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Baker v. Neneman

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

February 23, 2015

ROBERT BAKER, Plaintiff,
v.
LOU ANN NENEMAN, CITY OF OMAHA, and BRUCE HOLCOMB, M.D., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JOHN M. GERRARD, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on its own motion. For the reasons discussed below, the court will dismiss Plaintiff Robert Baker's ("Baker") claims against the defendants with prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND

Baker filed his Complaint (Filing No. 1) against Neneman, Holcomb and the City of Omaha. He alleged officers with the Omaha Police Department assaulted him on August 19, 2006, in conjunction with his arrest for the theft of a vehicle. Police officers transported Baker to a hospital following his arrest where Holcomb and Neneman were apparently employed as a doctor and nurse, respectively. At the hospital, Neneman assisted a doctor-not Holcomb- in applying Dermabond to a cut on Baker's face. (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF pp. 9-10.) At some point, Holcomb briefly examined the cut on Baker's face and then held a brief conversation with police officers in the hallway, which was "the extent of any contact [Baker] had with Dr. Holcomb." (Id. at CM/ECF p. 10.)

Baker alleged Neneman and Holcomb conspired with officers of the Omaha Police Department to deprive him of his constitutional rights. (Id. at CM/ECF p. 12.) The crux of Baker's argument appears to be that Neneman and Holcomb failed to ascertain the severity of Baker's injuries following his arrest. Had they examined him further, they would have uncovered severe knee and head injuries. (Id. at CM/ECF p. 14.)

On December 1, 2014, the court ordered Baker to show cause why this action should not be dismissed as untimely based on the applicable statute of limitations. (Filing No. 15.) Baker filed a response (Filing No. 16) on December 15, 2014.

II. DISCUSSION

Baker brings a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging conspiracy claims. It appears Baker may also be attempting to bring state-law professional negligence claims against Neneman and Holcomb. In either case, it is obvious from the Complaint that his claims are barred by the statute of limitations. A court "may sua sponte dismiss a complaint, before service, when an affirmative defense, such as the statute of limitations, is obvious from the complaint." Anderson v. United Transp. Union, No. 4:09-CV-00136-WRW, 2009 WL 529920, at * 1 (E.D.Ark. Mar. 2, 2009) (collecting cases).

A. 42 U.S.C. § 1983

"Section 1983 does not supply its own statute of limitations; instead, [the court] borrow[s] the statute of limitations from state law." Mountain Home Flight Serv. Inc. v. Baxter Cnty., Arkansas, 758 F.3d 1038, 1044 (8th Cir. 2014). Under Nebraska law, the applicable statute of limitations for this action is four years. See Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-207; Bridgeman v. Nebraska State Penitentiary, 849 F.2d 1076, 1077-78 (8th Cir. 1988).

Baker's cause of action accrued on August 19, 2006, the date on which Neneman and Holcomb allegedly conspired with police officers. Thus, he had until August 19, 2010, to file his § 1983 action. He did not file this action until March 12, 2014, more than three years and six months after the limitations period expired. Thus, absent equitable tolling of the limitations period (discussed below), Baker's § 1983 action is barred by the statute of limitations.

B. Medical Malpractice

A medical malpractice cause of action in Nebraska must be commenced:

within two years next after the alleged act or omission in rendering or failure to render professional services providing the basis for such action; Provided, if the cause of action is not discovered and could not be reasonably discovered within such two-year period, then the action may be commenced within one year from the date of such discovery or from the date ...

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