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James D. Curry v. Michael L. Campbell

May 2, 2012

JAMES D. CURRY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL L. CAMPBELL, SHIELD NO. 5346, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A POLICE OFFICER OF THE SUFFOLK COUNTY, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT, RICHARD LANE, ROBERT GARDENER, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EMPLOYEES OF THE SUFFOLK COUNTY, NEW YORK DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, AND SUFFOLK COUNTY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hurley, Senior District Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff James D. Curry commenced this action on June 6, 2006, alleging that he had been subjected to excessive force in connection with his arrest on August 22, 2003 in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The Complaint named defendants Michael L. Campbell, a police officer for the Suffolk County Police Department ("SCPD"), Richard Lane and Robert Gardener, employees of the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office, and the County of Suffolk (the "County"). Plaintiff moved to amend the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 to add Thomas M. Kenneally, a Sergeant with the SCPD, as a defendant. By Memorandum & Order dated March 23, 2012, the Court denied plaintiff's motion to amend. Presently before the Court is plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of that portion of the Court's March 23, 2012 Memorandum & Order ("March 23 Order") in which it held that plaintiff had failed to demonstrate that "during the 120-day service period (which expired on October 24, 2006) Kenneally 'knew or should have known that the action would have been brought against [him], but for a mistake concerning [his] identity.'" (March 23 Order at 9-10 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c)(1)(C)(ii)) (alterations in the original).) For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

The Complaint

As set forth in the March 23 Order, plaintiff's allegations set forth in the original Complaint are brief and straight-forward. On August 22, 2003 at approximately 3:50 p.m., in the area of Foxcroft Lane in Patchogue, New York, plaintiff "was subjected to excessive force by defendants Campbell, Lane and Gardener, who acted jointly; the abuse included repeated blows to the head; a weapon was used in the beating of plaintiff." (Compl. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff further alleges that none of "the individual defendants" made any "effort to prevent or stop the abuse perpetrated by his [c]o-defendant and failed to protest it." (Id. ¶ 9.) According to plaintiff, "[b]efore the individual defendants beat plaintiff, Michael L. Campbell said to him: 'Don't want to pull over asshole?'" (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff alleges that, as a result of this incident, he sustained serious physical injuries, including a fractured skull, epidural hematoma, and traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage, as well as emotional distress damages. (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff asserts a Monell claim against the County. (Id. ¶¶ 12-14.)

Plaintiff's Motion to Amend

Although this case was deemed trial ready on October 17, 2007, the trial date was adjourned several times at plaintiff's request. By Order dated August 13, 2010, this Court granted plaintiff's request that his attorney be relieved as counsel and adjourned the trial sine die. On October 13, 2010, plaintiff's current counsel appeared on plaintiff's behalf. After Magistrate Judge E. Thomas Boyle granted plaintiff's application to re-open discovery, plaintiff deposed several defendants and non-party witnesses (including Kenneally) during the week of March 15, 2011.

Plaintiff's motion to amend was based upon his claims that, as a result of the depositions taken in March 2011, he "learned that Kenneally played a central role in the events giving rise to plaintiff's claims and should have been named as a defendant from the outset." (March 23 Order at 3-4 (internal quotation marks omitted).) In particular, plaintiff learned that Kenneally, then a uniformed "road/patrol sergeant" with the 5th Precinct of the SCPD, was Campbell's supervisor on the day of plaintiff's arrest. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff also learned that Kenneally remained at, and was in command of, the scene of plaintiff's arrest until plaintiff was taken away by ambulance. (Id. at 5.) Kenneally told Campbell that he (Campbell) was considered the arresting officer and instructed Campbell to fill out the arrest report. (Id.) As a result, plaintiff asserted, Kenneally's name does not appear in plaintiff's arrest paperwork.

Based upon this information, plaintiff sought to add Kenneally as a defendant to the action. As the Court noted in its March 23 Order, plaintiff did not submit a proposed amended pleading. (Id. at 14.)*fn1

The March 23 Order

Because the applicable statute of limitations had expired, the Court concluded that plaintiff's proposed amendment would be timely only if it related back to the original Complaint. Pursuant to Rule 15(c), "[a]n amendment to a pleading relates back to the date of the original pleading" when three conditions are met: (1) the new claims "arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence" set forth in the original pleading, and (2) "within the period provided for by Rule 4(m) for serving the summons and complaint," the new party "received such notice of the action that it will not be prejudiced in defending on the merits," and (3) during the Rule 4(m) service period the new party "knew or should have known that the action would have been brought against it, but for a mistake concerning the proper party's identity." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c)(1)(c).

The parties did not dispute that the first element was met. As for the second element, the Court concluded that "Kenneally had constructive notice of the action such that he would 'not be prejudiced in defending on the merits,'" thereby satisfying the second element. (See March 23 Order at 9 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c)(1)(C)(i)).) The Court found, however, that plaintiff had failed to adequately demonstrate that the third element was met. Applying the analytical framework set forth in Krupski v. Costa Crociere S.p.A., 130 S.Ct. 2485 (2010), the Court concluded that "Kenneally did not know (and should not have known) during the Rule 4(m) period that he would have been named in plaintiff's Complaint but for a mistake concerning his identity." (March 23 Order at 12-13.) The Court found that "[p]laintiff's purported mistake in failing to name Kenneally was not evident from the face of the Complaint," and that "plaintiff's conduct during the Rule 4(m) service period (i.e., before October 4, 2006) [did not] suggest that his failure to name Kenneally was attributable to a mistake concerning Kenneally's identity." (Id. at 12, 13.) Overall, the Court concluded that:

During the Rule 4(m) period, Kenneally had constructive notice not only that the Complaint exclusively named only three defendants and did not indicate that any other officers played a role in the alleged assault, but also that plaintiff possessed transcriptions of radio transmissions that evidenced [Kenneally's] presence on the scene. A reasonable conclusion would be that plaintiff ...


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