United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Michael E. Wyatt, Plaintiff,
Johnny Owens, et al., Defendants.
K. Moon, Judge
E. Wyatt (“Plaintiff”), acting pro se,
filed this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging
that Johnny Owens, Allen Shelton, William Harris, Scott
Wyatt, and M.D. Pickeral used excessive force while arresting
Plaintiff on July 3, 2012. Compl. at 1-4. On January 30,
2015, these defendants filed a motion for summary judgment
seeking dismissal of that case. (Dkt. 25). The Court granted
that motion in part and denied it in part on August 20, 2015.
(Dkt. 31). The claims against Harris and Pickeral were
dismissed because they were neither present at nor involved
with the alleged incident, while the case against the
remaining defendants was allowed to proceed. Id.
Harris and Pickeral had been misidentified by Plaintiff at
the time of filing his pro se complaint from prison.
(Dkt. 81 at 1).
10, 2016, after retaining counsel, Plaintiff filed a motion
with the Court for leave to amend his complaint; he wished to
replace the two dismissed defendants with Thomas Nicholson
and Robert Worsham, pursuant to Rule 15. (Dkt. 58). The Court
granted Plaintiff's unopposed motion, and the complaint
was promptly amended to add Nicholson and Worsham. (Dkts. 59,
60). Following the amendment, the defendants in the case are
Owens, Shelton, Wyatt, Nicholson, and Worsham
(“Defendants”). On September 2, 2016, Nicholson
and Worsham filed a motion for summary judgment, which is now
before the Court, arguing that the claims against them are
barred by the statute of limitations. (Dkt. 73). In addition
to the motion for summary judgment, Defendants filed a motion
in limine to preclude the introduction of evidence
by Plaintiff's expert on police conduct, Dennis Waller.
Plaintiff's amended complaint satisfies the relation-back
requirements of Rule 15(c), as discussed below,
Defendants' motion for summary judgment is denied.
Furthermore, Defendants' motion in limine to
exclude Dennis Waller's testimony is denied because
Waller's anticipated expert testimony is relevant under
Rule 401 and 402, and his use of police policies as one
factor in forming his opinion does not require exclusion
under Rule 403, provided that his testimony does not equate
policy violations with constitutional violations.
Motion for Summary Judgment
judgment is warranted if the Court concludes that no genuine
issue of material fact exists for trial and that the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, based on
the totality of the evidence, including pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and affidavits.
Whiteman v. Chesapeake Appalachia, L.L.C., 729 F.3d
381, 385 (4th Cir. 2013) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56). A genuine
issue of material fact exists “if the evidence is such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
demonstrate that a genuine issue of material fact exists, a
party may not rest upon his own mere allegations or denials.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986).
Rather, the party must “proffer sufficient proof, in
the form of admissible evidence, that could carry the burden
of proof of his claim at trial.” Mitchell v. Data
Gen. Corp., 12 F.3d 1310, 1316 (4th Cir. 1993). To this
end, a district court has an “affirmative obligation .
. . to prevent ‘factually unsupported claims [or]
defenses' from proceeding to trial.” Felty v.
Graves-Humphreys Co., 818 F.2d 1126, 1128 (4th Cir.
1987) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24).
Nicholson and Robert Worsham ask the Court to dismiss the
claims against them as they are barred by Virginia's
two-year statute of limitations. (Dkt. 73 at 1).
correctly state that there is no issue of material fact
between the parties regarding the date of the incident and
the date of initial filing: July 3, 2012 and December 1,
2013, respectively. (Dkt. 74 at 3; Dkt. 30 at 4). Because
“[t]here is no federal statute of limitations for
§ 1983 claims, . . . the state limitations period which
governs personal injury actions is applied.” Lewis
v. Richmond City Police Dep't, 947 F.2d 733, 735
(4th Cit. 1991) (citing Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S.
261, 280, (1985)). In Virginia, the limitations period for
personal injury actions is two years from “when the
plaintiff possesses sufficient facts about the harm done to
him that reasonable inquiry will reveal his cause of
action.” Va. Code § 8.01-243(a); Nasim v.
Warden Md. House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951, 955 (4th Cir.
1995) (en banc); see also Va. Code §
8.01-230. Defendants argue that because Plaintiff's
complaint was not amended to add Nicholson and Worsham until
June 30, 2016, (dkt. 60), the limitations period lapsed
nearly two years prior to the filing. (Dkt. 74 at 3).
responds by invoking Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c),
which governs amended and supplemental pleadings. (Dkt. 81 at
1). Rule 15(c) states that “[a]n amendment to a
pleading relates back to the date of the original pleading
when . . . the amendment changes the party or naming of the
party against whom a claim is asserted” and three
requirements are satisfied: (1) the amendment arises out of
the same “conduct, transaction, or occurrence”;
(2) the new parties received notice of the action sufficient
to avoid prejudice in defending it on the merits; and (3)
“the new parties knew or should have known that the
action would have been brought against it, but for a mistake
concerning the property party's identity.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c); see also Goodman v. Praxair,
Inc., 494 F.3d 458, 466-75 (4th Cir. 2007) (discussing
the relation-back requirements of Rule 15(c) in great
The amendment arises out of the same “conduct,
transaction, or occurrence”
is no dispute between the parties that the amendment arises
out of the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence. The
First Amended Complaint alleges that Nicholson and Worsham
were present at the arrest of the Plaintiff and involved in
the use of excessive force. (Dkt. 60). The First Amended
Complaint simply replaces the previously misidentified
defendants with Nicholson and Worsham. Id.
“Because the substantive allegations in the amended
complaint were identical to those contained in the initial
complaint, the requirements of relation back under Rule ...