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Williams v. City of Denton

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

May 23, 2019

MELVIN EARL WILLIAMS, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF DENTON, TEXAS, APRIL DAWN MCDONOUGH, KEITH D. MARTIN, and DENTON COUNTY, TEXAS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          KIMBERLY C. PRIEST JOHNSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Melvin Earl Williams, Jr.'s (“Plaintiff”) Opposed Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint to Substitute Defendants (the “Motion for Leave”) (Dkt. 43). The Motion for Leave seeks to make three significant changes: (1) remove Defendant Keith D. Martin (“Martin”) from the suit; (2) amend allegations previously made against April Dawn McDonough (“McDonough”); and (3) add Officer M. McGuire (Badge #173) (“McGuire”) as a defendant. See Dkt. 43 at 2. The Motion for Leave is agreed in part and opposed in part by Defendants McDonough, Martin, and City of Denton, Texas (collectively, “City Defendants”). See Dkt. 47. The City Defendants do not oppose those amendments to the Complaint which dismiss claims against Martin or amend allegations against McDonough. See Dkt. 47 at 3. However, the City Defendants oppose adding McGuire as a Defendant. See Dkt. 47 at 1-3.

         I. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff seeks leave to amend the Complaint pursuant to Rule 15(c)(1)(C), which would allow the amendment to relate back to the time of filing and overcome the statute of limitations. See Dkt. 43 at 3. Plaintiff argues this is the type of “quintessential misidentification for which Rule 15(c)” is intended, because the Denton Police Department incident report (the “Incident Report”) on which Plaintiff relied in filing the Complaint identifies only McDonough and Martin, not McGuire. See id. at 4; Dkt. 43-2 at 1-2 (identifying McDonough as the “Reporting Officer” and Martin as the “Approving Supervisor”).[1] As such, Plaintiff asserts that he relied on the Incident Report when filing suit and had no reason to know that another officer was involved. See Dkt. 43 at 3-5.

         The statute of limitations has run against McGuire. See Dkt. 47 at 3. Accordingly, Plaintiff relies on Rule 15(c) in order for his claim against McGuire to relate back to the time suit was filed.

         Rule 15(c)(1) states:

An amendment of a pleading relates back to the date of the original pleading when:
(A) the law that provides the applicable statute of limitations allows relation back;
(B) the amendment asserts a claim or defense that arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out-or attempted to be set out-in the original pleading; or
(C) the amendment changes the party or the naming of the party against whom a claim is asserted, if Rule (c)(1)(B) is satisfied and if, within the period provided by Rule 4(m) for serving the summons and complaint, the party to be brought in by amendment:
(i) received such notice of the action that it will not be prejudiced in defending on the merits; and
(ii) knew or should have known that the action would have been brought against it, but for a mistake concerning the proper party's identity.

         Defendants argue Plaintiff cannot satisfy Rule 15(c)(1)(C) because “there is no way to perfect service [against McGuire] within the Rule 4(m) period.” See Dkt. 47 at 7.

         Where a defendant did not receive actual notice, a plaintiff may be able to satisfy the requirements of Rules 15(c) and 4(m) by establishing the defendant had constructive notice. See,for example, Jacobsen v. Osborne, 133 F.3d 315, 320 (5th Cir. 1998) (citing Moore v. Long, 924 F.2d 586, 587 (5th Cir. 1991); Kirk v. Cronvich, 629 F.2d 404, 407-08 (5th Cir. 1980)). Plaintiff relies on Jacobsen for the proposition that McGuire received constructive notice within the ninety-day period set forth in Rule 4(m). In Jacobsen, a plaintiff served suit on the city attorney in a case against a city and police officers. See Jacobsen, 133 F.3d at 320. Because the city attorney presumably investigated the allegations, newly-named officers in an amended complaint either “knew or should have known that, but for Jacobsen's mistaken belief that [the originally named officer] was the arresting officer, the action would have been brought against them, therefore satisfying clause B [of Rule 15].” See Jacobsen v. Osborne, 133 F.3d at 320-21. As in Jacobson, Plaintiff argues that McGuire received constructive notice because McGuire shares an identity of interest with the currently named City Defendants. See Dkt. 43 at 5-7. However, unlike the facts in Jacobsen, McGuire does not presently share counsel with the City Defendants, has not made an appearance in this matter, and ...


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