United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO
Dennis Saylor IV United States District Judge
a civil rights action brought by a former federal prison
inmate. On November 13, 2015, Gregory Katopodis filed a
pro se complaint asserting personal injury and civil
rights claims against defendants Nelson Elias and Darren
Brown, who are correctional officers.
complaint alleges various constitutional violations based on
plaintiff’s placement in isolation while incarcerated
at Federal Medical Center Devens in March and April 2012.
Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint, contending
that the claims are barred by the applicable three-year
statute of limitations and that he has failed to perfect
service on the defendants. For the following reasons, the
motion to dismiss will be granted.
Katopodis is a former inmate of Federal Medical Center Devens
in Ayers, Massachusetts. Defendants Nelson Elias and Darren
Brown were correctional officers at FMC Devens.
contends that defendants violated his constitutional rights
by “arresting [him] without cause and incarcerating him
in isolation in the Special Housing Unit commonly known as
the ‘SHU’ or ‘hole, ’” and
holding him there for 28 days in retaliation for a letter he
attempted to send to Senator Jeff Sessions. Compl. ¶ 7.
The complaint further alleges that while in isolation,
Katopodis was denied proper medical care, not allowed to
contact his attorney, and was “housed in . . . an
approximately six by ten foot cell with continuous bright
overhead lighting 24 hours a day [with] no window to the
outside, a toilet that would not flush, and a sink that
dripped continuously.” Id. On completion of
his time in the SHU, Katopodis alleges that defendants
intentionally arranged for his transfer to federal prison at
Fort Dix, New Jersey, on Good Friday, “spitefully and
intentionally denying [him] access to religious services to
allow plaintiff his Catholic obligation to fulfill his Easter
duty.” Id. ¶¶ 7, 9. The complaint
alleges that Katopodis suffers as a result from
“symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and severe
sleep disruption.” Id. ¶ 8.
November 13, 2015, Katopodis filed a pro se
complaint asserting personal injury and civil rights claims
under Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics
Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), against defendants Elias
and Brown. The complaint alleges violations of the First,
Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments of the United
States Constitution. Defendants responded to the complaint
with a motion to dismiss, contending that plaintiff’s
claims are barred by the three-year statute of limitations
applicable to Bivens claims and that he has failed
to perfect service on the defendants.
hearing on the motion to dismiss, plaintiff asserted for the
first time that the complaint was timely because, among other
reasons, he was entitled to equitable tolling of his claim
based on mental disability. Following the hearing, the Court
issued an order to show cause instructing plaintiff to
supplement the record with evidence sufficient to establish a
prima facie case that his condition met the standard
for equitable tolling based on mental
motion to dismiss, the court “must assume the truth of
all well-plead[ed] facts and give plaintiff the benefit of
all reasonable inferences therefrom.” Ruiz v. Bally
Total Fitness Holding Corp., 496 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir.
2007) (citing Rogan v. Menino, 175 F.3d 75, 77 (1st
Cir. 1999)). To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint
must state a claim that is plausible on its face. Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). That
is, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level . . . on the
assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true
(even if doubtful in fact).” Id. at 555
(citations omitted). “The plausibility standard is not
akin to a ‘probability requirement, ’ but it asks
for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
Dismissal is appropriate if plaintiff's well-pleaded
facts do not “possess enough heft to show that
plaintiff is entitled to relief.” Ruiz Rivera v.
Pfizer Pharm., LLC, 521 F.3d 76, 84 (1st Cir. 2008)
(quotations and original alterations omitted). A document
filed by a pro se party “is to be liberally
construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully
pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)) (internal quotation
marks omitted). See also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(e)
(“Pleadings must be construed so as to do
government contends that plaintiff’s claims are barred
by the statue of limitations. “[C]ourts generally
[apply] state statutes of limitations to Bivens
actions notwithstanding the fact that such actions lie only
against federal officers.” Rossiter v. Potter,
357 F.3d 26, 34 n.7 (1st Cir. 2004). In Massachusetts, both
civil rights and tort actions are subject to a three-year
limitations period. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, §§ 2A,
5B. Plaintiff’s Bivens claims are therefore
subject to the same limitations period. Barrett ex rel.
Estate of Barrett v. United States, 462 F.3d 28, 38 (1st
question of when a cause of action accrues in a civil rights
case is a matter of federal law.” Nieves v.
McSweeney,241 F.3d 46, 52 (1st Cir. 2001). “Under
federal law, the statute of limitations [period] on a
Bivens claim begins to run when the plaintiff knows
or has reason to know of the existence and cause of the
injury which is the basis of his action.”
Barrett, 462 F.3d at 38-39 (quoting Van Tu v.
Koster, 364 F.3d 1196, 1199 (10th Cir. 2004); cf.
Donahue v. United States, 634 F.3d 615, 623 (1st Cir.
2011) (Under the “discovery rule, ” a Federal
Tort Claims Act claim accrues when the plaintiff “knows
or reasonably should have known the factual basis for his
claim; that is, the existence of his injury and its
cause.”). For accrual to be delayed, “the factual
basis for the cause of action must have been inherently
unknowable [that is, ...