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Flournoy v. Florida Department of Corrections

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

December 30, 2019

RYAN FLOURNOY, Plaintiff,
v.
FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          BETH BLOOM, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS CAUSE is before the Court upon Defendants Florida Department of Corrections (“FDOC”), John Willis (“Warden Willis” in his official capacity as Warden of the Charlotte Correctional Institution and “Willis” in his individual capacity), Erika McDermott (“McDermott”), and Shannon Milliken's (“Milliken”) (collectively, “Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint, ECF No. [24] (“Motion”). Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the Motion, ECF No. [30] (“Response”), to which Defendants replied, ECF No. [31] (“Reply”). The Court has reviewed the Motion, all opposing and supporting submissions, the record in this case, the applicable law, and is otherwise fully advised. For the reasons explained below, Defendants' Motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff initiated this action on June 22, 2019, asserting claims against Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Florida law, in the Circuit Court of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, Florida. ECF No. [1-2]. On August 2, 2019, Defendants removed this action to federal court, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). See generally ECF No. [1]. Further, on September 24, 2019, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint asserting four counts: Count I (Negligence - FDOC); Count II (False Imprisonment - FDOC); Count III (Civil Rights Violation pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Warden Willis);[1] and Count IV (Civil Rights Violation pursuant to § 1983 - Willis, McDermott, and Milliken). ECF No. [19] (“Amended Complaint”).

         The Amended Complaint details facts regarding two state court criminal cases against Plaintiff. Id. ¶¶ 8-11. In case number 09-020587CA10A (“2009 case”), the state court, on August 29, 2013, pronounced that Plaintiff would receive a sentence of 91.8 months in Florida State Prison on each of the two counts alleged, with credit for 374 days for time served. Id. ¶ 9. The sentences in the 2009 case were to run concurrently. Id. Moreover, the state court's written order indicated that “the composite term of all sentences imposed for the [counts] specified in this order shall run concurrent and co-terminous with . . . [a]ny active sentence being served.” Id. Additionally, on the same day, in case number 13-004106CF10A (“2013 case”), the state court imposed a sentence of 91.8 months in Florida State Prison on Count I, and 60 months in Florida State Prison on Count II, with the sentences running concurrently. Id. ¶ 10. As in the 2009 case, the state court's written order indicated that “the composite term of all sentences imposed for the [counts] specified in this order shall run . . . concurrent and co-terminous with . . . [a]ny active sentence being served.” Id. The state court, in both its written order and its verbal pronouncement in open court, indicated that the concurrent sentences in the 2013 case would run concurrent and co-terminous with the concurrent sentences in the 2009 case. Id. ¶ 17. Thus, the Amended Complaint alleges that, “since both counts of each case were to be served concurrent and co-terminous with the other, per the court's written order and verbal pronouncement, the sentence was 60 months.” Id.

         Subsequent to Plaintiff's sentencing, an office of FDOC “negligently and improperly calculated Plaintiff's release date. Although Plaintiff was plainly sentenced to only 60 months, the FDOC negligent [sic] and incorrectly interpreted the sentence as being 91.8 months.” Id. ¶ 12. Upon realizing that he was being incarcerated beyond the 60 months, Plaintiff filed a written grievance on March 20, 2017, explaining that he was being imprisoned beyond the term of his sentence, and this grievance was received by all Defendants. Id. ¶ 13. In March 2017 and February 2018, Plaintiff further filed two writs in court, which were also provided to all Defendants. Id. Further, upon receiving correspondence from an attorney, which indicated that Plaintiff was being incarcerated beyond the term of his sentence, Defendants processed Plaintiff's immediate release. Id. ¶ 15. At the time of his release, Plaintiff had been incarcerated for less than 91.8 months. Id.

         The Amended Complaint alleges that McDermott and Milliken “had actual knowledge of the FDOC's sentencing error, chose to ignore same, and did not take measures in which they were duty-bound to take upon learning of Plaintiff's wrongful imprisonment.” Id. ¶ 13. “While the initial sentence miscalculation was error and negligence, once Defendants were placed on notice of the error, their failure to respond or act amounted to intentional misconduct or, at an absolute minimum, deliberate indifference.” Id. ¶ 14.

         In the instant Motion, Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, arguing that it fails to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and that they are entitled to sovereign immunity, quasi-judicial immunity, and/or qualified immunity for the actions challenged in the instant action.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires that a pleading contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, ” it must provide “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (explaining that Rule 8(a)(2)'s pleading standard “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation”). In the same vein, a complaint may not rest on “‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (alteration in original) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. These elements are required to survive a motion brought under Rule 12(b)(6) that requests dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         When reviewing a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a court, as a general rule, must accept the plaintiff's allegations as true and evaluate all plausible inferences derived from those facts in favor of the plaintiff. Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Fla. v. S. Everglades Restoration All., 304 F.3d 1076, 1084 (11th Cir. 2002); AXA Equitable Life Ins. Co. v. Infinity Fin. Grp., LLC, 608 F.Supp.2d 1349, 1353 (S.D. Fla. 2009). However, this tenet does not apply to legal conclusions, and courts “are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Thaeter v. Palm Beach Cty. Sheriff's Office, 449 F.3d 1342, 1352 (11th Cir. 2006). Moreover, “courts may infer from the factual allegations in the complaint ‘obvious alternative explanations,' which suggest lawful conduct rather than the unlawful conduct the plaintiff would ask the court to infer.” Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 682).

         In considering Rule 12(b)(6) motions, a court is “limited to the four corners of the complaint.” St. George v. Pinellas Cty., 285 F.3d 1334, 1337 (11th Cir. 2002). “A court may consider only the complaint itself and any documents referred to in the complaint which are central to the claims.” Wilchombe v. TeeVee Toons, Inc., 555 F.3d 949, 959 (11th Cir. 2009) (citing Brooks v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Fla., Inc., 116 F.3d 1364, 1369 (11th Cir. 1997)). “However, [a] court may properly consider documents that [a] complaint incorporates by reference and matters of which a court may take judicial notice.” Safeguard Support Servs., LLC v. Nationwide Referral Servs., LLC, No. 11-61977-CIV, 2011 WL 13217971, at *3 (S.D. Fla. Dec. 15, 2011) (citing Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007)), report and recommendation adopted, No. 11-61977-CV, 2012 WL 13006011, *1 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 11, 2012); see also Maxcess, Inc. v. Lucent Techs., Inc., 433 F.3d 1337, 1340 n.3 (11th Cir. 2005) (“[A] document outside the four corners of the complaint may still be considered if it is central to the plaintiff's claims and is undisputed in terms of authenticity.” (citing Horsley v. Feldt, 304 F.3d 1125, 1135 (11th Cir. 2002))); Fin. Sec. Assur., Inc. v. Stephens, Inc., 500 F.3d 1276, 1284 (11th Cir. 2007) (explaining that a document outside the four corners of the complaint may still be considered if “a plaintiff refers to [the] document in its complaint, the document is central to its claim, its contents are not in dispute, and the defendant attaches the document to its motion to dismiss.”).

         III. DISCUSSION

         In their Motion, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's Amended Complaint should be dismissed with prejudice because it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted on any of the counts. Defendants also attach a number of documents to their Motion that they argue are central to Plaintiff's claims and are dispositive here. Further, Defendants argue that the Amended Complaint should also be dismissed because they are entitled to sovereign immunity, quasi-judicial immunity, and/or qualified immunity. Plaintiff, on the other hand, argues that the facts alleged in the Amended Complaint sufficiently state claims for which relief can be granted on all asserted counts. Likewise, Plaintiff argues that, under the facts of the instant case, Defendants are not entitled to ...


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