United States District Court, D. South Carolina
August 20, 2014
William Fate Filyaw, Plaintiff,
Bo Gibbs; Lisa Yarborough, Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
PAIGE J. GOSSETT, Magistrate Judge.
The plaintiff, William Fate Filyaw ("Plaintiff"), a self-represented state prisoner, brings this action alleging a personal injury claim against Bo Gibbs and Lisa Yarborough ("Defendants"). (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff is an inmate at Evans Correctional Institution, and files this action in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. This matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(f) DSC. Having reviewed the Complaint in accordance with applicable law, the court concludes that it should be summarily dismissed without prejudice and without issuance and service of process.
I. Factual and Procedural History
The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff was stabbed during an altercation on December 15, 2012. (ECF No. 1 at 3.) Plaintiff claims that the incident occurred at the defendants' residence in Effingham, South Carolina. (Id.) Plaintiff states that he was transported to a hospital and placed in a trauma unit for treatment. (Id.) Plaintiff seeks monetary damages. (Id. at 5.)
A. Standard of Review
Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se Complaint pursuant to the procedural provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915, 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, and the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996). This review has been conducted in light of the following precedents: Denton v. Hernandez , 504 U.S. 25 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Haines v. Kerner , 404 U.S. 519 (1972); Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of Corr. , 64 F.3d 951 (4th Cir. 1995); Todd v. Baskerville , 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir. 1983).
The Complaint has been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of proceeding with the lawsuit. To protect against possible abuses of this privilege, the statute allows a district court to dismiss the case upon a finding that the action "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, " "is frivolous or malicious, " or "seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). A finding of frivolousness can be made where the complaint "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Denton , 504 U.S. at 31. Hence, under § 1915(e)(2)(B), a claim based on a meritless legal theory may be dismissed sua sponte. Neitzke , 490 U.S. 319; Allison v. Kyle , 66 F.3d 71 (5th Cir. 1995).
This court is required to liberally construe pro se complaints. Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Such pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, id.; Gordon v. Leeke , 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), and a federal district court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Hughes v. Rowe , 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Cruz v. Beto , 405 U.S. 319 (1972). When a federal court is evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. Erickson , 551 U.S. at 93 (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)).
Nonetheless, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. , 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009) (outlining pleading requirements under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for "all civil actions"). The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so; however, a district court may not rewrite a complaint to include claims that were never presented, Barnett v. Hargett , 174 F.3d 1128 (10th Cir. 1999), construct the plaintiff's legal arguments for him, Small v. Endicott , 998 F.2d 411 (7th Cir. 1993), or "conjure up questions never squarely presented" to the court, Beaudett v. City of Hampton , 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).
This is the second Complaint filed by Plaintiff in this court alleging a personal injury claim against these defendants. See Filyaw v. Gibbs, C/A No. 4:14-967-JMC (D.S.C. Mar. 17, 2014). Plaintiff's previous case against the defendants was summarily dismissed for lack of jurisdiction on May 20, 2014. Id . at ECF No. 19. This duplicate Complaint is subject to summary dismissal for the same reason. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, "constrained to exercise only the authority conferred by Article III of the Constitution and affirmatively granted by federal statute." In re Bulldog Trucking, Inc. , 147 F.3d 347, 352 (4th Cir. 1998). Accordingly, a federal court is required, sua sponte, to determine if a valid basis for its jurisdiction exists "and to dismiss the action if no such ground appears." Id . at 352; see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3) ("If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action."). Although the absence of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time during the case, determining jurisdiction at the outset of the litigation is the most efficient procedure. Lovern v. Edwards , 190 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Cir. 1999).
There is no presumption that a federal court has jurisdiction over a case, Pinkley, Inc. v. City of Frederick , 191 F.3d 394, 399 (4th Cir. 1999), and a plaintiff must allege facts essential to show jurisdiction in his pleadings. McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp. , 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936); see also Dracos v. Hellenic Lines, Ltd. , 762 F.2d 348, 350 (4th Cir. 1985) ("[P]laintiffs must affirmatively plead the jurisdiction of the federal court."). To this end, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(1) requires that the complaint provide "a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction." When a complaint fails to include "an affirmative pleading of a jurisdictional basis, the federal court may find that it has jurisdiction if the facts supporting jurisdiction have been clearly pleaded." Pinkley , 191 F.3d at 399 (citation omitted). However, if the court, viewing the allegations in the light most favorable to a plaintiff, finds insufficient allegations in the pleadings, the court will lack subject matter jurisdiction. Id.
The two most commonly recognized and utilized bases for federal court jurisdiction are (1) federal question under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and (2) diversity of citizenship pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The allegations contained in the instant Complaint do not fall within the scope of either form of this court's limited jurisdiction. First, the diversity statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), requires complete diversity of parties and an amount in controversy in excess of $75, 000. Complete diversity of parties in a case means that no party on one side may be a citizen of the same state as any party on the other side. See Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger , 437 U.S. 365, 372-74 nn.13-16 (1978). The court has no diversity jurisdiction over this case, because Plaintiff fails to demonstrate complete diversity of citizenship. (ECF No. 1 at 2-3.) In the absence of diversity of citizenship, the amount in controversy is irrelevant.
Second, the essential allegations contained in the Complaint are insufficient to show that the case is one "arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiff's allegations do not assert that the defendants have violated a federal statute or constitutional provision. Instead, the Complaint alleges a claim of personal injury, which is a matter of state law to be heard in the state courts, unless diversity of citizenship is present. Cf. Longshore v. Saber Sec. Servs., Inc. , 619 S.E.2d 5, 9-10 (S.C. Ct. App. 2005) (defining battery as "an intentional tort"); Gathers v. Harris Teeter Supermarket, Inc. , 317 S.E.2d 748, 754-55 (S.C. Ct. App. 1984) (defining a battery as "the actual infliction of any unlawful, unauthorized violence on the person of another"); see also Tigrett v. Rector and Visitors of the Univ. of Va. , 290 F.3d 620, 626 (4th Cir. 2002) (affirming district court's dismissal of state law claims when no federal claims remained in the case). Because the Complaint reveals no basis for the court to exercise subject matter jurisdiction, the instant case is subject to summary dismissal.
The case is also subject to summary dismissal in the interest of judicial economy and efficiency as a duplicate civil action. See Aloe Creme Labs., Inc. v. Francine Co. , 425 F.2d 1295, 1296 (5th Cir. 1970) ("The District Court clearly had the right to take notice of its own files and records and it had no duty to grind the same corn a second time."). Repetitive filing of duplicative lawsuits is a burden on the court's resources. Therefore, Plaintiff is advised that the filing of future duplicative cases in this court could result in the imposition of sanctions.
III. Conclusion and Recommendation
Accordingly, the court recommends that the Complaint be dismissed without prejudice and without issuance and service of process.