Olmstead v. Fentress County, TN et al
ORDER: Olmstead's Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint (Doc. No. 50) is GRANTED. The Clerks Office is DIRECTED to file Olmstead's Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 50-1) as a separate docket entry. The Clerk's Office is further DIRECTED to send Olmstead a service packet for the remaining defendants who have not yet appeared in this action: York, Densmore, King, Maynard, Chris Martin, and Southern Health Partners. It is so ORDERED. Signed by Magistrate Judge Alistair Newbern on 9/21/17. (xc:Pro se party by regular mail w/ 7 service packets with instructions ) (DOCKET TEXT SUMMARY ONLY-ATTORNEYS MUST OPEN THE PDF AND READ THE ORDER.)(af)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
PHILLIP DAVID OLMSTEAD,
Case No. 2:16-cv-00046
Chief Judge Crenshaw
Magistrate Judge Newbern
FENTRESS COUNTY, TN, et al.,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff Phillip David Olmstead, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, has filed a
motion to amend his complaint (Doc. No. 50), to which Defendants Fentress County, Tennessee;
Sheriff Charles “Chucky” Cravens; Administrator Candy Norman; Sue Cravens; Dwain Matthews;
Lance Stephens; and Gary Stockton 1 (collectively, the County Defendants) have responded in
opposition (Doc. No. 60). Olmstead has replied in support of his motion. (Doc. No. 72.) For the
reasons stated below, Olmstead’s Motion to Amend (Doc. No. 50) is GRANTED.
Olmstead filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action on June 23, 2016, against Defendants Fentress
County, Tennessee; “Nurse Tony (“L/N/U”); Fentress County Sheriff Chucky Cravens;
Administrator Candy Norman; Correctional Officer “Sue”; Correctional Officer Ginger
Goodpastor; and Correctional Officer John Does 1–4. (Doc. No. 1.) Olmstead alleges that
Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs by failing to provide him
Defendants Sue Cravens, Dwain Matthews, Lance Stephens, and Ginger Goodpasture
were dismissed by the Court’s order dated August 23, 2017. (Doc. No. 145.)
with prescribed medication for hypertension during his incarceration at the Fentress County Justice
Center (FCJC) and ignoring his repeated request for medical attention when his blood pressure
became extremely elevated, resulting in permanent impairment of his vision. (Id. at PageID# 1–3,
¶¶ 1, 8–9, 12, 15.)
A. Procedural History
On July 11, 2016, the Clerk of Court issued summonses to John Doe 3 (Lance Stephens);
John Doe 4 (Gary Stockton); Fentress County, “C/O Mayor Ryan Smith”; “Nurse Tony (last name
unknown)”; Charles Cravens; Candy Norman; “C/O Sue (last name unknown)”; “John Doe 2 aka
C/O Dewayne (Last name unknown)”; and Ginger Goodpastor. (Doc. No. 9.) Stephens, Stockton,
Charles Cravens, Norman, Sue Cravens, and Dwain Matthews filed an answer on August 22, 2016.
(Doc. No. 21.) The Court determined that Mayor Smith was improperly named as a representative
of Fentress County and granted his motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 145.) The Court then ordered the
reissuance of process to Fentress County, which answered on October 28, 2016. (Doc. Nos. 41,
42.) The Court also ordered that the Clerk reissue process to Defendant Anthony Martin, who,
after the Court ordered his employer to provide a current service address, was served on April 11,
2017, and filed an answer on the same date. (Doc. Nos. 127–28, 136.)
On October 11, 2016, Olmstead moved for leave “to amend the complaint correcting names
and dates” based on discovery. (Doc. No. 50, PageID# 180.) The County Defendants oppose
Olmstead’s motion on grounds that his proposed amendments are futile because they are timebarred. (Doc. No. 60, PageID# 228.)
B. The Allegations of Olmstead’s Original Complaint
In his original complaint, Olmstead states that he notified FCJC booking officers when he
arrived at the jail that he took medicine for his high blood pressure. (Id. at PageID# 2, ¶ 9.)
Although Olmstead had received his blood pressure medication when incarcerated in Fentress
County on other occasions, he states that he did not receive his medication at FCJC for “several
weeks.” (Id. at PageID# 3, ¶¶ 11–12.) When Olmstead signed up for sick calls in to inquire about
his medication, he was told by Nurse Tony that they could not verify the prescriptions for his daily
medications and would give him Clonadine instead. (Id. at ¶ 14.) Olmstead states that Clonadine
is “a fast-acting medicine for emergency use; it is not intended for daily use.” (Id. at ¶ 17.)
Sometime thereafter, Olmstead awoke with “a severe headache, blurred vision, dizziness,
and trouble standing,” which he attributed to his high blood pressure. (Id. at ¶ 18.) Olmstead
advised FCJC officers that he needed medical attention throughout the day. (Id. at PageID# 3–4,
¶¶ 19, 21.) He did not receive medical attention in response to these requests. (Id. at PageID# 3–
4, ¶¶ 20, 22, 23, 24, 29.) Olmstead states that, by 6:00 p.m., he could no longer see or walk. (Id. at
PageID# 5, ¶ 36.) Olmstead’s cellmate began kicking the cell door and repeatedly pressing the call
button for help. (Id. at PageID# 4–5, ¶¶ 25, 37.) When an officer checked Olmstead’s blood
pressure, it was 250/180. (Id. at PageID# 5, ¶ 38.) He was taken to the emergency room and treated.
(Id. at ¶ 39.) Olmstead states that he regained full use of his left eye but, due to nerve damage, now
has only 10% vision in his right eye, which he expects to deteriorate until “he is 100% blind in that
eye.” (Id. at PageID# 6, ¶¶ 43, 45.) He states that “[t]his nerve damage was caused by the delay in
treating [his] high blood pressure.” (Id. at ¶ 46.)
A court reviews a motion for leave to amend a pleading under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 15(a)(2), which provides that a court “should freely give leave” to amend “when justice
so requires.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). This “mandate is to be heeded” and is based upon the premise
that, “[i]f the underlying facts or circumstances relied upon by a plaintiff may be a proper subject
of relief, he ought to be afforded an opportunity to test his claim on the merits.” Foman v. Davis,
371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). This deferential standard also provides the court discretion to deny leave
to amend “based on undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive or futility of amendment.” Pedreira
v. Ky. Baptist Homes for Children, 579 F.3d 722, 729 (6th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted); Foman,
371 U.S. at 182.
Amendment is futile when the proposed amendment would not survive a motion to dismiss.
Rose v. Hartford Underwriters Ins. Co., 203 F.3d 417, 420–21 (6th Cir. 2000). To survive a motion
to dismiss, a complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations” but must include more than
“labels and conclusions.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “[A] complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible
on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
“The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,’ but it asks for more
than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). A plaintiff must plead more than “labels and conclusions,” “a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action,” or “naked assertions devoid of further
factual enhancement.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557). “A claim has facial plausibility
when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Finally, “[a] document filed pro se is to be
liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
Olmstead filed this motion for leave to amend on October 11, 2016. (Doc. No. 50.) He
states that he “determined through discovery (received on October 4, 2016) the correct names [of
defendants] and date[s]” of the relevant events that are the basis of his claims. (Id. at PageID# 180,
¶ 2.) He proposes the following amendments to his complaint: correcting the dates of the events
in question, (id. at PageID# 183–84, ¶¶ 9, 16, 19; Doc. No. 50, PageID# 180); correcting the last
name of Administrator Candy Norman to Administrator Candy Price (Doc. No. 50-1, PageID#
182); adding the last name of Nurse Anthony Martin (“Nurse Tony”) (id.); and adding Defendants
Nicole York, Josh Densmore, Tammy King, Lance Maynard, Chris Martin, Gary Stockton, and
Southern Health Partners, Inc. (Doc. No. 50-1, PageID# 182.) Olmstead also removes his claims
against Defendants Sue Cravens, Dwain Matthews, Lance Stephens, and Ginger Goodpastor. (See
Doc. No. 50-1, PageID# 182.) Those defendants have been dismissed by the Court by prior order.
(Doc. No. 145.) The County Defendants oppose Olmstead’s motion insofar as it seeks to add new
defendants to his action. They argue that these amendments are untimely and therefore futile
because Olmstead filed his motion after the statute of limitations had run and the proposed
amendments do not relate back to the date of his original filing. (Doc. No. 60, PageID# 225.)
Amendment of Relevant Dates
Olmstead’s Proposed Amendment Complaint states that he was arrested and taken to the
FCJC on June 18, 2015 (Doc. No. 50-1, PageID# 183, ¶ 9); that he signed up for sick call on or
about July 18, 2015, when he had still not received his blood pressure medications (Id. at PageID#
184, ¶ 16); and that he woke up on July 20, 2015, with symptoms of elevated blood pressure and
was taken to the hospital later that day. (Id. at ¶ 19). His original complaint stated that these three
events occurred in April 2015; on June 18, 2015; and on June 25, 2015, respectively. (Doc. No. 1
PageID# 2, 3 ¶¶ 8, 15, 18.) The County Defendants do not oppose Olmstead’s proposed
amendment to change these dates (see Doc. No. 60, PageID# 223, 225), and the undersigned finds
no prejudice, undue delay, or bad faith will result from doing so. See Foman, 371 U.S. at 182.
Addition of Named Defendants
The County Defendants argue that Olmstead cannot amend his complaint to name new
defendants because the statute of limitations for this action expired before he filed this motion to
amend. (Doc. No. 60, PageID# 223.) A one-year statute of limitations governs claims brought
under § 1983 in Tennessee. Johnson v. Memphis Light Gas & Water Div., 777 F.3d 838, 843 (6th
Cir. 2015) (citing Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-104(a)(1)). A plaintiff’s cause of action under the
Eighth Amendment for deliberate indifference to a serious medical needs accrues when he is
denied medical care, even if the full extent of the resulting injury is not known until later. Scott v.
Ambani, 577 F.3d 642, 646 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Hermansen v. Schickel, 202 F.3d 268 (6th Cir.
1999)); see also Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 391 (2007). Olmstead’s claim therefore accrued
on July 20, 2015, the date on which he did not receive adequate medical care, and not on October
20, 2015, when Olmstead states that he learned of the extent of his injury. (Doc. No. 50-1, PageID#
184, 187, ¶¶ 19, 46; Doc. No. 72, PageID# 351–52.) Because Olmstead did not move to amend
until October 11, 2016, more than one year after his cause of action accrued, his proposed
amendments are untimely unless there is reason to toll the statute of limitations or the amendments
relate back to the original filing under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c).
In his original complaint, Olmstead brought claims against several defendants whose full
names he did not know. (Doc. No. 1.) He named these defendants as “Nurse Tony (L/N/U),” “C/O
Sue L/N/U,” “C/O John Doe 1,” “C/O John Doe 2,” “C/O John Doe 3,” and “C/O John Doe 4.”
(Id. at PageID# 1.) On the same day he filed his complaint—June 23, 2016—Olmstead filed a
motion for early discovery to learn these defendants’ names. (Doc. No. 4.) The Court did not
address that motion until March 21, 2017, well after the statute of limitations had run. (Doc. No.
During that delay, however, Olmstead diligently pursued his rights. Olmstead states that,
on July 5, 2016, he identified John Does 2–4. (Doc. No. 72, PageID# 351.) Olmstead issued
summonses for those defendants on July 11, 2016, identifying John Doe 2 as “Dewayne (L/N/U/),”
John Doe 3 as Lance Stephens, and John Doe 4 as Gary Stockton. (Doc. Nos. 12, 15, 17.)
“Dewayne (L/N/U)” accepted service as Dwain Matthews on July 15, 2016. (Doc. No. 17.) “Sue
L/N/U” accepted service as Sue Cravens on July 20, 2016 (Doc. No. 18); Lance Stephens accepted
service on the same date (Doc. No. 15). Gary Stockton accepted service on July 21, 2016 (Doc.
No. 12). These defendants, with Defendants Chucky Cravens and Candy Norman, answered
Olmstead’s complaint on August 22, 2016. (Doc. No. 21.) Olmstead states that he made his first
discovery request on August 29, 2016, for information “to identify defendants.” (Doc. No. 72,
PageID# 351.) The served defendants responded on September 30, 2016. (Id.) Olmstead moved to
amend his complaint on October 11, 2016. (Doc. No. 50.)
In the proposed amended complaint, Olmstead corrects the name of Administrator Candy
Norman to Administrator Candy Price and “Nurse Tony L/N/U” to Nurse Anthony Martin. (Id.)
He also adds as defendants C/O Nicole York, C/O Josh Densmore, C/O Tammy King, C/O Lance
Maynard, C/O Chris Martin, and Southern Health Partners, Inc. (Id.) The County Defendants do
not address Olmstead’s amendment of Norman’s last name to Price, and she continues to
participate in the litigation as Candy Norman. The question to be determined, therefore, is whether
the statute of limitations bars Olmstead from correcting the name of Anthony Martin and adding
as new defendants York, Densmore, King, Maynard, Chris Martin, Stockton, and Southern Health
1. Relation Back Under Rule 15(c)
The County Defendants argue that Olmstead’s proposed amendments that add new
defendants do not relate back to his original complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
15(c). With the exception of Olmstead’s amendment to correct the names of Candy Norman and
Anthony Martin, the Court agrees. Rule 15(c) rule provides, in relevant part, that an amendment
relates back to the date of the original pleading when:
(C) the amendment changes the party or the naming of the party against whom 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 by
received such notice of the action that it will not be prejudiced in
defending on the merits; and
knew or should have known that the action would have been brought
against it, but for a mistake concerning the proper party’s identity.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c)(1)(C).
Rule 15(c)(1)(B) is satisfied when “the amendment asserts a claim or defense that arose
out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out . . . in the original pleading.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
As the County Defendants ably set out, the Sixth Circuit clearly holds that the addition of
new parties after a statute of limitations has run does not satisfy the “mistaken identity”
requirement of Rule 15(c)(1)(C)(ii). See Collyer v. Darling, 98 F.3d 211, 220 (6th Cir. 1996). This
is true even in the case of naming a John Doe defendant. Cox v. Treadway, 75 F.3d 230, 240 (6th
Cir. 1996). The addition of defendants who were not named in Olmstead’s original complaint or
who were named as John Does therefore does not relate back to his original filing. 2
The County Defendants do not appear to oppose Olmstead’s amendment to correct
the name of Administrator Candy Norman to Administrator Candy Price. That amendment,
A different conclusion is required with regard to Olmstead’s amendments to correct the
name of Administrator Candy Norman to Administrator Candy Price and Nurse Tony to Anthony
Martin. These amendments correct the type of “mistake concerning the proper party’s identity”
that Rule 15(c) contemplates. See Chacon v. Clarksville Police Dep’t, No. 3:12-cv-00884, 2012
WL 6699655, at *5–6 (M.D. Tenn. Dec. 21, 2012) (finding relation back where there was “simply
no reasonable dispute that the Complaint and the Amended Complaint relate to and name the same
person”); Johnson v. Skolski, No. 06-13904, 2007 WL 141961, at *3 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 16, 2007)
(finding relation back where plaintiff moved to amend complaint to correct misspelling of
defendant’s name). Norman received service of process on July 15, 2016, and answered on August
22, 2016. (Doc. No. 1, PageID# 1–2; Doc. No. 19, PageID# 82; Doc. No. 21.) She has not been
prejudiced in defending against Olmstead’s claims on their merits. Thus, all of Rule 15(c)’s
requirements are met with regard to this amendment.
Olmstead also asks to amend his complaint to correctly name Nurse Tony as Anthony
Martin. This, too, is an amendment to address a “mistake concerning the proper party’s identity”
under Rule 15(c). However, Martin was not served until April 11, 2016. (Doc. No. 137.) This is
however, would relate back to Olmstead’s original filing. Olmstead originally named
“Administrator Candy Norman” as a defendant; she received service of process on July 15, 2016,
and filed her Answer on August 22, 2016. (Doc. No. 1, PageID# 1–2; Doc. No. 19, PageID# 82;
Doc. No. 21.) Olmstead does not seek to include a new defendant in the action; he only seeks to
correct a previously identified defendant’s name. Correcting a name in this way is the type of
“mistake concerning the proper party’s identity” that Rule 15(c) contemplates. See Chacon v.
Clarksville Police Dep’t, No. 3:12-cv-00884, 2012 WL 6699655, at *5–6 (M.D. Tenn. Dec. 21,
2012) (finding relation back where there was “simply no reasonable dispute that the Complaint
and the Amended Complaint relate to and name the same person”); Johnson v. Skolski, No. 0613904, 2007 WL 141961, at *3 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 16, 2007) (finding relation back where plaintiff
moved to amend complaint to correct misspelling of defendant’s name). Norman filed a responsive
pleading and knew or should have known she was the proper defendant. This amendment relates
back to the date of Olmstead’s original complaint.
not within the 90-day time period contemplated by Rule 4(m). However, that time period must be
extended if the plaintiff shows “good cause” for doing so. Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m). The Court finds
good cause here.
Olmstead has doggedly attempted to obtain service on Martin throughout the course of the
litigation. (Doc. Nos. 37, 39, 82, 96, 113.) Olmstead’s original summons to Nurse Tony was
accepted on July 14, 2016, by an unknown individual at the Legal Department of the Bledsoe
County Correctional Complex. (Doc. No. 13.) As the Court noted in a prior order, there is no
indication of whether that person was authorized to accept service for Martin. (Doc. No. 52.)
Perhaps recognizing this possible error, Olmstead moved for the Court to order Martin to provide
his full name and address so that proper service could be effected. (Doc. No. 37.) The Court
ordered the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex to provide this information (Doc. No. 52); it
did so on November 15, 2016 (Doc. No. 79). However, apparently due to the Court’s error, the
Court did not reissue process to Martin until March 21, 2017, at Olmstead’s prompting. (Doc. No.
128.) Martin accepted service and answered on April 11, 2017. (Doc. No. 136, 137.) The Court
believes Olmstead’s efforts constitute “good cause” to extend the service period of Rule 4(m) to
the date on which Martin was served. Accordingly, Olmstead’s amendment of Nurse Tony to
Anthony Martin also relates back to his initial filing under Rule 15(c).
2. Tolling of the Statute of Limitations
The Court’s inquiry into whether Olmstead’s amended complaint is time-barred does not
end with relation back. The Court must also determine whether the statute of limitations should be
tolled so that Olmstead’s proposed amendments would be timely. A federal court applies a state’s
tolling statute to a § 1983 claim “as long as the result is not inconsistent with federal law or policy.”
Johnson, 777 F.3d at 845. Tennessee statutory law permits tolling of a statute of limitations “if the
person entitled to bring the cause of action is ‘adjudicated incompetent.’” Id. (quoting Tenn. Code
Ann. § 28-1-106); Cobb ex rel. Mallardi v. Tenn. Valley Auth., 1 F. Supp. 3d 864, 868 (W.D. Tenn.
2014). In addition to this statutory exception (which does not apply to Olmstead), Tennessee
recognizes two tolling doctrines: equitable estoppel and fraudulent concealment. Pike v. United
States, 868 F. Supp. 2d 667, 682 (M.D. Tenn. 2012). Unlike most other states and the federal
courts, Tennessee does not recognize the doctrine of equitable tolling in civil actions. Redwing v.
Catholic Bishop Diocese of Memphis, 363 S.W.3d 436, 460 (Tenn. 2012).
Equitable estoppel applies when a defendant has “misled the plaintiff into failing to file
suit within the statutory limitations period, such as by making ‘specific promises, inducements,
suggestions, representations, assurances, or other similar conduct . . . that the defendant knew, or
reasonably should have known, would induce the plaintiff to delay filing suit.’” Pike, 868 F. Supp.
2d at 682 (quoting Redwing, 363 S.W.3d at 460–61). Olmstead has not shown that he was induced
into failing to file within the one-year statute of limitations; he timely filed his original complaint.
While Olmstead makes reference to Defendant Anthony Martin telling him that his vision would
improve as an attempt to dissuade him from filing suit, Martin is not among the defendants who
have moved to dismiss. (Doc. No. 72, PageID# 352.) The party to be estopped from asserting the
defense must have engaged in misconduct. See B&B Enters. of Wilson Cty., LLC v. City of
Lebanon, 318 S.W. 3d 839, 849 (Tenn. 2010). Olmstead does not allege that any of the County
Defendants engaged in conduct to which equitable estoppel would apply.
Fraudulent concealment is also not useful to Olmstead here, and Olmstead does not argue
for its application. Under Tennessee law, a claim of fraudulent concealment to toll the running of
the statute of limitations has four elements:
(1) The defendant affirmatively concealed the plaintiff’s injury or the identity of
the wrongdoer or failed to disclose material facts regarding the injury or the
wrongdoer despite a duty to do so;
(2) The plaintiff could not have discovered the injury or the identity of the
wrongdoer despite reasonable care and diligence;
(3) The defendant knew that the plaintiff had been injured and the identity of the
(4) The defendant concealed material information from the plaintiff by withholding
information or making use of some device to mislead the plaintiff in order to
exclude suspicion or prevent inquiry.
Pike, 868 F. Supp. 2d at 682. Even assuming Olmstead has satisfied some of the elements of a
fraudulent concealment claim, he has not shown that the County Defendants concealed his injury
“or the identity of the wrongdoer or failed to disclose material facts . . . despite a duty to do so.”
Olmstead did not seek the identities of unknown defendants until his request for early discovery
on June 23, 2016, the day he filed his complaint. (Doc. No. 72, PageID# 351.) Defendants had no
duty to provide discovery before the Court’s ruling on Olmstead’s early discovery motion, and
they timely responded to Olmstead’s first discovery request once they had been served with
process. (Id. at PageID# 351.)
Olmstead has not shown a basis to toll the statute of limitations under Tennessee law, but
again, the Court’s inquiry does not end here. “To the extent state tolling law is inconsistent with
federal law or policy, the court may impose the federal version of equitable tolling.” Pike, 868 F.
Supp. 2d at 683 (collecting cases). And, as this Court and others have recognized, “a body of state
tolling law that lacks a provision for equitable tolling is inconsistent with the provision of a
complete federal remedy . . . and therefore is overridden by the federal doctrine.” Id. at 684
(quoting Heck v. Humphrey, 997 F.2d 355, 358 (7th Cir. 1994), aff’d 512 U.S. 477 (1994)). “The
doctrine of equitable tolling permits a plaintiff to sue after the statute of limitations has expired if,
through no fault or lack of diligence on his part, he was unable to sue before, even though the
defendant took no active steps to prevent him from suing.” Friedmann v. Campbell, 202 F.3d 268
(Table), No. 98-6728, 1999 WL 1045281, at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 8, 1999) (citing Donald v. Cook
Cty. Sheriff’s Dep’t, 95 F.3d 548, 561 (7th Cir. 1996)). This doctrine “is applied appropriately
when the plaintiff knows he was injured yet was unable to learn the wrongdoer’s identity despite
all reasonable diligence.” Id.
Here, Olmstead asked the Court to allow him to pursue early discovery immediately upon
filing his complaint and before the statute of limitations had expired. (Doc. No. 3.) It is not
Olmstead’s fault that the Court did not address his motion until well thereafter. Further, the record
shows that Olmstead worked consistently to learn the names of the additional defendants to his
action during the Court’s delay and, when some defendants appeared and he could pursue
discovery, he immediately got the information he needed and amended his complaint. The Fifth
Circuit addressed a similar situation in Green v. Doe, 260 F. App’x 717 (5th Cir. 2007). There, the
district court denied Green’s requests to conduct discovery before the statute of limitations ran,
which prevented him from obtaining information to identify a John Doe defendant. Id. at 718. The
Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s finding that Green’s later attempt at amendment was timebarred, holding that the identifying information “could have been discovered if Green’s initial
motions for discovery had been granted. . . . There is nothing more he could have done to determine
the identity of ‘John Doe’ within the period of limitations.” Id. at 719.
The same conclusion must follow here. As the Sixth Circuit instructs, “[w]hen the
substance of a pro se civil rights complaint indicates the existence of claims against individual
officials not specifically named in the caption of the complaint, the district court must provide the
plaintiff with an opportunity to amend the complaint.” Friedmann, 1999 WL 1045281 at *1.
Olmstead used all reasonable diligence to discover the identities of the defendants to his claims.
Equitable tolling is appropriately applied here to the amendments he made with information
obtained through his initial discovery. His claims against Defendants York, Densmore, King,
Maynard, Chris Martin, Anthony Martin, and Southern Health Partners are not time-barred.
Olmstead’s claim against Stockton may also proceed. Olmstead apparently could have
amended his complaint to add Stockton before the statute of limitations ran, because he had
information identifying Stockton as John Doe 4 when he issued summonses. Olmstead served
Stockton on July 21, 2016. (Doc. No. 12.) Thus, Olmstead did not learn Stockton’s identity from
the discovery he received, but did use the discovery to confirm that Stockton was a proper
defendant to his claims (unlike those he had identified as John Does 2 and 3). Stockton has been
on notice of this action since he was timely served. He is properly added with the other defendants
to Olmstead’s amended complaint.
Olmstead’s Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint (Doc. No. 50) is GRANTED. The
Clerk’s Office is DIRECTED to file Olmstead’s Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 50-1) as a separate
docket entry. The Clerk’s Office is further DIRECTED to send Olmstead a service packet for
the remaining defendants who have not yet appeared in this action: York, Densmore, King,
Maynard, Chris Martin, and Southern Health Partners.
It is so ORDERED.
ALISTAIR E. NEWBERN
United States Magistrate Judge
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