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Martin v. City of Reading

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

January 29, 2015

ERNEST MARTIN, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF READING; READING POLICE DEPARTMENT; WILLIAM HEIM, CHIEF OF POLICE OF THE READING POLICE, individually and in his official capacity; OFFICER BRIAN ERRINGTON, Individually and in his official capacity, CAPTAIN DAMON KLOC, individually and in his official capacity, JOHN DOE 1 through JOHN DOE 7; PENNSYLVANIA STATE TROOPER MICHAEL PAVELKO, individually, JOHN DOE 8 and JOHN DOE 9, Defendants.[1]

EDITH A. PEARCE ESQUIRE, On behalf of plaintiff.

DAVID J. MacMAIN ESQUIRE, On behalf of Reading Defendants.

ANTHONY P. VENDITTI ESQUIRE, On behalf of Trooper Pavelko.

OPINION

JAMES KNOLL GARDNER, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on Plaintiff's Motion to Amend Plaintiff's Amended Civil Action ("Motion to Amend").[2] For the reasons expressed below, I deny plaintiff's Motion to Amend.

SUMMARY OF DECISION

In the within action, plaintiff Ernest Martin asserts federal constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that defendants violated his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, [3] and Pennsylvania state-law tort claims, against defendants City of Reading; Reading Police Department; William Heim, Chief of Police of the Reading Police ("Chief Heim"); Officer Brian Errington ("Officer Errington"), a member of the Reading Police Department; Captain Damon Kloc ("Captain Kloc"), also a member of the Reading Police Department; Pennsylvania State Trooper Michael Pavelko ("Trooper Pavelko"); and nine John Doe defendants.

In his Motion to Amend, plaintiff seeks to replace four of the John Doe defendants with two officers and two sergeants from the Reading Police Department. Plaintiff also seeks a further extension of time in which to substitute a fifth John Doe defendant with an as-yet-unidentified member of the Reading Police Department.

Plaintiff's claims arise from an incident on April 19, 2012. Plaintiff alleges that, while he was standing by the railing on a highway bypass, defendant Officer Errington fired a Taser at him, causing him to fall from the bypass to the ground below and sustain catastrophic injuries. Plaintiff contends that the use of force by Officer Errington was illegal and excessive and that all defendants conspired to cover up the alleged use of excessive force after the incident. Plaintiff contends that these putative defendants played a part in the alleged conspiracy and cover-up.

The Reading Defendants and Trooper Pavelko oppose plaintiff's Motion to Amend and his request for additional time to further amend his pleading.

For the reasons expressed below, I deny plaintiff's Motion to Amend in its entirety. Specifically I deny the Motion to Amend because it is barred by the statute of limitations and therefore futile.

JURISDICTION

This court has federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 concerning plaintiff's federal causes of action asserted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This court has supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) concerning plaintiff's pendent state-law claims.

VENUE

Venue is proper for all defendants pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2) because a substantial part of the events giving rise to plaintiff's claims occurred in West Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania, which is located within this judicial district.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On June 28, 2012, plaintiff filed a Civil Action Complaint ("Complaint")[4] in this court against the following defendants: City of Reading; Reading Police Department; Chief Heim; The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania State Police; Dante Orlandi, Commanding Officer of Pennsylvania State Police Troop L ("Captain Orlandi"); and twelve John Doe defendants (ten of whom were from the Reading Police Department and the remaining two of whom were from the Pennsylvania State Police).

On August 28, 2012 defendants City of Reading, Chief Heim, and Reading Police Department filed an answer with affirmative defenses[5] to plaintiff's claims.

On September 7, 2012, defendants The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State Police, and Captain Orlandi filed a motion to dismiss[6] plaintiff's Complaint.

On November 2, 2012, plaintiff filed an amended Civil Action Complaint ("Amended Complaint").[7] In his Amended Complaint, plaintiff did not list the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or Pennsylvania State Police as defendants. The Amended Complaint also only lists nine John Doe defendants (seven from the Reading Police Department and two from the Pennsylvania State Police) instead of the twelve listed in the initial Complaint. The Amended Complaint additionally identified Officer Errington, Captain Kloc, and Trooper Pavelko as defendants.[8]

On November 15, 2012, Captain Orlandi filed a motion to dismiss[9] plaintiff's claims against him.

On January 28, 2013, motions to dismiss[10] were filed by both Trooper Pavelko and the Reading Defendants, respectively.

By Order dated January 29, 2013 and filed January 30, 2013, [11] I approved a stipulation withdrawing all of plaintiff's claims against Captain Orlandi.

On February 11, 2013, plaintiff filed responses in opposition[12] to the Reading Defendants' and Trooper Pavelko's motions to dismiss.

By Order and accompanying Opinion dated and filed September 30, 2013, [13] I granted in part and denied in part both Trooper Pavelko's and Reading Defendants' motions to dismiss.

On June 2, 2014, plaintiff filed his Motion to Amend which seeks to substitute Andrew J. Winters, a sergeant with the Reading Police ("Sergeant Winters"), for Defendant John Doe-1; Jeffrey Stone, also a sergeant with the Reading Police ("Sergeant Stone"), for John Doe-2; Matthew Niebel, a Reading Police Officer ("Officer Niebel"), for John Doe-3; and Joseph Ring, another Reading Police Officer ("Officer Ring"), for John Doe-4.[14] Plaintiff also seeks a further extension of time, either to file a third amended complaint specifically identifying the remaining John Does, should the defendants so consent, or, in the event that the defendants do not consent, to file a motion for leave to amend.

On June 16, 2014, both the Reading Defendants Response and Trooper Pavelko's Response were filed.[15]

On July 16, 2014, oral argument was held before me on plaintiff's Motion to Amend.[16] At the conclusion of oral argument, I took the matter under advisement. Hence this Opinion.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides parties with the framework for filing amended and supplemental pleadings. Specifically, where, as here, a party is not amending as a matter of right under Rule 15(a)(1) or with the consent of the opposing parties, Rule 15(a)(2) provides that "a party may amend its pleading only with... the court's leave. The court should freely give leave when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c)(1).

Where leave to amend is requested under Rule 15(a), such leave "shall be freely given, in the absence of circumstances such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive, undue prejudice to the opposing party or futility of amendment." Jablonski v. Pan Am. World Airways, Inc., 863 F.2d 289, 292 (3d Cir. 1988) (citing ...


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