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Dukes v. City of Lumberton

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division

December 13, 2017

TOMMY DUKES, et al., PLAINTIFFS
v.
CITY OF LUMBERTON DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          KEITH STARRETT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         For the reasons below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [13] Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs are former elected officials of the City of Lumberton, Mississippi. They allege that the City refused to pay them back wages owed from 2010 through 2013. They also allege that the City failed to make payments into Mississippi's Public Employees' Retirement System (“PERS”) on their behalf. They filed this suit, asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), as well as a breach of contract claim. Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss [13], which the Court now addresses.

         II. Standard of Review

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. LLC v. La. State, 624 F.3d 201, 210 (5th Cir. 2010) (punctuation omitted). “To be plausible, the complaint's factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. (punctuation omitted). The Court must “accept all well-pleaded facts as true and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Id. But the Court will not accept as true “conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual inferences, or legal conclusions.” Id. Likewise, “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” PSKS, Inc. v. Leegin Creative Leather Prods., Inc., 615 F.3d 412, 417 (5th Cir. 2010) (punctuation omitted). “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).

         III. Discussion

         Defendant argues that each claim asserted in the Amended Complaint is barred by the applicable statute of limitations.

         A. Counts I and II

         Counts I and II are Section 1983 claims. “The statute of limitations for Section 1983 claims is the forum state's personal-injury limitations period . . . .” Smith v. Regional Transit Auth., 827 F.3d 412, 421 (5th Cir. 2016); see also Walker v. Epps, 550 F.3d 407, 415 (5th Cir. 2008). Therefore, Section 1983 claims must be filed in Mississippi “within three (3) years next after the cause of such action accrued, and not after.” Miss. Code Ann. § 15-1-49. A Section 1983 claim accrues “when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of the action.” Smith, 827 F.3d at 421. Therefore, “the limitations period begins when the plaintiff is in possession of the critical facts that he has been hurt and who has inflicted the injury.” Id.

         Plaintiffs allege that the City failed to pay them wages owed from 2010 through 2013, but that “it was understood between the parties that the City would fully compensate the Plaintiffs once the funds became available.” Amended Complaint at 7, Dukes v. Lumberton, No. 2:17-CV-150-KS-MTP (S.D.Miss. Oct. 26, 2017), ECF No. 12. However, according to Plaintiffs, the City refused to honor this alleged agreement in July 2017, although it paid other former City officials. Id. at 2-3. Plaintiffs allege that the City's breach of the alleged agreement is because “the City's Board of Alderman has personal agendas with the former board members . . . .” Id. at 3. Plaintiffs also allege that the City failed to make proper payments into PERS, that it refuses to correct the error, and that they just learned of the PERS problems within the past year. Id.

         To the extent Plaintiffs' alleged injury is Defendant's failure to pay owed wages from 2010 to 2013, their Section 1983 claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. A plain reading of Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint suggests that Plaintiffs knew at the time they were not being paid what they were owed. “[T]he limitations period begins when the plaintiff is in possession of the critical facts that he has been hurt and who has inflicted the injury.” Smith, 827 F.3d at 421. Plaintiff initiated this action on August 25, 2017. Therefore, any Section 1983 claim accruing from 2010 to 2013 would be barred by the three-year statute of limitations.

         However, to the extent Plaintiffs' alleged injury is the breach of an agreement to pay them back wages at some point after 2013, their Section 1983 claims are not barred by the applicable statute of limitations.[1] According to their pleading, they learned of this alleged breach within the past several months. Likewise, they learned of the City's failure to make PERS payments within the past year. A Section 1983 claim accrues “when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of the action.” Smith, 827 F.3d at 421. Therefore, Plaintiffs' Section 1983 claims arising from ...


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