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Alvin Weston, et al v. City of Philadelphia

August 8, 2011

ALVIN WESTON, ET AL.,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lynne A. Sitarski United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM

Currently pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 31) and Defendant City of Philadelphia's Response in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 32). As more fully set forth herein, Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint is DENIED.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL OVERVIEW

On May 21, 2007, Plaintiff Alvin Weston was involved in an incident with police officers from the Philadelphia Police Department, which gives rise to this action. Compl. ¶ 4. Alvin Weston contends that on that date, he learned that his son was being arrested by Philadelphia Police Officers. Weston contends that he proceeded to the scene of the arrest, and identified himself as the arrestee's father. Weston contends that he was assaulted by Philadelphia Police Officers, sustaining various injuries. Compl. ¶ 5.

On May 20, 2009, Plaintiffs Alvin Weston and his wife Patricia Weston initiated this case against Defendants, the City of Philadelphia and Officer Joseph Colger (a/k/a John Doe) by the issuance of a summons in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia. Thereafter, on July 8, 2009, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, alleging unlawful seizure, excessive force, and other violations of the 4th, 5th, 8th and 14th Amendments under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983"). Compl. ¶¶ 10, 16. On July 22, 2009, Defendant City of Philadelphia removed this matter to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

This matter was initially assigned to District Court Judge C. Darnell Jones, II. On August 7, 2009, Defendant City of Philadelphia filed its Answer (Doc. No. 2) asserting seven affirmative defenses. On August 20, 2009, Defendant City of Philadelphia provided its Initial Disclosures pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(1), which identified all police personnel likely to have discoverable information about the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident. Among the persons named in Defendant City of Philadelphia's Initial Disclosures was Officer Joseph Koger.

On October 28, 2009, Judge Jones issued an Order (Doc. No. 4) requiring Plaintiffs to notify the court of their efforts to serve process upon "Defendant Officer Joseph Colger," who had been named in the Complaint, but upon whom service had not been effectuated. On February 1, 2010, after Plaintiffs failed to respond to the October 28, 2009 Order, Judge Jones issued an Order (Doc. No. 6) dismissing "Officer Joseph Colger" as a party to the lawsuit. However, on February 16, 2010, Judge Jones issued an Order (Doc. No. 8) vacating the February 1, 2010 Order, and again requiring that Plaintiffs notify the court of their efforts to serve process upon Defendant "Officer Joseph Colger." The record is devoid of any indication that Plaintiffs responded to the February 16, 2010 Order, and there is no indication that service was ever effectuated upon "Officer Joseph Colger."

On October 15, 2010, the parties consented to the exercise of jurisdiction by this Court (Doc. No. 18). On April 15, 2011, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 31) to name Officer Joseph Koger as a Defendant. On May 10, 2011, Defendant City of Philadelphia filed a Response (Doc. No. 32).

II. DISCUSSION

In general, "Rule 15(a) declares that leave to amend 'shall be freely given when justice so requires.'" Bivings v. Wakefield, 316 Fed. Appx. 177, 180 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)). However, "the grant or denial of an opportunity to amend is [ultimately] within the discretion of the [ ] Court," and leave to amend may be properly denied where there has been "undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, . . . undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, [or] futility of amendment." Id.

Plaintiffs seek to amend their complaint, to substitute "Officer Joseph Colger a/k/a John Doe," with Police Officer Joseph Koger. Defendant the City of Philadelphia opposes amendment on the grounds that any claim against Officer Koger is time-barred, so the proposed amendment would be futile.

Claims brought under § 1983 are subject to the state statutes of limitations governing personal injury actions. Garvin v. City of Philadelphia, 354 F.3d. 215, 220 (3d Cir. 2003) (citations omitted). Specifically, the Pennsylvania statute of limitations for personal injury actions, which is applicable in the instant case, is two years. Id. (citing 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5524(7) (2003)). "The naming of a John Doe defendant in a complaint does not stop the statute of limitations from running or toll the limitations period as to that defendant." Id. (citing Talbert v. Kelly, 799 F.2d 62, n.1 (3d Cir. 1986)). "When a party 'seeks leave to file an amended complaint . . . naming a new party after the statute of limitations has expired, the requested leave may only be granted if that party demonstrates that the new claims or parties relate back to the filing date of the original complaint.'" Brown v. City of Philadelphia, No. 09-5157, 2010 WL 1956245, at *3 (E.D. Pa. May 7, 2010) (quoting In re Estate of Grier v. Univ. of Pa. Health Sys., No. 07-4224, 2009 WL 1652168, at *2 (E.D. Pa. June 11, 2009)). The relation back of amendments is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c), which outlines the conditions that must be met for an amendment to relate back to the original pleading. The Third Circuit has held that "[r]eplacing the name John Doe with a party's real name amounts to the changing of a party or the naming of a party under Rule 15(c)." Garvin, 354 F.3d at 220.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c) states in pertinent part:

(1) An amendment to a pleading relates back to the date of the ...


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