United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
SCOTT W. HELFINSTINE, Plaintiff,
MR. LAWLESS, et al., Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
L. Litkovitz United States Magistrate Judge.
a prisoner at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF),
has filed a pro se civil rights complaint pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Mr. Lawless, Mrs.
Linnea Mahlman, Mr. Steven, and Mr. D. Lewis. On sua sponte
screening by the Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§
1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b)(1), plaintiffs claims were
dismissed with the exception of plaintiff s First Amendment
retaliation claim against defendant Lawless and his Eighth
Amendment claims against defendants Lawless, Lewis, and
Steven. This matter is before the Court on defendants'
motion for judgment on the pleadings (Doc. 14), plaintiffs
memorandum in opposition (Doc. 16), and defendants' reply
memorandum (Doc. 17).
Allegations of the complaint
alleges that he was denied recreation in August, September,
and October of 2017 while an inmate at SOCF. (See
Doc. 3). Plaintiff also claims that as a result of filing
informal complaint resolutions concerning the denial of
recreation he was subjected to retaliation and other
violations of his First and Eighth Amendment rights.
apply the same analysis to motions for judgment on the
pleadings under Rule 12(c) as they apply to motions to
dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Warrior Sports,
Inc. v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass 'n, 623
F.3d 281, 284 (6th Cir. 2010). "For purposes of a motion
for judgment on the pleadings, all well-pleaded material
allegations of the pleadings of the opposing party must be
taken as true, and the motion may be granted only if the
moving party is nevertheless clearly entitled to
judgment." JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Winget,
510 F.3d 577, 582 (6th Cir. 2007) (internal citation and
quotation marks omitted). However, the Court need not accept
as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences.
Id. (citing Mixon v. Ohio, 193 F.3d 389,
400 (6th Cir. 1999)).
withstand a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings,
"a complaint must contain direct or inferential
allegations respecting all the material elements under some
viable legal theory." Commercial Money Or., Inc. v.
Ill. Union Ins. Co., 508 F.3d 327, 336 (6th Cir. 2007).
"The factual allegations in the complaint need to be
sufficient to give notice to the defendant as to what claims
are alleged, and the plaintiff must plead 'sufficient
factual matter' to render the legal claim plausible,
i.e., more than merely possible." Fritz v. Charter
Twp. of Comstock, 592 F.3d 718, 722 (6th Cir. 2010)
(citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78
(2009)). A "legal conclusion couched as a factual
allegation'' need not be accepted as true, nor are
recitations of the elements of a cause of action sufficient.
Hensley Mfg. v. ProPride, Inc., 579 F.3d 603, 609
(6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).
Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings should
move for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(c) on the basis that plaintiff made a
knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of his claims
under Ohio Rev. Code § 2743.02(A)(I) by filing suit in
the Ohio Court of Claims based on the same set of acts or
omissions as this case. (Doc. 14). Defendants therefore argue
that plaintiffs claims are barred under the Leaman
doctrine of the Sixth Circuit. (Id. at 4).
motion for judgment on the pleadings should be granted
because plaintiffs claims are barred under Leaman v. Ohio
Dept. of Mental Retardation & Dev. Disabilities, 825
F.2d 946 (6th Cir. 1987). Ohio Rev. Code § 2743.02(A)(1)
provides, in part, that "filing a civil action in the
court of claims results in a complete waiver of any cause of
action, based on the same act or omission, that the filing
party has against any officer or employee.. . ." The
waiver applies to federal causes of actions as well as causes
of action based on state law. Savage v. Gee, 665
F.3d 732, 738 (6th Cir. 2012) ("federal damages claims
against state officials are barred where claims based on the
same act or omission were previously raised in the Court of
Claims-----") (citing Leaman v. Ohio Dept. of Mental
Retardation & Dev. Disabilities, 825 F.2d 946 (6th
Cir. 1987) (en banc)). See also Thomson v. Harmony,
65 F.3d 1314, 1318 (6th Cir. 1995) (explaining that the Court
of Claims Act established a "quidpro quo, in
which the state consents to be sued in exchange for a
plaintiffs waiver of claims against the state's
plaintiffs choice to pursue relief in the Court of Claims
must be "knowing, intelligent, and voluntary."
Easley v. Cooper, 1:16-cv-338, 2017 WL 4857605, at
*2-5 (S.D. Ohio Oct. 25, 2017) (Report and Recommendation),
adopted, 2017 WL 5594125 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 21, 2017)
(quoting Leaman, 825 F.2d at 956). In
Leaman, the plaintiff made a knowing and voluntary
waiver of her federal cause of action because she was
represented by counsel at the time the Court of Claims action
was filed. Id. ("The finding that the waiver
was 'knowing, intelligent, and voluntary' presumably
rests upon the fact that Ms. Leaman was represented by
competent counsel when she filed her action in the Court of
Claims, and counsel must be presumed to have known what the
Court of Claims Act said. Under the circumstances of this
case, we consider this an adequate foundation for the finding
of voluntariness."). "In contrast, this presumption
does not automatically apply to pro se litigants and district
courts must make a factual determination as to whether a pro
se litigant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived
federal claims when filing suit in the Ohio Court of
Claims." Easley, 2017 WL 4857605, at *2-5
(citing Kajfasz v. Haviland, 55 Fed.Appx. 719, 722
(6th Cir. 2003)). The Court considers a number of factors in
determining whether a waiver is sufficient, including: the
number of cases litigated, proper caption, identification of
proper jurisdictional statutes, relevant statutes for the
constitutional claims, and the specific identification of
R.C. § 2743.02 "which [would] illustrate that
[the plaintiff] was on notice that he would waive his claims
... by filing suit there." Brooks v. McCoy, No.
1:15-cv-39, 2015 WL 4538512, at *2 (S.D. Ohio July 27, 2015).
filed a complaint against the Ohio Department of
Rehabilitation and Correction, Mr. Lawless, Mrs. Linnea
Mahlman, Mr. Steven, and Mr. D. Lewis in the Ohio Court of
Claims on September 26, 2018. See Case Information,
2018-0310JD Scott Helfmstine v. Ohio Department of
Rehabilitation and Correction, OHIO COURT OF CLAIMS,
(last visited Aug. 29, 2019). Plaintiff acknowledges his filing
in the Ohio Court of Claims, but he alleges he filed the case
"for a different reason." Plaintiff alleges,
"I am suing ODRC for continuing to allow what goes on
here to go on with a blind eye and[d] deaf ears just so they
don't have to speak on it." (Doc. 16 at 5). Contrary
to plaintiffs allegations, his complaint in the instant
federal case was not filed for "a different
reason." Rather, the complaint filed in federal court
appears to be virtually identical to the complaint he filed
in the Ohio Court of Claims, with the exception of the first
page which identifies 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as the statutory
basis for his federal claims, while his Ohio Court of Claims
complaint alleges "[t]his is a prison conditions claim
authorized by 2743.02(F) of the Ohio Revised Code.. . ."
Plaintiffs federal court complaint names the same defendants
with the exception of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation
and Correction. All of the remaining factual allegations and
prayers for relief of both complaints are identical.
Court therefore concludes that plaintiffs federal lawsuit
arises from the same acts or omission alleged in the Ohio
Court of Claims case. While "an identity of claims and
defendants is not required" and “[t]he waiver
applies to any cause of action, based on the same acts or
omissions, which plaintiff may have against any officer or
employee of the state," Easley, 2008 WL 618642,
at *2, given the virtually identical complaints filed by
plaintiff in both courts there is no ...