United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
June 15, 2005.
ADE DEAN ADENIJI, Plaintiff,
ALEXIAN BROTHERS HEALTH SYSTEM, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: ELAINE E. BUCKLO, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Ade Dean Adeniji was employed by Alexian Brothers
Behavioral Health Hospital ("the Hospital") as a mental health
counselor from August 2, 2003 until his termination on May 19,
2004. Mr. Adeniji filed a charge with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging that he was wrongfully
terminated based on his national origin and age. The EEOC charge
was filed against both the Hospital and the Alexian Brothers
Health System ("the System"). The EEOC issued Mr. Adeniji a
right-to-sue letter on June 3, 2004, naming only the Hospital in
the letter as respondent. On September 2, 2004, Mr. Adeniji filed
the present lawsuit, naming only the System as a defendant,
alleging national origin discrimination in violation of Title
VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Count I); age discrimination in
violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"),
29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (Count II); and willful violation of
the ADEA (Count III). The System now moves for summary judgment on all three counts. I deny
that motion for the reasons stated below.
The System argues that it has never employed Mr. Adeniji, and
is therefore not the correct defendant in this action. Mr.
Adeniji concedes that the System is not the correct defendant,
but argues that he should be permitted to substitute the Hospital
as the correct defendant, via an amended complaint and pursuant
to Rule 15(c). Mr. Adeniji was required to file his claims within
90 days after the issuance of the right-to-sue letter from the
EEOC. See Threadgill v. Moore U.S.A., Inc., 269 F.3d 848,
849-50 (7th Cir. 2001). Therefore, Mr. Adeniji is prohibited
from now bringing these claims against the Hospital, unless his
proposed amendment relates back to the original complaint,
pursuant to the provisions of Rule 15(c). That Rule provides that
the amendment of a complaint relates back to the original date of
the complaint when naming a new defendant when the claims arise
out of the same conduct, transaction or occurrence as the
original complaint and
within the period provided by Rule 4(m) for service
of the summons and complaint, the party to be brought
in by amendment (A) has received such notice of the
institution of the action that the party will not be
prejudiced in maintaining a defense on the merits,
and (B) knew or should have known that, but for a
mistake concerning the identity of the proper party,
the action would have been brought against the party.
FED. R. CIV. P. 15(c)(3).
Mr. Adeniji meets the first requirement; the claims he wishes
to bring against the Hospital not only arise from the same
conduct he originally complained of, they are the same claims he brought
against the System. Whether Mr. Adeniji can show the second
requirement that the Hospital had notice of this action within
the 120 days allowed by Rule 4(m) is a closer question. Mr.
Adeniji argues that the Hospital had notice for two reasons: one,
the Hospital was named as a respondent in the EEOC charge, and
two, the Hospital and the System share legal counsel. Those two
factors, combined with the System's actions in this case, combine
to fulfill the requirement. Notice "serves as the means for
evaluating prejudice." Woods v. Indiana Univ.-Purdue Univ.,
996 F.2d 880, 888 (7th Cir. 1993). The System did state in its
answer that it had never employed Mr. Adeniji, and on October 12,
2004, filed an affiliate statement pursuant to Local Rule 3.2,
identifying the System as a member of the Hospital. On December
9, 2004, counsel for the System filed a motion to compel Mr.
Adeniji's deposition; in that motion, counsel states the
Hospital's purported reason for terminating Mr. Adeniji's
employment and states that discovery on behalf of the Hospital
had been provided (Mr. Adeniji's personnel file, etc.). Given the
overlap of counsel, the naming of both entities in the EEOC
charge, and the actions of the System's counsel, I cannot say
that the Hospital would now be prejudiced by defending in this
case. See, e.g., Graham v. Gendex Medical X-Ray, Inc.,
176 F.R.D. 288, 290-91 (N.D. Ill. 1997) (Norgle, J.) (relying on naming of new defendant in EEOC
charge as sufficient to provide notice).
Whether Mr. Adeniji can show that a mistake led to his naming
only the System as a defendant in his original complaint is also
a close question. Rule 15(c) is used to "correct a misnomer of a
defendant where the proper defendant is already before the
court." Worthington v. Wilson, 8 F.3d 1253, 1256 (7th Cir.
1996). "[A] new defendant cannot normally be substituted or added
by amendment after the statue of limitations has run." Id.
There was no "misnomer of a defendant" here. This is not a case
where Mr. Adeniji was confused as to the actual name of his
employer, or where he thought he was actually employed by another
entity. Mr. Adeniji knew he was employed by the Hospital, not the
System: his paychecks bore the name of the Hospital, as did his
annual W2 form. When Mr. Adeniji filed his complaint with the
EEOC, he did so against both the System and the Hospital, and
when the EEOC issued him a right-to-sue letter, it named only the
Hospital as the respondent.
Yet when Mr. Adeniji filed this lawsuit, represented by
counsel, he chose to bring suit solely against the System. Even
when the System answered his complaint, in part, by denying that
it had ever employed Mr. Adeniji, he persisted in his suit and
did not seek to name the Hospital, either as a substituted or
additional defendant. Mr. Adeniji's first attempt to name his
actual employer, the Hospital, in this lawsuit comes now, nearly seven
months later, in response to the System's motion for summary
judgment. However, as noted above, counsel for the System
proceeded with this case as if Mr. Adeniji had named the correct
party. Counsel provided discovery that was within the control of
the Hospital, not the System. The System's affiliate statement
indicated a relationship between the Hospital and the System.
Given this course of action, it is understandable that Mr.
Adeniji thought he had sued the correct entity and did not seek
to amend his complaint until the present time. The federal rules
of pleading are intended to provide that cases be tried on the
merits, not disposed of via technical procedural difficulties.
See Woods, 996 F.2d at 883. The System's motion for summary
judgment is denied, and Mr. Adeniji is given leave to amend his
complaint to substitute the correct defendant.
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