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Scott v. Village of Spring Valley

United States District Court, Second Circuit

October 28, 2013



NELSON S. ROMN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Don Shirley Rowe Scott ("Plaintiff") brought this action alleging excessive force in his detention in violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983. Plaintiff now asks the Court to overturn an order (the "Order") issued by Magistrate Judge Paul E. Davison, to whom this matter was referred for general pretrial proceedings, which denied Plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint to add parties Oscar Lopez and Joseph Brown, Village of Spring Valley Police Department Police Officers as Defendants in this action, as well as certain factual allegations that Officers Brown and Lopez applied handcuffs to Plaintiff, detained Plaintiff, and caused Plaintiff's injuries. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's request.

I. Background

Plaintiff claims that on June 3, 2010, he was lawfully operating his vehicle when he was stopped in front of his residence by officers of the Village of Spring Valley Police Department. Plaintiff claims that the officers used excessive force in arresting Plaintiff, causing injury to his right shoulder that required surgery. Aff. in Supp. ¶7. Plaintiff's complaint was filed in New York State Supreme Court, Rockland County on June 2, 2011. The complaint describes the actions of individual police officers but names only the Village of Spring Valley and the Village of Spring Valley Police Department as defendants. The matter was removed to the Federal Court for the Southern District of New York on June 17, 2011.

Defense counsel provided a list of the names of individual officers participating in the arrest, which named Officers Lopez and Brown, to Plaintiff's counsel on September 21, 2011. Mem. in Opp'n 5. Plaintiff conducted depositions of the individual officers involved in the arrest, including Officers Brown and Lopez who were deposed on December 7, 2012 and February 7, 2013, respectively. Aff. in Supp. ¶8. On May 13, 2013, the parties informed Judge Davison that all discovery had been completed. Defendants submitted a pre-motion letter seeking permission to move for summary judgment on June 21, 2013. On July 30, 2013, Plaintiff sought leave to amend the complaint to add Officers Brown and Lopez as defendants, after the statute of limitations on its claims arising from the June 3, 2010 incident had expired. Judge Davison denied Plaintiff's motion to amend on September 17, 2013. Plaintiff submitted its objections to Judge Davison's order on October 3, 2013. Defendant responded to Plaintiff's objections on October 18, 2013. Plaintiff notified the court of its intention to appeal the Order of Judge Davison on or before December 19, 2013 on October 21, 2013.

II. Legal Standard

Under 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(A), a district court may refer certain non-dispositive pretrial matters pending before the court to a magistrate judge for determination. A motion to amend the complaint is considered a non-dispositive motion. Fielding v. Tollaksen, 510 F.3d 175, 178 (2d Cir. 2007); accord Reid v. St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hosp. Ctr., 94 Civ. 4676 (KMW), 1995 WL 125387, at *1 n.1 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) ("[I]t is well established that motions to amend generally are viewed as non-dispositive motions."). When a party submits objections to a magistrate judge's order, the district court must review the objections and "modify or set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(A). A decision is clearly erroneous where "although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." Gualandi v. Adams, 385 F.3d 236, 240 (2d Cir. 2004) (citing United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948)). A magistrate judge's ruling is contrary to law if it "fail[s] to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law, or rules of procedure." Thai Lao Lignite (Thailand) Co., Ltd. v. Government of Lao People's Democratic Republic, 924 F.Supp.2d 508, 511-12 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (internal citation omitted). "A showing that reasonable minds may differ on the wisdom of granting the [moving party's] motion' is not sufficient to overturn a magistrate judge's decision." Edmonds v. Seavey, No. 08 Civ. 5646(HB), 2009 WL 2150971, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (citing Cagle v. Cooper Cos., Inc., 91 Civ. 7828(HB), 1996 WL 514864, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 10, 1996)).

This standard affords magistrate judges "broad discretion in resolving nondispositive disputes and reversal is appropriate only if their discretion is abused." Ritchie Risk-Linked Strategies Trading (Ireland), Ltd. v. Coventry First LLC, 282 F.R.D. 76, 78 (S.D.N.Y. 2012) (internal quotation omitted). Accordingly, "[t]he party seeking to overturn a magistrate judge's decision thus carries a heavy burden." Samad Bros., Inc. v. Bokara Rug Co., Inc., No. 09 Civ. 5843, 2010 WL 5095356, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 13, 2010) (internal citation omitted).

III. Analysis

When a party seeks to amend a complaint after the time for amending as a matter of course has passed, "the court should freely give leave when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). However, a party seeking to add a party after the statute of limitations on its claim has expired must rely on Rule 15(c), the federal rule that provides for relation back of claims. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c)(1). The Rule provides:

(1) An amendment to 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 15(c)(1)(B) is satisfied and if, within the period provided by Rule 4(m) for serving the summons and ...

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