United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division
Glen E. Conrad Chief United States District Judge.
Benjamin Burruss filed this action against defendants
Albemarle County, Virginia and several police officers with
the Albemarle County Police Department, alleging violations
of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law. This case is
presently before the court on the plaintiffs motion for leave
to amend his complaint. For the reasons set forth below,
plaintiffs motions will be denied.
November 18, 2015, plaintiff Benjamin Burruss
("Burruss") filed suit against five law enforcement
agents, Albemarle County, Virginia, and "John Does 1-10,
" alleging that defendants violated his constitutional
rights during an incident that occurred on November 21, 2013.
On January 25, 2015, the defendants filed a motion to
dismiss, which the court granted in part and denied in part.
Specifically, the court dismissed counts I and II of the
plaintiffs original complaint with respect to the actions
taken by law enforcement agents after they obtained an
Emergency Custody Order ("ECO"). Burruss v.
Riley, ___ F.Supp.3d ___, 2016 WL 3360532, at *5(W.D.Va.
June 14, 2016).
now seeks to name the "John Doe" defendants and to
clarify certain allegations regarding his claims about the
ECO. The defendants oppose plaintiffs motion to amend,
arguing that any attempt to amend the factual allegations
relating to the ECO would be futile, as the court has already
dismissed plaintiffs claims as they relate to actions taken
after issuance of the ECO. Defendants also contend that the
amended complaint would not relate back, and plaintiffs
claims would thus be time-barred. See A Soc'y Without
a Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 348 (4th Cir. 2011)
("With regard to § 1983 and equal-protection
claims, the statute-of-limitations period for both is two
years."). The instant matter has been fully briefed, and
the parties advised the court that they do not request a
hearing. The issue is ripe for review.
Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(1) provides for relation back
of an amendment to a complaint when
(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 who 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 complaint, the party to be brought in
(i) received such notice of the action that it will not be
prejudiced in defending on the merits; and
(ii) knew or should have known that the action would have
been brought against it, but for a mistake concerning the
proper party's identity.
Civ. P. 15(c)(1)(B), (C). When a proposed amendment changes
the name of a party, the amending party must satisfy the
requirements set forth in Rule 15(c)(1)(C)(i) and (ii).
Robinson v. Clipse. 602 F.3d 605, 608 (4th
Cir. 2010). When the amending party seeks to add a defendant,
the focus is on whether that proposed defendant "knew or
should have known that it would have been named as a
defendant but for an error." Krupski v. Costa
Crociere, 560 U.S. 538, 548 (2010).
it is without debate that the naming of the John Doe
defendants satisfies Rule 15(c)(1)(B), that the
"amendment asserts a claim or defense that arose out of
the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out... in the
original pleading." Therefore, the relevant question is
whether the named individuals, within the period of time
provided by Rule 4(m),  "received such notice of the
action that [they] w[ould] not be prejudiced" and
"knew or should have known that the action would have
been brought against [them], but for a mistake."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c)(1)(C)(i), (ii).
majority of courts agree that Rule 15(c)(3) does not permit
substitution for 'Doe' defendants after the
limitations period has run." Goodman v. Praxair,
Inc., 494 F.3d 458, 470 (4th Cir. 2007). While Rule
15(c)(3)(B) speaks broadly of a "mistake concerning the
identity of the proper party, " there is a difference
between a mistake due to a lack of knowledge and a mistake
due to a misnomer. See Locklear v. Bergman &
Beving, 457 F.3d 363, 366-67 (4th Cir. 2006).
"[N]aming Doe defendants ...