The opinion of the court was delivered by: DITTER
The principal question in this case is what effect naming a John Doe defendant has on the statute of limitations. A second question involves whether there is any evidence to show a city practice or policy that led to the use of unnecessary force. Now before me are two motions for summary judgment. For the reasons discussed below, I will grant both motions.
Anthony Frazier was shot by police on October 20, 1992. He died a few days later. His brother, Michael Frazier, acting as the administrator of Anthony's estate, brought this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged constitutional deprivations resulting from the shooting.
On October 18, 1994, plaintiff filed a praecipe for a writ of summons in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. He named as defendants the city, the police department, Officer John Doe # 1, and Officer John Doe # 2. Except that he was bringing suit in a representative capacity, plaintiff's praecipe for a writ of summons contained no facts from which a person could ascertain the basis of the lawsuit. The John Doe summonses were eventually returned to plaintiff with a notation indicating that the city solicitor could not accept service for the unidentified officers
On October 28, 1994, the city filed a praecipe and rule to file a complaint within twenty days or suffer judgement of non pros. Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas on February 22, 1995, approximately 17 weeks later. While the caption still named only the city, the police department, and the two John Doe defendants, Detectives Fredric McQuiggan and Paul Cassidy were referred to by name and what they allegedly did described in the body of the complaint.
On March 9, 1995, the city and the police department removed the case to this court. On May 22, 1995, I held a pre-trial conference during which the parties agreed that on or before May 26, 1995, plaintiff's counsel would send a stipulation to defendants' counsel so that the complaint could be amended to provide the names of the two officers referred to as John Doe # 1 and John Doe # 2. The legal significance of this stipulation was not an issue at the time.
Service of the summons and complaint appears to have been made on the detectives on October 6, 1995. On January 24, 1996, I denied Detectives McQuiggan's and Cassidy's motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.Pro. 12(b)(5).
Detectives McQuiggan and Cassidy maintain that judgment should be entered in their favor because plaintiff's claims against them are time-barred. The city
proffers various arguments why judgment should be entered in its favor.
A. The Statute of Limitations Bars This Action Against Detectives McQuiggan and Cassidy
Plaintiff had until October 20, 1994, to commence this action.
Where a case originates in state court, as this case did, but is later removed to federal court, as this case was, the state rule controls the question of commencement. See Winkels v. George A. Hormel & Co., ...