United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
DONNA JEAN SEXTON-PEMBERTON, as administratrix and personal representative of the ESTATE OF BENNY SHANE PEMBERTON, Plaintiff,
SCOTT COUNTY, TENNESSEE, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636, the Rules of this Court, and Standing Order 13-02.
before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File
Second Amended Complaint [Doc. 45]. Defendants Advanced
Correctional Healthcare, Inc., Dr. Capparelli, and Nurse
Massengale (collectively, “Defendants”) have
objected [Doc. 50] to Plaintiff's Motion. The Motion is
now ripe for adjudication. Accordingly, for the reasons
stated below, Plaintiff's Motion [Doc. 45] is GRANTED.
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
requests [Doc. 45] leave to file a Second Amended Complaint.
For grounds, she states that the Second Amended Complaint is
necessary to add allegations concerning when and how she
discovered the information that prompted her to allege civil
rights claims against Dr. Capparelli in her Amended
Complaint. Plaintiff submits that the additional allegations
are necessary so that she can effectively respond to Dr.
Capparelli's argument that the § 1983 claims against
him are untimely. Further, Plaintiff seeks to drop her state
claims for wrongful death and for intentional infliction of
emotional distress against Dr. Capparelli and Nurse
Massengale. Plaintiff continues that the amendment will also
drop any and all claims against John and Jane Does, Nos.
1-15. Finally, she seeks to correct certain redundancies,
duplication, typographical errors, and generally reduce the
length of the Amended Complaint.
continues that when she commenced this action, the
information she possessed was limited. She was aware via
incident reports that Dr. Capparelli was purportedly called
after Benny Pemberton (“Pemberton”) was found
unconscious in his cell. Plaintiff states that the report
only indicated that Dr. Capparelli had instructed an officer
to take Pemberton to the hospital. Plaintiff continues that
on October 10, 2017, she received initial disclosures by
Defendant Advanced Correctional Healthcare, Inc.
(“ACH”). The initial disclosures stated that
Defendant ACH would likely offer the testimony of Dr.
Capparelli with respect to Pemberton's condition.
Plaintiff states that upon receipt of the initial
disclosures, she learned that Dr. Capparelli had information
about Pemberton's condition while Pemberton was
incarcerated. Further, Defendant Scott County's initial
disclosures were similar and that further disclosures
clarified Dr. Capparelli's role during Pemberton's
incarceration. Plaintiff states that after learning such
information, her attorney researched whether Dr. Capparelli
was involved in other lawsuits and ultimately determined that
he should be added as a defendant in this case. Plaintiff
amended her Complaint in December 2017, adding Dr. Capparelli
to this case.
Motion states that after she filed an Amended Complaint,
counsel for the parties conferred with respect to Dr.
Capparelli's intentions of moving to dismiss the claims
against him as barred by the statute of limitations.
Plaintiff states that the proposed Second Amended Complaint
is necessary to detail how Plaintiff and her attorney came to
discover Dr. Capparelli's involvement in Pemberton's
treatment and ultimate demise. Plaintiff argues that under
the discovery rule, the statute of limitations is tolled
where the facts about causation are in control of a defendant
and unavailable to a plaintiff. Plaintiff explains that the
additional allegations will clarify when she realized-or
should have realized-that Dr. Capparelli was involved in her
son's treatment throughout his incarceration.
filed a Response [Doc. 50] in opposition to the Motion.
Defendants assert that while Plaintiff claims that she was
without the benefit of information, she did not submit a
public records request for Pemberton's records until July
18, 2017, two days before filing suit and the expiration of
the statute of limitations. Defendants state that Dr.
Capparelli filed a Motion to Dismiss based on the expiration
of the statute of limitations and that Plaintiff's
amendments are futile. Defendants argue that Plaintiff's
assertion that the discovery rule tolled the statute of
limitations until October 2017 is unavailing. Defendants
assert that Plaintiff's claim likely began accruing when
Pemberton passed away on July 20, 2016. Defendants continue
that any amendment at this point is futile because it is well
outside the statutory timeframe. Defendants state that
Plaintiff was well aware of Dr. Capparelli's involvement
in treating Pemberton when she filed her initial Complaint.
Defendants further states that Plaintiff's amendment
fails to satisfy the mistaken identity requirement under Rule
15-that is, Plaintiff cannot prove that, but for a mistake in
identity, Dr. Capparelli knew or should have known that this
lawsuit would have been brought against him. In addition,
Defendant states that there is no cause of action under
§ 1983 for failure to disclose records.
Court has considered the parties' positions and finds
Plaintiff's Motion [Doc. 45] well taken.
Court begins with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15, which
provides that courts should “freely give leave where
justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The
decision as to whether justice requires the amendment is
committed to the district court's discretion. Moore
v. City of Paducah, 790 F.2d 557, 559 (6th Cir. 1986).
Despite the liberality of Rule 15(a)(2), courts have
explained that motions to amend may be denied if the court
finds undue delay, bad faith, or dilatory motive, repeated
failures to cure deficiencies by amendments previously
allowed, undue prejudice, and futility of the amendment.
Scheib v. Boderk, No. 3:07-CV-446, 2011 WL 208341,
at *2 (E.D. Tenn. Jan. 21, 2011) (citing Foman v.
Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)).
instant matter, the Court observes that Plaintiff's
Motion is timely under the Scheduling Order. See
[Doc. 26 at 2] (“If any party wishes to amend the
pleadings, such motion should be filed on or before October
8, 2018.”). Further, the Motion was filed in accordance
with Local Rule 15.1. It appears that the only dispute is
whether Plaintiff's amendments are futile because they
are barred by the statute of limitations and they do not
state a claim for which relief can be granted.
Court finds justice requires that Plaintiff be permitted to
file her Second Amended Complaint. The Court has reviewed the
proposed Second Amended Complaint and finds that the issues
raised in Defendants' Response would be better served by
dispositive motion practice. Specifically, as mentioned
above, Plaintiff argues that the discovery rule tolls the
statute of limitations, and she seeks leave to clarify when
she realized that Dr. Capparelli was involved with
Pemberton's treatment to avoid application of the statute
of limitations defense. Defendant disputes that the discovery
rule is applicable and argues that Plaintiff's claim most
likely accrued when Pemberton passed away on July 20, 2016.
The Court finds that such factual and legal issues, a
determination of which would be tantamount to a dispositive
ruling, will be better addressed through dispositive motion
practice with citations to the record and to case law.
the Court finds that the best and most appropriate course of
action at this juncture is to permit Plaintiff to amend, and
thereafter, Defendants may file appropriate dispositive
motions. See Wiggins v. Kimberly-Clark Corp., No.
3:12-cv-115, 2014 WL 1267574, at *2 (E.D. Tenn. Mar. 26,
2014) (allowing plaintiff to amend the complaint while noting
that the related issues raised in the parties' briefs can
be addressed through the filing of appropriate motions after
the plaintiff files an amended complaint).