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Lawrence J. Peet v. Jeffrey A. Beard

November 1, 2011

LAWRENCE J. PEET, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JEFFREY A. BEARD, PH.D, SECRETARY OF THE PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Martin C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge

Judge Caputo (Magistrate Judge Carlson)

MEMORANDUM ORDER

Now pending before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint in this action, in order to name Marcy Boyer, a nurse employed by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, as an additional defendant. Plaintiff filed this motion for leave approximately one and one-half years after commencing this litigation, which was initially brought against 44 named defendants; despite Defendants having provided Plaintiff with notice about Ms. Boyer's identity in March 2010, shortly after this action was commenced. Although the statute of limitations has now run on Plaintiff's proposed claims against Ms. Boyer, Plaintiff contends that the proposed claims against Ms. Boyer relate back to the original claims in this case, and he should, therefore, be given leave to amend pursuant to Rule 15(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

In support of his argument, Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Boyer had "imputed notice" of this action, because other employees of the Department of Corrections had been given notice of the original complaint. Additionally, Plaintiff asserts that because Defendants' attorney of record would represent Ms. Boyer if she is named as a defendant, Ms. Boyer should be deemed to have received notice of this lawsuit, and of the likelihood that she would be named as a defendant, through counsel. For these reasons, Plaintiff contends that Ms. Boyer would not be prejudiced if she is required to defend herself from Plaintiff's allegations, even at this late date, and urges the Court to grant the motion. In addition, Plaintiff argues that Ms. Boyer should have known that she would have been named as a defendant but for Plaintiff's mistake about her identity, and that this provides an additional basis to permit a relation-back amendment of the complaint.

Defendants have opposed Plaintiff's motion, arguing that it is untimely, and that it fails to satisfy the requirements set forth in Rule 15(c) governing relation- back of amendments. Defendants emphasize that Plaintiff has produced no evidence to suggest that Ms. Boyer had actual and timely notice of this litigation, and no evidence that Defendants' counsel of record ever communicated with Ms. Boyer about this action before August 2011. Defendants also argue that Plaintiff cannot show that there is an identity of interests between Ms. Boyer and the named defendants such that she would be deemed to have received imputed notice of the lawsuit. Similarly, Defendants assert that there is no evidence to show that Ms. Boyer knew or should have known, absent a mistake about the identity of the proper party, that this action would have been brought against her. Accordingly, Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed entirely to show that a relation-back amendment should be permitted in this case.

Upon consideration of the parties' respective positions, we find that Plaintiff's motion must be denied.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND*fn1

On March 16, 2008, Lawrence J. Peet, an inmate incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill (SCI-Camp Hill), suffered a grand mal seizure while in his cell, and became unconscious. After he lost consciousness, Peet fell against a hot radiator in the cell, and his face remained in direct contact with the radiator for approximately 30 minutes before prison officials discovered his injuries and came to his aid. As a result of Peet's face remaining in contact with the hot radiator for this extended period of time, Peet sustained third-degree burns to his face, hands and forearms; he is now permanently blind in his right eye; and his face is grossly disfigured.

Only three hours before Peet suffered the grand mal seizure in his cell, he had been taken to the medical ward at SCI-Camp Hill because he was suffering from seizure-like symptoms. Medical officials with Prison Health Services ("PHS"), which was contracted with the Commonwealth to provide medical services within SCI-Camp Hill, released Peet from the medical ward, and he was returned to his cell, where he was allegedly left unsupervised, and where he thereafter sustained the severe and permanent injuries summarized above.

Peet subsequently brought suit against prison and medical officials, including PHS and members of its staff working at SCI-Camp Hill, on December 3, 2009. Thereafter, Plaintiff voluntarily withdrew his complaint without prejudice, and re-filed under the instant caption on March 3, 2010. (Doc. 1) In this civil action that was subsequently commenced, Peet sued approximately 50 defendants, primarily guards and officials employed by the Department of Corrections ("DOC") at SCI-Camp Hill and SCI-Graterford. In addition, some of the defendants include medical providers and staff from PHS, who do not work directly for the DOC but who are contracted to provide medical care for inmates at the prisons. As grounds for relief, Plaintiff has alleged violations of his constitutional rights and medical malpractice. Plaintiff also included three "John Does" and three "Jane Does" as defendants in this case. To date, no counsel has entered an appearance on behalf of the "Doe" defendants.

III. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff has alleged that on March 16, 2008, he sustained the injuries that form the basis for this complaint. There is no dispute that the statute of limitations applicable to all of Plaintiff's claims is two years. Plaintiff commenced this lawsuit on March 3, 2010, less than two weeks before the two-year limitations period would have expired. In the complaint, Plaintiff named 44 defendants. Marcy Boyer, a nurse employed by the DOC who Plaintiff now alleges was involved in providing him medical care at SCI-Camp Hill, was not among those named as defendants in the original complaint.

Plaintiff filed the motion now pending before the Court on September 16, 2011, seeking leave to add Ms. Boyer as a defendant. Although Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that "leave to amend shall be freely given when justice so requires," Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a), because Plaintiff's proposed amendment to add claims against Ms. Boyer would be filed approximately one and one-half years after the statute of limitations on his proposed claims against Ms. Boyer would have expired, he must seek leave of Court to amend his complaint pursuant to Rule 15(c), which permits a plaintiff, in limited ...


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