Submitted: January 9, 2018
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Arkansas - Little Rock
LOKEN, BEAM, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.
and wife James and Ollie Humphrey appeal after the district
courtdismissed their 42 U.S.C. § 1983
complaint as time-barred. We affirm.
2009, the Eureka Gardens Public Facility Board (Board)
decided that a new sewer system would be constructed in the
Eureka Gardens community, located near the City of North
Little Rock, Arkansas. An engineer's report initially
proposed that gravity sewer systems be installed at all
Eureka Gardens residences. The Board submitted that report to
the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the USDA
approved funding to assist with construction of the system,
subject to USDA approval of any changes to the engineer's
initial design. The design was subsequently changed such that
five residences would receive grinder sewer systems instead.
Unlike gravity systems, grinder systems use electric-powered
pumps, making them more expensive to operate and maintain.
African-American families lived at four of the five
residences that were to receive grinder systems under the
Humphreys, who are African-American, own two of the Eureka
Gardens residences that were designated to receive grinder
systems. In October 2011, they signed a contract, which
provided that grinder pumps would be installed at each of
their Eureka Gardens properties. In the contract, the Board
agreed to install the grinder pumps as well as lines
connecting the pumps to the sewer system's main sewage
lines, and to do so at no cost to the Humphreys. In return,
the Humphreys agreed to install electrical lines to power
each pump and to maintain the pumps once they were installed.
Construction of the new sewer system was completed in
November 2013. The City of North Little Rock Wastewater
Department (NLRWD) operates, maintains, and repairs the new
sewer system, and it charges all residents of Eureka
Gardens-including the Humphreys and the other grinder pump
recipients-a uniform rate to do so. It does not operate,
maintain, or repair the grinder pumps.
2016, the Humphreys filed this lawsuit against the Board;
Board Chairman C. Ray Roberts; the City of North Little Rock;
Michael Marlar, the engineer who designed the sewer system;
Marlar Engineering Company; and the USDA (collectively,
Defendants). In their verified complaint, as amended, the
Humphreys assert that Defendants violated their
constitutional rights to procedural due process, substantive
due process, and equal protection. Defendants filed a motion
to dismiss the complaint as time-barred under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), which the district court granted.
court may dismiss a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) as barred by
the statute of limitations if the complaint itself
establishes that the claim is time-barred." Illig v.
Union Elec. Co., 652 F.3d 971, 976 (8th Cir. 2011).
"[T]he court may consider the pleadings themselves,
materials embraced by the pleadings, exhibits attached to the
pleadings, and matters of public record." Id.
(quoting Mills v. City of Grand Forks, 614 F.3d 495,
498 (8th Cir. 2010)). "We review de novo whether a
statute of limitations bars a party's claim."
Smithrud v. City of St. Paul, 746 F.3d 391, 395 (8th
Cir. 2014). Arkansas's three-year statute of limitations
for personal-injury actions applies to the Humphreys'
§ 1983 claims. See Ketchum v. City of West Memphis,
Ark., 974 F.2d 81, 82 (8th Cir. 1992) (Arkansas's
3-year personal-injury statute of limitations governs §
1983 actions brought in that state); see also Ark.
Code Ann. § 16-56-105. Thus, the Humphreys were required
to file their lawsuit within three years of the date their
claims accrued. Section 1983 claims accrue "when the
plaintiff has a complete and present cause of action, that
is, when the plaintiff can file suit and obtain relief."
Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 388 (2007) (cleaned
resolution of this dispute is guided by Delaware State
College v. Ricks, 449 U.S. 250 (1980), and Chardon
v. Fernandez, 454 U.S. 6 (1981) (per curiam). In
Ricks, a college professor filed a Title VII
complaint alleging he was denied tenure based on his national
origin. 449 U.S. at 254. The college notified the professor
that the tenure committee had voted to deny him tenure, but
did not terminate his employment until a year later.
Id. at 252-53. The Supreme Court held that the
professor's complaint was time-barred under Title
VII's statute of limitations, as the professor's
claim had accrued once he was notified of the allegedly
discriminatory decision to deny him tenure, not when he was
actually terminated. Id. at 257-58. According to the
Court, "the only alleged discrimination occurred-and the
filing limitations period therefore commenced-at the time the
tenure decision was made and communicated to [the professor].
That is so even though one of the effects of the
denial of tenure-the eventual loss of a teaching position-did
not occur until later." Id. at 258 (footnote
omitted). The professor's termination was not a
"continuing violation" of Title VII, but was
instead "a delayed, but inevitable, consequence of the
denial of tenure." Id. at 257-58. In
Chardon, the Court extended the reasoning of
Ricks to determine the accrual date for a §
1983 claim of discriminatory termination. 454 U.S. at 7-8.
More specifically, the Court held that the decision to
terminate was the allegedly discriminatory act, and that the
employee's claims accrued when he was notified of that
decision, even though he was not actually terminated until a
later date. Id. at 8.
the same principles here, the Humphreys' claims accrued
in October 2011, when they were notified of the allegedly
discriminatory decision to install the grinder systems
instead of gravity systems at their residences. The
installation of the pumps and the Humphreys' continuing
responsibility for the additional expenses they entail, like
the professor's ultimate termination in Ricks,
are delayed, but inevitable, consequences of that decision.
to the Humphreys, their claims did not accrue in October
2011, because they lacked standing to bring their claims at
that time. We disagree. When the Humphreys learned of the
allegedly discriminatory decision in October 2011, they could
have sought declaratory or injunctive relief, and later added
demands for compensatory damages once they incurred actual
financial harm. See Chardon, 454 U.S. at 8;
id. at 9 (Brennan, J., dissenting) ("The thrust
of the Court's decision is to require a potential civil