State v. Robinson, 104 Wash.App. 657, 667 (2001) (internal quotations omitted).

Although the statute of limitations is an affirmative defense which normally may not be raised by the court sua sponte, it may be grounds for sua sponte dismissal of an in forma pauperis complaint where the defense is complete and obvious from the face of the pleadings or the court's own records. See Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1228-30 (9th Cir. 1984).

Plaintiff alleges an unnamed individual at SCC denied him eyeglasses on January 21, 2012. Dkt. 8, p. 6. Thus, Plaintiff had actual notice of the facts relating to this claim on that date. See id.; Kimes v. Stone, 84 F.3d 1121, 1128 (9th Cir. 1996) (a claim accrues when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of the action). The time for filing the Complaint regarding this claim therefore expired on January 21, 2015. Plaintiff signed- effectively filing-this Complaint on April 15, 2015, more than two months after the statute of limitations ran. Further, Plaintiff has failed to plead facts to support equitable tolling of this claim. Plaintiff must show cause as to why this claim should not be dismissed based on the expiration of the statute of limitations.

The Court also notes Plaintiff has failed to identify who denied him eyeglasses and how he was harmed by not having eyeglasses at SCC. See Dkt. 8. If Plaintiff can overcome the statute of limitations, he must name specific individuals as defendants and must allege in more specific ...

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