United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Lynchburg Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Robert S. Ballou United States Magistrate Judge
Gregory Delmus Staton, by counsel, seeks relief under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 for events that allegedly occurred during
his transport from a jail in Virginia to the Santa Rosa
County Sheriff's office in Florida in September 2013.
Staton also brings state law claims against the defendants.
On August 19, 2016, I recommended denying Staton's motion
for an extension of time to serve defendants not yet served
and dismissing Staton's claims against defendants John
Doe 2-10 and Jane Doe without prejudice, for failure to serve
process within the time provided by Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 4(m). Judge Norman K. Moon entered an order on
September 12, 2016 adopting the Report and Recommendation.
Currently before me are two motions: (1) motion to amend the
complaint to name USG7, LLC in place of John Doe 1 (Dkt. No.
12); and (2) motion for default judgment as to USG7, LLC
(Dkt. No. 13).
Motion to Amend
asserts that when he filed his complaint on September 29,
2015, he named an “unknown prisoner transport company
as John Doe 1.” Staton has now identified the prisoner
transport company as USG7, LLC. Staton also filed a return of
service made on “John Doe 1, believed to be USG7,
cannot amend his complaint without “the opposing
party's written consent or the court's leave.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). This Rule provides that “[t]he
court should freely give leave when justice so
requires.” Id. The Supreme Court has
emphasized this requirement, stating:
[i]n the absence of any apparent or declared reason-such as
undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the
movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments
previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by
virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment,
etc.-the leave sought should, as the rules require, be
Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).
Accordingly, futility is grounds for denial of a motion to
amend under Rule 15(a)(2). Where a proposed amendment is made
beyond the statute of limitations and it would not relate
back to the original complaint, such an amendment would be
futile. See United States v. Pittman, 209 F.3d 314,
318-19 (4th Cir. 2000) (holding that “[w]here the
statute of limitations bars a cause of action, amendment may
be futile and therefore can be denied”). Significantly,
if Virginia's two-year statute of limitations for §
1983 applies, the amendment is likely barred by the statute
of limitations and thus is futile.
Staton asserts in his complaint that he believes the
four-year Florida statute of limitations applies to his
§ 1983 claims, and there is nothing currently before me
that definitively contradicts his representation.
Accordingly, I recommend that the motion to amend the
complaint to name USG7, LLC in place of John Doe 1 be
Motion for Default Judgment
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the
entry of default judgment when a party against whom a
judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead
or otherwise defend. See Music City Music v. Alfa Foods,
Ltd., 616 F.Supp. 1001, 1002 (E.D.Va.1985). However,
prior to entering a default judgment, a court must be
satisfied that the complaint states a legitimate cause of
action. See Anderson v. Found. for Advancement, Educ.
& Emp't of Am. Indians, 155 F.3d 500, 506 (4th
Cir.1998) (holding that the district court erred in granting
default judgment to the plaintiff where the plaintiff failed
to state a claim). Because I find that the complaint fails to
state a claim under § 1983 against either John Doe 1 or
USG7, LLC, I recommend denying the motion for default
judgment (Dkt. No. 13) and dismissing the claims against John
Doe 1 with leave to amend.
contends that John Doe 1 is a prisoner transport company that
had a contract with Santa Rosa County, Florida, for the
transport of prisoners. Compl. ¶ 2, Dkt. No. 1. John Doe
2 and Jane Doe were transporting agents employed by John Doe
1. The remaining defendants (John Doe 4-10 and Jane Doe) were
“transporting agent[s], employers, or
principles.” Id. at ¶ ¶ 4, 5. In
September 2013, John Doe 1 transported Staton from a jail in
Virginia to the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office in
Milton, Florida, pursuant to an extradition order to that
jurisdiction. The trip lasted from September 26, 2013 until
September 29, 2013.
complaint, Staton alleges that he was “forced to ride
in [a] van with 11 inmates” while shackled and
handcuffed for an unsafe, tumultuous “non-stop ride
that lasted for three 24- hour days” and was not given
adequate food or water, allowed to shower, use the restroom,
brush his teeth, or sleep in a bed.
Id. at ¶ ¶ 22-26, 28. The van had no air
conditioning, and Staton asserts temperatures reached 100
degrees. Id. at 22. Staton alleges that as a result
of the defendants' actions he “endured humiliation,
severe emotional distress, psychiatric trauma and physical
injury including but not limited to cuts, abrasions on his
wrists, back, and body.” Compl.¶ 44, Dkt. No. 1.