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Clyce v. Butler

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

November 22, 2017

CHANCE MARCUS CLYCE, and on behalf of all those similarly situated; DONNA JILL CLYCE, and on behalf of those similarly situated; MARK CLYCE, and on behalf of all those similarly situated, Plaintiffs - Appellants
v.
NADINE BUTLER, individually and in her official capacity; LESLY JACOBS, Investigator for TJJD, individually and in his official capacity; KEVIN DUBOSE, individually and in his official capacity; CONRAD JONES, individually and in his official capacity; UNKNOWN STAFF AT THE HUNT COUNTY JUVENILE DETENTION CENTER, in their official and individual capacities; TEXAS JUVENILE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT, in their official and individual capacities, formerly known as Texas Juvenile Probation Commission Texas Youth Department; UNKNOWN STAFF AT THE TEXAS JUVENILE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT, in their official and individual capacities; FREDERICK FARLEY, Investigator and Supervisor for Hunt County Juvenile Detention Center, individually and in his official capacity; KENNETH WRIGHT, individually and in his official capacity; SHANIGIA WILLIAMS, individually and in her official capacity; HUNT COUNTY JUVENILE DETENTION CENTER; DAVID REILLY, Interim Executive Director; UNKNOWN TEXAS JUVENILE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR, individually and in his official capacity; ANY OTHER UNKNOWN JUVENILE DETENTION EMPLOYEES, in their official and individual capacities, Defendants - Appellees

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas

          Before BARKSDALE, DENNIS, and CLEMENT, Circuit Judges.

          PER CURIAM:

         Chance Clyce appeals the district court's dismissal of his claims as barred by Texas's statute of limitations. The district court held that when a minor's parents bring a lawsuit on his behalf as next friends, the statute of limitations for those claims is not tolled during his period of minority if they were aggressively litigated through the prior lawsuit. Because we hold that the district court improperly created this exception to Texas's tolling provision to its statute of limitations, we reverse the district court's dismissal and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I

         In 2008, when he was thirteen years old, Chance suffered serious and sustained injuries while detained at Hunt County Juvenile Detention Center. Though some of the details are disputed, the parties agree that when Chance was released from the Detention Center only sixteen days after he arrived, he had lost several pounds, sustained bruises and a fractured arm, and contracted a life-threating methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus ("MRSA") infection. Due to this severe infection, Chance required multiple extensive surgeries on his joints and heart. He asserts that he continues to suffer chronic pain and will require future surgeries.

         In 2009, Chance's parents filed suit both individually and as his next friends against multiple defendants affiliated with the Detention Center, bringing claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Texas Torts Claims Act. The district court dismissed claims against two of the defendants without prejudice for improper service and granted summary judgment in favor of the remaining defendants. Chance's parents appealed to this court, and we affirmed. Clyce v. Hunt Cty., 515 Fed.Appx. 319, 321 (5th Cir. 2013).

         On June 24, 2014, Chance, then nineteen years old, filed the instant claims pro se against multiple defendants from the Detention Center and the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.[1] Of these defendants, only one of them, Shanigia Williams, was also named as a defendant in 2009, when the claims against her were dismissed without prejudice for lack of service.

         In this second lawsuit, Chance brought some of the same claims his parents brought in the first lawsuit, as well as a number of additional claims. He asserted that the defendants subjected him to inhumane conditions, denied him required medical treatment, participated in a civil conspiracy by failing to report systematic abuse at the detention center, violated his due process and equal protection rights, and discriminated against him based on his diagnosed mental illness in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

         Defendants filed multiple motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), asserting, inter alia, expiration of the statute of limitations period and res judicata. Chance obtained legal counsel and filed a brief opposing all pending motions to dismiss. He argued in relevant part that the claims were timely because they were brought within two years of his reaching the age of majority, and that they were not barred by res judicata because none of the defendants, other than Ms. Williams, was named in the 2009 lawsuit. The district court subsequently dismissed all of Chance's claims as untimely, declining to address whether res judicata barred any or all of his claims. Chance timely appeals dismissal of his claims against three individual defendants: Frederick Farley, Kenneth Wright, and Shanigia Williams.

          II

         We review a district court's dismissal of claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) de novo. Taylor v. City of Shreveport, 798 F.3d 276, 279 (5th Cir. 2015). Civil rights claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are governed by the forum state's statute of limitations for tort claims. See Helton v. Clements, 832 F.2d 332, 334 (5th Cir. 1987). In Texas, the statute of limitations is two years, but this period is tolled for a person under age eighteen so that "the time of [legal] disability is not included in a limitations period." Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §§ 16.001 & 16.003. Together, these two sections require someone to file suit for personal injuries suffered as a minor before he reaches age twenty. Weiner v. Wasson, 900 S.W.2d 316, 321 (Tex. 1995).

         The district court held that there is an exception to this "tolling provision" when a next friend, represented by counsel, aggressively prosecutes a minor's claims on his behalf. Accordingly, the court held, the prior proceeding that Chance's parents brought in 2009 remedied Chance's legal disability and forfeited the protection of the tolling provision.

         Texas law, however, does not support this judge-made exception. The Texas code itself gives no indication that a next-friend lawsuit affects the tolling provision. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code ยงยง 16.001 & 16.003; Tex.R.Civ.P. 44. Similarly, though case law demonstrates that a next friend can bring suit on behalf of a minor and make litigation decisions that bind him, it does not establish that such a suit waives the protection of the tolling provision. Indeed, there is no support for ...


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