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Meyers v. Schuylkill County Prison

April 25, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. McClure, Jr. United States District Judge



On May 21, 2004, Plaintiff David Meyers, through his attorneys, instituted this Section 1983 civil rights action against numerous defendants connected with the Schuylkill County Prison. On March 7, 2006, we granted in part and denied in part defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Rec. Doc. No. 28.) The factual background of this case is set forth in that Memorandum. Now before the court is Plaintiff's Motion To Amend His Complaint To Name Jane And/Or John Doe. (Rec. Doc. No. 29.) Because plaintiff's failure to timely amend the complaint to identify the Doe Defendants is the result of undue delay, we will deny the motion. DISCUSSION:

A. The Local Rules

We note at the outset the failure of both parties to comply with the Local Rules of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, which may be found at Neither party's pleadings comply with Local Rule 5.1(c), and plaintiff's brief exceeds the fifteen page limit imposed by 7.8(b)(1). These lapses are inexplicable, especially in light of this court's order dated October 12, 2005, specifically admonishing the parties to comply with these precise rules. (Rec. Doc. No. 23.) In our October 12th order, we warned counsel that any subsequent document filed by the parties not in compliance with the Local Rules would be returned.

Because we see no purpose in punishing the parties for their attorneys' failures, we will not delay our disposition of this motion by returning the pleadings. We therefore decide the motion on its merits. Although counsel's failure to comply with both the Local Rules and an Order of this court is disappointing, such failure did not affect our analysis of the merits.

B. The Doe Defendants

Plaintiff filed suit against Doe defendants identified only as "those corrections officers and other prison officials whose responsibility was to provide medical care and treatment to the inmates." (Am. Compl., Rec. Doc. No. 4, at 2.) Nearly two years into the litigation, plaintiff had not specifically identified the Doe defendants despite the close of discovery. Defendants did not move in their motion for summary judgment for the dismissal of the unnamed Doe defendants, but in their reply to plaintiff's opposition, stated: "The John and/or Jane Doe defendants identified in the caption have never been identified, mandating their dismissal or judgment in their favor." (Rec. Doc. No. 24, at 11.) Defendants did not elaborate on this argument. To give plaintiff a full opportunity to address the matter, we directed plaintiff to file a motion to amend the complaint to substitute names for the Doe defendants.

On March 21, 2006, plaintiff filed his motion to amend the complaint and supporting brief. (Rec. Doc. No. 29.) Plaintiff seeks to substitute Corrections Officers Harner and Ferror, Lieutenant Lamar Gehris, Warden Gene Berdanier (Deputy Warden during Meyers' incarceration), and Nurse Christine Banonis for the Doe defendants. We will refer to these individuals collectively as "Doe defendants" or "proposed defendants."

After a twelve-page reiteration of the facts, plaintiff garnered two main arguments in his favor. First, plaintiff states that the "Jane Doe's [sic] and John Doe's [sic] were not named by the Plaintiff because he could not possibly know there [sic] identity without first performing discover [sic]." (Id. at 13-14.) Second, plaintiff argues that the proposed defendants had notice of the suit, either through the shared attorney method, by having a sufficient identity of interest, or from reading a news story published in the local newspaper. (Id. at 15.) In his argument, plaintiff repeatedly relies on the decision of United States Magistrate Judge Joel Rosen in Lassoff v. New Jersey, Civ. No. 05-2261, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5350 (D.N.J. Jan. 31, 2006), which denied that plaintiff's motion to amend.

In their opposition, proposed defendants argue that we should deny plaintiff's motion because his failure to amend is "a result of his undue delay, bad faith and dilatory motive." (Rec. Doc. No. 30, at 3.) Proposed defendants also argue that plaintiff failed to demonstrate that his proposed second amended complaint is meritorious, and that plaintiff failed to meet the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15. Plaintiff did not file a reply brief.

We will address plaintiff's arguments in reverse order. First, we discuss plaintiff's argument that proposed defendants had notice of the action. Secondly, we discuss plaintiff's attempt to explain his failure to identify the Doe defendants in a timely manner.

C. Rule 15(c) and Relation Back

Meyers sustained his injury in the summer months of 2002, and his wrist was casted on July 25, 2002. Meyers filed his complaint on May 21, 2004. "Actions brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are governed by the personal injury statute of limitations of the state in which the cause of action accrued." O'Connor v. City of Newark, 440 F.3d 125, 126 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Cito v. Bridgewater Twp. Police Dep't, 892 F.2d 23, 25 (3d Cir. 1989)). In Pennsylvania, "[a]n action to recover damages for injuries to the person or for the death of an individual caused by ...

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