Todd v. City of LaFayette, Alabama et al
OPINION AND ORDER directing that defendant Steve Smith's 51 motion for summary judgement is granted as to the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against him. Signed by Honorable Judge Myron H. Thompson on 9/23/13. (scn, )
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA, EASTERN DIVISION
CITY OF LAFAYETTE, et al., )
CIVIL ACTION NO.
OPINION AND ORDER
Relying on 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiff Merrill Todd
brings this lawsuit naming as defendants the City of
LaFayette and police officers Jerome Bailey, Larry Clark,
The first count in his lawsuit contends that
constitutional rights by using excessive force against
him; the second count asserts that the City of LaFayette
violated his constitutional rights by negligently hiring,
officers; and the final count is a state-law battery
claim against the four police officers.
the federal claims is proper under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331
supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
This case is currently before the court on Smith’s
motion for summary judgment on Todd’s § 1983 claim, based
on Smith’s assertion of a statute-of-limitations defense.*
For the reasons that follow, Smith’s motion for summary
judgment on the § 1983 claim is granted.
Todd’s original complaint, filed July 6, 2012, was
complaint; he named Smith in an amended complaint filed
Smith also seeks summary judgment on the grounds
of qualified immunity and insufficient evidence; because
the statute-of-limitations issue is conclusive as to the
§ 1983 claims, the court does not reach Smith’s other
on August 30, 2012.
By that time the two-year statute of
limitations for his § 1983 claim had expired.
v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235 (1989) (holding that § 1983 claims
look to the general state-law limitations statute for
personal-injury actions); 1975 Ala. Code § 6-2-38(l)
Todd argues that the amended
complaint relates back to the date he filed the original
explained in its previous opinion and order, Todd v. City
of LaFayette, 2013 WL 1084296 (M.D. Ala. 2013), Alabama’s
state-law fictitious-party practice allows relation-back,
but Todd must first prove that this amendment satisfies
Procedure 15 provides that an amendment relates back to
the original pleading when “the law that provides the
applicable statute of limitations allows relation back.”
Industries, 254 F.3d 959 (11th Cir. 2001) (en banc), the
provision requires application of state-law relation-back
principles, including Alabama fictitious-party practice,
when state law supplies the statute of limitations.
Though Saxton was a diversity suit, this court
has previously determined that Saxton’s logic and the
purpose of subsection (c)(1)(A) support applying Saxton’s
holding to federal-question lawsuits where state law
provides the statute of limitations.
Mann v. Darden, 630
F. Supp. 2d 1305, 1311 (2009) (Thompson, J.); see also
Notes of Advisory Committee on 1991 Amendments (“Whatever
may be the controlling body of limitations law, if that
law affords a more forgiving principle of relation back
available to save the claim.”).
As stated in Saxton, under Alabama law a plaintiff
can avoid the bar of the statute of limitations if: “(1)
fictitious defendant; (2) the original complaint stated
defendant; and (4) the plaintiff used due diligence to
discover the defendant’s true identity.”
254 F.3d at 965
(citing Jones v. Resorcon, 604 So. 2d 370, 372-73 (Ala.
In its previous opinion and order, Todd v. City
of LaFayette, 2013 WL 1084296 (M.D. Ala. 2013), this
court explained that there was insufficient evidence in
the record for it to find that Todd had established the
third and fourth of these requirements.
The court thus
ordered Todd to produce evidence answering two questions,
designed to settle the relation-back issue: (1) When did
(2) What efforts did plaintiff Todd and his
attorney take to discover defendant Smith’s identity?
In response to the court’s opinion and order, Todd
explained that although LaFayette Police Chief Vines told
him that Smith hit him with a truck, he was given this
information while in the hospital recovering from the
He explains that he could not remember what
Chief Vines told him because he was still “out of it.”
Todd Aff. (Doc. No. 97, Ex. 1) at ¶ 4.
According to Todd, the next he heard about Smith
hitting him with a truck was at a press conference held
in relation to this lawsuit on July 25, 2012.
states that his family and witnesses attended the press
conference at the courthouse to answer media questions.
A family member, either his cousin or his aunt, told
Someone said they hit you with a truck.”
asked who hit him, and the same family member reminded
Todd that Chief Vines told him it was Smith.
he then asked his lawyer to add Smith to the lawsuit,
because he wanted everyone who hurt him to be held
responsible; and his lawyer said he would and that there
was still time to add Smith.
Although Todd does not
state when he told counsel to add Smith to the lawsuit,
it is clear from the filing that counsel was present at
See Pl. Resp. (Doc. No. 97)
this same press conference.
at ¶ 2 (“Todd advised... counsel that it was at the press
conference that we held shortly after the defendants were
served with the original complaint that his witnesses
spoke to him again about the incident and that he had not
‘been around them in a while to talk with them.’
responding to questions from the media, Todd and his
accident.”) (emphasis added).
Todd’s evidence in response to the court’s questions
shows that he knew Smith’s identity by July 25, 2012, at
The statute of limitations was not set to
expire until August 7, 2012.
Therefore Todd had 13
days–-nearly two weeks--to amend his complaint and name
Smith before the statute of limitations would run.
court does not need to reach the question of whether Todd
made diligent efforts to discover Smith’s identity and
the need to include him in this suit, because it is clear
from Todd’s statements that he knew both Smith’s identity
and Smith’s connection to the lawsuit well before the
statute of limitations expired on his federal claim.
Todd waited a month after learning this information to
amend the complaint and name Smith.
Alabama law does not
Most troubling is the fact that Todd’s counsel was
present at this same press conference and assured Todd
that he would file the amendment in a timely manner.
is evident from the foregoing, he did not do so.
result is that Todd’s § 1983 claim must be dismissed, and
As explained in the court’s previous opinion and
order Todd v. City of LaFayette, 2013 WL 1084296 (M.D.
affected by this decision.
Smith’s motion for summary
judgment on the state-law claim is still pending and will
be addressed in a separate opinion.
Smith’s motion for summary judgment (doc. no. 51) is
granted as to the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against him.
DONE, this the 23rd day of September, 2013.
/s/ Myron H. Thompson
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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