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Dobson v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

March 16, 2016

WILLIE J. DOBSON, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

OPINION & ORDER

JAMES D. PETERSON DISTRICT JUDGE

Pro se plaintiff Willie J. Dobson, a former prison inmate, seeks damages for various harms he alleges he incurred during a period of incarceration spanning from 2000 to 2013. He brings this suit against the United States of America pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2671-80 (FTCA). Plaintiff alleges that unnamed prison employees exposed him to x-ray radiation without the benefit of protective gear, that the Bureau of Prisons and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections falsely imprisoned him in multiple correctional institutions, and that a number of his personal belongings went missing while in the custody of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

Defendant has moved to dismiss this action under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and 12(b)(3) for improper venue. In the alternative, defendant has moved to transfer the case to the Eastern District of Wisconsin, contending that venue in the Western District is improper under the FTCA’s venue provision. Plaintiff opposes the motion to dismiss. I will dismiss plaintiff's complaint because those claims related to state facilities do not state a claim against the United States and the claims against the United States would be barred by the statute of limitations in the FTCA.

ALLEGATIONS OF FACT

On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, I must accept the complaint’s factual allegations as true and draw reasonable inferences from those allegations in plaintiff’s favor. Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1427 (7th Cir. 1996) (quoting Arazie v. Mullane, 2 F.3d 1456, 1465 (7th Cir. 1993)). Accordingly, I take the following facts from plaintiff’s complaint.

On April 15, 2000, while plaintiff was in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) at the Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma, BOP personnel x-rayed plaintiff without providing him sufficient radiation protection. BOP personnel then held plaintiff “illegally”- presumably in a type of cell reserved for certain sections of the prison population that did not include plaintiff-and when plaintiff requested complaint forms, he never received any.

Three days later, on April 18, 2000, the BOP transferred plaintiff to the Federal Correctional Institution in Terre Haute, Indiana (FCI Terre Haute). BOP personnel held plaintiff on “death row”-again, presumably contrary to his population status-and again denied plaintiff complaint forms.

On April 21, 2000, plaintiff left federal custody and began a series of transfers to and between state-run prison facilities. Plaintiff was transferred from FCI Terre Haute to the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF), where he spent 11 years in “administrative punitive confinement.” He remained in “administrative punitive confinement” following a transfer to Racine Correctional Institution (RCI) on June 15, 2011. Plaintiff was then transferred to Waupun Correctional Institution (WCI), where a number of his personal belongings went missing, without explanation, including his law books, legal research, a number of legal handbooks, administrative complaint forms, and “other legal documents.”

Upon his release from prison in June 2013, plaintiff appears to have filed a “torts claim”-which may refer to an administrative complaint, but plaintiff’s allegations are sparse and unclear.[1] He filed a complaint with this court on August 19, 2014.

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff alleges tort claims against the United States, the sole defendant, pursuant to the FTCA. The FTCA provides a limited waiver of the federal government’s sovereign immunity from tort suits. 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1). “The FTCA exposes the United States to tort liability ‘in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual[.]’” McCall ex rel. Estate of Bess v. United States, 310 F.3d 984, 986 (7th Cir. 2002) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2674).

Defendant contends that I should dismiss plaintiff’s claims because: (1) plaintiff alleges only vague, unspecified torts and not specific injuries; (2) applicable statutes of limitations bar many of plaintiff’s claims; and (3) a number of the alleged torts took place in state-run facilities and did not involve federal employees (i.e., defendant is not responsible for those actions). Plaintiff responds to defendant’s motion by restating the allegations advanced in his complaint; plaintiff does not directly respond to any of defendant’s arguments, nor does he offer any additional facts or arguments in support of his claims.

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the complaint’s legal sufficiency. To state a claim upon which relief can be granted, a complaint need only provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 8 “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ’ but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). I construe a pro se litigant’s allegations liberally. Antonelli, 81 F.3d at 1427 (quoting Wilson v. Civil Town of Clayton, 839 F.2d 375, 378 (7th Cir. 1988)).

Construing plaintiff’s allegations liberally, plaintiff alleges claims for battery (radiation exposure), medical malpractice (radiation exposure), false imprisonment (being held “illegally” in improper cells in multiple facilities), and deprivation of property (missing legal materials). He describes the wrongdoing prison personnel allegedly committed, without great detail but with sufficient specificity that I am able to understand generally what happened. I will assume, solely for purposes of this motion, that plaintiff has sufficiently pleaded tort claims. Nonetheless, I will dismiss plaintiff’s complaint because: (1) the events that occurred while plaintiff was in state custody do not state a claim against the ...


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