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Turnage v. Oldham

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

October 22, 2019

SCOTT TURNAGE, CORTEZ D. BROWN, DEONTAE TATE, JEREMY S. MELTON, ISSACCA POWELL, KEITH BURGESS, TRAVIS BOYD, TERRENCE DRAIN, and KIMBERLY ALLEN on behalf of themselves and all similarly situated persons, Plaintiffs,
v.
BILL OLDHAM, FLOYD BONNER, JR., ROBERT MOORE, KIRK FIELDS, CHARLENE McGHEE, REGINALD HUBBARD, DEBRA HAMMONS, TIFFANY WARD, SHELBY COUNTY, TENNESSEE, TYLER TECHNOLOGIES, INC., GLOBAL TEL*LINK CORPORATION, SOFTWARE AG USA, INC., SIERRA-CEDAR, INC., SIERRA SYSTEMS GROUP, INC., and TETRUS CORP., Defendants.

          ORDER

          SAMUEL H. MAYS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is the Plaintiffs' September 6, 2019 Motion for Substitution of Party. (ECF No. 245.) Defendants filed responses on September 20, 2019. (ECF Nos. 252-58.) For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs bring a putative class action against Shelby County and Shelby County officials Bill Oldham, Robert Moore, Charlene McGhee, Debra Hammons, Floyd Bonner, Jr., Kirk Fields, Reginald Hubbard, and Tiffany Ward, in their individual and official capacities (collectively, the “Shelby County Defendants”). (ECF No. 218.) Plaintiffs also sue six private corporations: Tyler Technologies, Inc.; Global Tel*Link Corporation; Software AG USA, Inc.; Sierra-Cedar, Inc.; Sierra Systems Group, Inc.; and Tetrus Corporation (collectively, the “Company Defendants”). (Id.)

         Plaintiffs claim they were unlawfully detained at the Shelby County Jail following the County's installation of a new computer tracking system. (Id. ¶¶ 35-43.) Plaintiffs bring claims for injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and damages against the Shelby County Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of Plaintiffs' Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Id. ¶¶ 138-49, 179-91.) Plaintiffs bring common-law negligence claims against the Company Defendants for negligently developing, installing, and implementing the County's computer tracking system. (Id. ¶¶ 150-78.)

         Plaintiff Issacca Powell died on February 4, 2019. (ECF No. 245.) On August 22, 2019, the Shelby County Probate Court appointed Aubrey L. Brown as administrator ad litem of Powell's estate. (Id.)

         Plaintiffs ask the Court to substitute Brown, the administrator ad litem of Powell's estate, for Powell. (Id.) The Shelby County Defendants filed a response that the Company Defendants have joined. (ECF No. 253; see also ECF Nos. 252, 254-58.)

         II. Analysis

         A. Substitution Under Rule 25(a)(1)

         Plaintiffs' request for substitution is governed by Rule 25(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides:

If a party dies and the claim is not extinguished, the court may order substitution of the proper party. A motion for substitution may be made by any party or by the decedent's successor or representative. If the motion is not made within 90 days after service of a statement noting the death, the action by or against the decedent must be dismissed.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 25(a)(1).[1] “The language of Rule 25 is permissive and the decision to substitute a party lies within the sound discretion of the Court.” Watts v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., No. 08-cv-2354, 2015 WL 1456647, at *4 (N.D. Ohio Mar. 30, 2015) (citing In re Baycol Prods. Litig., 616 F.3d 778, 783 (8th Cir. 2010)).

         The first issue is whether Powell's claims were “extinguished” by his death. Whether the death of a party extinguishes a claim is a substantive question that state law ordinarily governs. Huggard v. United Performance Metals, Inc., No. 10-cv-0063, 2011 WL 6817770, at *1 (S.D. Ohio Dec. 28, 2011) (citing 7C Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 1952 (3d ed. 2019)), adopted by 2012 WL 368222 (S.D. Ohio Feb. 3, 2012).

         The survivorship law of the forum state determines whether a § 1983 claim survives a plaintiff's death, provided the forum state's law is “not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Robertson v. Wegmann, 436 U.S. 584, 588 (1978) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1988)). A state's survivorship law is inconsistent with federal law when it is “inconsistent with the federal policy underlying the cause of action under consideration.” Id. at 590 (quoting Johnson v. Ry. Express Agency, Inc., 421 U.S. 454, 465 (1975)). The policies underlying § 1983 claims include “(1) compensation of persons for injuries caused by ...


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