United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Michael E. Wyatt, Plaintiff,
Johnny Owens, et al., Defendants.
K. MOON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
E. Wyatt (“Plaintiff”), acting pro se,
filed this case on September 11, 2014, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, alleging that Johnny Owens, Allen Shelton,
William Harris, Scott Wyatt, and M.D. Pickeral
(“Defendants”) used excessive force while
arresting Wyatt on July 3, 2012. (Dkt. 1 at 1-4). Defendants
filed a motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of that
case against all defendants. (Dkt. 25). That motion was
granted in part and denied in part. (Dkt. 31). The case
against Harris and Pickeral was 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, 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 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15.
(Dkt. 58). The Court granted Plaintiff's motion, and the
complaint was promptly amended to add Nicholson and Worsham
without objection. (Dkts. 59 & 60). On September 2, 2016,
Nicholson and Worsham filed a motion for summary judgment,
arguing that the claims against them were barred by the
statute of limitations. (Dkt. 73). The Court found that the
claims against Nicholson and Worsham properly related back
under Rule 15(c)(1), and thus the claims against them were
not time barred. (Dkt. 96).
then filed a motion to amend the complaint again, this time
to add Pittsylvania County Sheriff Michael Taylor, pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for failing to train or supervise
the officers involved in the incident, also known as a
“Monell claim.” (Dkt. 72); see
Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of N.Y., 436
U.S. 658 (1978). On October 12, 2016, the Honorable Robert S.
Ballou, United States Magistrate Judge, denied the motion to
amend, on the basis that the claims against Sheriff Taylor
did not relate back pursuant to Rule 15(c)(1), and thus they
were time barred. (Dkt. 95). Judge Ballou held that relation
back was impermissible because Plaintiff failed to satisfy
all three required elements of Rule 15(c)(1). (Id.)
Plaintiff then filed a motion for reconsideration of Judge
Ballou's order. The matter has been briefed and is ripe
Judge Ballou's order was not clearly erroneous and
Plaintiff's amended complaint does not satisfy the
requirements for relation back under Rule 15(c)(1),
Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration will be denied.
Rule of Civil Procedure 72 permits a party to submit
objections to a magistrate's ruling to the district court
within fourteen days of the order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72; see
also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). The standard of review
applied by the district court differs depending on whether
the issue decided by the magistrate is dispositive or
nondispositive of the litigation. For dispositive matters,
the district court undertakes a de novo review of
those portions of the magistrate's report and
recommendation to which objections were made. Fed.R.Civ.P.
72(a); see also Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 48
(4th Cir. 1982). If an issue is nondispositive, however, the
district court will modify or set aside the magistrate
judge's order only if it “is clearly erroneous or
is contrary to law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). The parties
agree that Judge Ballou's order should be reviewed using
the “clearly erroneous or . . . contrary to law”
standard. (Dkt. 99 at 3; dkt 105 at 2); see also Everett
v. Cherry, 671 F.Supp.2d 819, 820 (E.D. Va. 2009)
(employing a “clearly erroneous” standard for
evaluating a magistrates decision to deny a motion to amend).
ruling is “clearly erroneous” only when the
totality of the record leaves the Court with “the
definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been
committed.” United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co.,
333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948); Minyard Enterprises, Inc. v.
Se. Chem. & Solvent Co., 184 F.3d 373, 380 (4th Cir.
1999). It is “‘contrary to law' when it fails
to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law, or rules
of procedure.” Bowers v. Univ. of Virginia,
No. 3:06-cv-00041, 2008 WL 2346033, at *3 (W.D. Va. June 6,
2008). “The leading treatise on federal practice and
procedure describes altering a magistrate's
nondispositive orders as ‘extremely difficult to
justify.'” Carlucci v. Han, 292 F.R.D.
309, 312 (E.D. Va. 2013) (quoting 12 Wright & Miller,
Federal Practice and Procedure § 3069 (2d ed. 1997));
see also McDonough v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., No.
3:09-cv-00071, 2010 WL 1418878, at *8 (W.D. Va. Apr. 8,
parties do not dispute that the date of the incident and the
date of initial filing are 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). Thus, there is no question that, in
the absence of relation back, Plaintiff's claims against
Sheriff Taylor accrued and expired over two years ago.
survive the statute of limitations, Plaintiff invokes Rule
15, which governs amended and supplemental pleadings. (Dkt.
81 at 1). Rule 15(c)(1) 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 is 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)(1). Furthermore, “the grant or
denial of an opportunity to amend is within the discretion of
the District Court.” Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S.
178, 182 (1962).
Plaintiff cannot establish that his claims against Sheriff
Taylor relate back under Rule 15(c)(1), then his claims will
be time barred, and thus leave to amend must be denied as
futile. Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 426 (4th Cir.
The same “conduct, transaction, or
Supreme Court has held that “[s]o long as the original
and amended petitions state claims that are tied to a
common core of operative facts, relation back will be in
order.” M ...