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Ian Quarles v. Warden John A. Palakovich

October 24, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Chief Judge Kane)

(Magistrate Judge Carlson)


Presently pending before the Court is Plaintiff Ian Quarles's motion to amend his complaint. (Doc. No. 145.) For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny the motion.


This case concerns a civil action for damages brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Smithfield, Pennsylvania (S.C.I.), where Defendants were employed. Plaintiff claims that on October 12, 2005, a portion of the drywall ceiling in the prison shower fell down on him and caused injury to his head and back. Plaintiff contends that Defendants were aware of the shower cell ceiling's deterioration, but that they continued to use the shower cell for prisoners until it collapsed and caused Plaintiff's injury. Plaintiff claims that Defendants' failure to protect him from the shower ceiling violated his Eighth Amendment rights. In his complaint, Plaintiff names the warden of the S.C.I., the deputy warden, the facility manager, the unit manager, three corrections officers (CO), and unnamed John Doe defendants. (Doc. No. 1 ¶¶ 4-12.) The complaint alleges that the John Doe defendants "are staff members at the S.C.I. [who are] responsible for the care, custody and control of inmates, as well as the normal operation of [the] facility and its units, [and] were part of the inspection team that inspected the unit in the month of September 2005." (Id. ¶ 12.)

On June 24, 2011, after the discovery deadline was extended twice, Defendants took the deposition of inmate Kenneth Lunan, who provided testimony regarding the alleged shower incident. (Doc. No. 147-2.) In the deposition, Lunan implicated CO Whiting and CO Noland in the incident, stating that CO Whiting instructed CO Crum to place a sign at the shower indicating that the shower was closed, and that CO Noland took down the sign the next morning. (Id. at 8-10.)

On June 27, 2011, the Court extended the discovery deadline to July 19, 2011, and placed the case on the October trial list. (Doc. No. 143.) On August 10, 2011, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend his complaint to add CO Whiting and CO Noland as defendants, and add four new paragraphs to the complaint, alleging that CO Whiting instructed CO Crum to post a sign closing the shower, and that CO Noland removed the sign. (Doc. No. 145.) The motion seeks to substitute CO Whiting and CO Noland as defendants for the John Doe defendants. (Doc. No. 146 at 3.) On September 15, 2011, the Court continued the trial, and placed it on the November trial list. (Doc. No. 149.)


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 provides that a party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within 21 days of serving it, within 21 days after service of a responsive pleading, or within 21 days of a motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f). Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1). Otherwise, a party seeking to amend its pleading may only do so with the opposing party's written consent, or leave of court, and courts should "freely give leave when justice so requires." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). Whether to grant or deny the motion is within the district court's discretion. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). A court may deny a motion for leave to amend if "(1) the moving party has demonstrated undue delay, bad faith, or dilatory motives, (2) the amendment would be futile, or (3) the amendment would prejudice the other party." Fraser v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 352 F.3d 107, 116 (3d Cir. 2003). An amendment is futile "if the amendment will not cure the deficiency in the original complaint or if the amended complaint cannot withstand a renewed motion to dismiss." Riley v. Taylor, 62 F.3d 86, 92 (3d Cir. 1995) (quoting Jablonski v. Pan. Am. World Airways, Inc., 863 F.2d 289, 292 (3d Cir. 1988)).

Section 1983 claims are subject to state statutes of limitations, and "[t]he 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." Garvin v. Philadelphia, 354 F.3d 215, 222 (3d Cir. 2003). Plaintiff does not dispute that, in this matter, the statute of limitations has expired, and that in order to add CO Whiting and CO Noland as defendants, the amendment must relate back to the filing of the original complaint. (Doc. No. 146 at 3.)

When a plaintiff seeks to amend his complaint to replace the name John Doe with a party's real name, this "amounts to the changing of a party or the naming of a party under Rule 15(c), and thus the amended complaint will relate back only if the three conditions specified in that rule are satisfied." Garvin, 354 F.3d at 220. Under the rule, a plaintiff seeking to have a complaint "relate back" must show that:

(1) the claim or defense set forth in the amended [complaint] arose out of the conduct, transaction or occurrence set forth in the original [complaint]; (2) within [120 days following the filing of the complaint], the party or parties to be added received notice of the institution of the suit and would not be prejudiced in maintaining a defense; and (3) the party sought to be added knew that, but for a mistake concerning his or her identity, he or she would have been made a party to the action.

Id. (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c), 4(m); Singletary v. Pa. Dep't of Corrs., 266 F.3d 186, 194 (3d Cir. 2001)).

Plaintiff argues that: (1) the proposed amendment to the complaint, adding CO Whiting and CO Noland to the action, involves the same conduct and occurrence set out in the original complaint; (2) CO Whiting and CO Noland had imputed notice of the institution of the action, based on either an identity of interest theory or a shared attorney theory; and (3) CO Whiting and CO Noland knew or should have known that, but for a mistake concerning the identity of a proper party, the action would have been brought against them. (Doc. No. 146 at 4-6.) As to this third condition, Plaintiff argues that if CO Whiting and CO Noland knew of the filing of the complaint, then they would have known, or should have known, that they were among the unnamed John Doe defendants, since they played a role in the case. (Id. at 5.) Defendants argue that, even if Plaintiff can ...

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