Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

SIDNEY v. WILSON

June 23, 2005.

EUGENE W. SIDNEY, Plaintiff,
v.
TERRANCE L. WILSON, ROBERT BURTON and R. MURPHY, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR MARRERO, District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Eugene Sidney ("Sidney"), a prisoner at Elmira Correctional Facility in Elmira, New York, filed this action pro se against Corrections Officers Terrance Wilson ("Wilson") and Robert Burton ("Burton"), and Sergeant R. Murphy ("Murphy") (collectively "Defendants"),*fn1 alleging that they violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") by using and/or permitting the use of excessive force against him.

Wilson and Burton filed the instant motion, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) (6) ("Rule 12(b) (6)"), to dismiss Sidney's claims against Burton and Murphy on the grounds that those claims are barred by the statute of limitations. Wilson and Burton also move, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) (5) ("Rule 12(b) (5)"), for dismissal of the claims against all three Defendants for failure to timely serve. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the Rule 12(b) (6) motion, denies the Rule 12(b) (5) motion as it relates to Wilson, and declines to adjudicate that motion as it relates to Burton and Murphy.

  I. BACKGROUND*fn2

  Sidney commenced this action on October 23, 2002.*fn3 In the Complaint that Sidney filed at that time (the "Original Complaint"), he named only Wilson as a defendant. On July 11, 2003, Sidney filed an Amended Complaint adding Burton and Murphy as defendants. Sidney alleges in both Complaints that Defendants used and/or permitted the use of excessive force against him on November 30, 1999 at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York, where Sidney was incarcerated at the time.

  Specifically, Sidney alleges that Wilson and Burton assaulted him in response to what appears to have been a dispute regarding whether or not Sidney would be permitted to visit the law library. Sidney makes the following allegations regarding the alleged assault:
[Wilson] and the Gallery Officer threw me to the floor. They were trying to handcuff me for reasons I could not understand. . . . I was kicked and punched. Officer T. Wilson then kneed me in the head while my face was on the ground turned sideways. . . . I was screaming and hollering for the officer to release the pressure from the knee. Finally I was handcuffed. Within minutes, I was escorted to the emergency room.
(Complaint dated October 23, 2002 ("Compl.") ¶ IV.)

  In the Amended Complaint, Sidney identifies the "Gallery Officer" referred to above as Burton and states that Murphy was present during the alleged assault. Sidney states in both Complaints that he sustained the following injuries as a result of the alleged assault: "1) Superficial laceration to the brow. 2) Superficial bruise to left eye brow. 3) Pain to left rib cage — no bruising noted." (Compl. ¶ IV-A.) Sidney states that, after the alleged assault, Burton took him to the emergency room, where his alleged injuries "were applied with ice." (Id.)

  II. DISCUSSION

  A. STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

  Defendants argue that Sidney's claims against Burton and Murphy should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) on the grounds that they are barred by the statute of limitations.*fn4 In adjudicating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See Securities Investor Protection Corp. v. BDO Seidman, LLP, 222 F.3d 63, 68 (2d Cir. 2000). Dismissal of a case under Rule 12(b) (6) "is inappropriate unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts which would entitle him to relief." Raila v. United States, 355 F.3d 118, 119 (2d Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). In addition, because Sidney is a pro se plaintiff, his "pleadings should be read liberally and interpreted `to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'" Jafri v. Rosenfeld, No. 04 Civ. 2457, 2005 WL 991784, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 26, 2005) (quoting McPherson v. Coombe, 174 F.3d 276, 280 (2d Cir. 1999)).

  "The statute of limitations for a [Section] 1983 claim is generally the applicable state-law period for personal-injury torts." City of Rancho Palos Verdes, Cal. v. Abrams, 125 S. Ct. 1453, 1460 n. 5 (2005) (citing Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 275, 276; Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 240-241 (1989)). In New York, the statute of limitations for personal injury actions is three years. See N.Y.C.P.L.R. § 214(5). The limitation period for actions brought under Section 1983 begins to run when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the alleged injury. See Ormiston v. Nelson, 117 F.3d 69, 71 (2d Cir. 1997). Sidney became aware of the injuries that form the basis of this action at the time they were allegedly inflicted, on November 30, 1999. Therefore, Sidney's deadline for filing a complaint against Burton and Murphy was November 30, 2002.

  For pro se incarcerated plaintiffs, a federal complaint is deemed filed when the plaintiff gives the complaint to prison officials to be mailed to the court. See Fernandez v. Artuz, 402 F.3d 111, 114 n. 2 (2d Cir. 2005); Dory v. Ryan, 999 F.2d 679, 682 (2d Cir. 1993). Sidney dated his signature on the Amended Complaint, which named Burton and Murphy as defendants for the first time, July 11, 2003, approximately seven-and-a-half months after the limitation period expired.

  Based on the record before the Court, there are no grounds on which the limitation period for Sidney's claims against Burton and Murphy may be equitably tolled or otherwise extended. Nor, as Defendants argue, is there any basis on which to find that the Amended Complaint "relates back" to the Original Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c) ("Rule 15(c)"). Rule 15(c) allows amended pleadings to "relate back," for statute of limitations purposes, to the date on which the original pleadings in a case were filed if:
(1) relation back is permitted by the law that provides the statute of limitations applicable to the action, or
(2) the claim or defense asserted in the amended pleading arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth or attempted to be set forth in the original pleading, or
(3) the amendment changes the party or the naming of the party against whom a claim is asserted if the foregoing provision (2) is satisfied and, within the period provided by Rule 4(m) for service of the summons and complaint, the party to be brought in by amendment (A) has received such notice of the institution of the action that the party will not be prejudiced in maintaining a defense on the merits, and (B) knew or should have known that, but for a mistake concerning the identity of the proper party, the action would have been brought against the party.
  Thus, subsections (1) and (3) of Rule 15(c) govern the relation back of newly added parties, as opposed to newly added claims and defenses, which are governed by subsection (2). The Amended Complaint adding Burton and Murphy does not relate back to the Original Complaint under either of the relevant subsections.

  Under Rule 15(c) (3), in order for a complaint adding new parties to relate back to an original complaint, the omission of the added parties from the original must be the result of "a mistake concerning the identity of the proper party," Fed.R.Civ. P. 15(c)(3)(B), to name as a defendant. As Defendants point out, the Second Circuit has held that, "even when a suit is brought by a pro se litigant, `an amended complaint adding new defendants [cannot] relate back if the newly-added defendants were not named originally because the plaintiff did not know their identities.'" Tapia-Ortiz v. Doe, 171 F.3d 150, 152 (2d Cir. 1999) (quoting Barrow v. Wethersfield Police Dept., 66 F.3d 466, 470 (2d Cir. 1995)). Such amendments do not satisfy Rule 15(c)'s requirement that the omission of the newly-added party be the result of "a mistake concerning the identity of the proper party," Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c)(3)(B), because they "seek? to correct a lack of knowledge, rather than a mistake of fact or law." Vineyard v. County of Nassau, 329 F. Supp. 2d 364, 369 (E.D.N.Y. 2004). As explained in the Advisory Committee Notes to the 1991 Amendment to Rule 15(c)(3), that provision was revised to address "the problem of the misnamed defendant." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c)(3) advisory committee's note (1991 Amendment). The Advisory Committee Notes also refer to the sort of mistake intended to be remedied by Rule 15(c)(3) as a "misnomer or misidentification," and describe amendments made to complaints pursuant to that Rule as "name-correcting" amendments. Id. Thus, Second Circuit doctrine as well as the Advisory Committee Notes counsel against interpreting ignorance of a party's name as a "mistake" under Rule 15(c).*fn5 Sidney's omission of Burton and Murphy from his original Complaint appears to have resulted from a lack of knowledge of their names, rather than the sort of mistake contemplated by Rule 15(c).*fn6 Sidney referred to Burton and Murphy in his description of the alleged Section 1983 violation in the Original Complaint by their titles, "Gallery Officer" and "Area Supervisor." (Compl. ¶ IV.) Sidney's use of their titles in the Original Complaint suggests that he did not know their names at the time he filed that ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.