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Donelson v. Atchison

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 16, 2016

MICHAEL ATCHISON, et al., Defendants.


          STACI M. YANDLE United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on sixteen pending motions filed by Plaintiff Charles Donelson (Docs. 163, 180, 182, 184, 185, 190, 192, 193, 195, 197, 198, 201, 202, 206, 210, 212) and two pending motions of Defendants (Docs. 199, 207).

         On November 25, 2014, Plaintiff commenced an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging several constitutional violations (Docs. 1, 18). On January 29, 2015, the Court severed Plaintiff's claims into separate actions. The instant action pertains to Plaintiff's claim that Defendants violated Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment and First Amendment rights at Menard Correctional Center by denying access to the yard and confining Plaintiff in unsanitary conditions. Specifically, Plaintiff's claims are as follows:

Count 1: Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants Holton and Cartwright for denying Plaintiff access to the yard, thus preventing him from engaging in physical activity necessary to maintain his health;
Count 2: Eighth Amendment claim against Unknown (John Doe) Defendants and Defendants Baker and Cartwright, for placing Plaintiff in unsanitary cells and/or failing to remedy the cell conditions in response to Plaintiff's complaints;
Count 3: First Amendment claim against Unknown (John Doe) Defendants, for housing Plaintiff in the cell contaminated with black mold in November 2012, in retaliation for his complaints and grievances over the denial of yard;
Count 4: First Amendment claim against Defendant Baker, for refusing to remedy the unsanitary conditions in Plaintiff's cell in June 2013 (contamination with feces and urine), in retaliation for Plaintiff's grievances over his staff assaulter classification;

         Motion for Leave to Amend the Complaint

         Plaintiff moved for leave to amend the Complaint on August 1, 2016 (Doc. 192). Plaintiff attempts to reassert claims under Section 1983 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act that were dismissed in the screening order. He further attempts to add defendants that were dismissed in the screening order to his existing claims.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) states, “a party may amend the party's pleading only by leave of court or by written consent of the adverse party; and leave shall be freely given when justice so requires.” Leave may be denied upon undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, or futility of amendment . . . Airborne Beepers & Video, Inc. v. AT & T Mobility LLC, 499 F.3d 663, 666 (7th Cir. 2007).

         The Court finds that allowing Plaintiff to amend his Complaint would be futile. This action pertains to Plaintiff's incarceration at Menard Correctional Center, which ended in October 2013. (Doc. 1-1 at 3.) “[T]he applicable statute of limitations for section 1983 claims is the state period for personal injury torts.” Kalimara v. Illinois Dep't of Corr., 879 F.2d 276, 277 (7th Cir. 1989). The state period for personal injury torts also applies to claims under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Soignier v. Am. Bd. of Plastic Surgery, 92 F.3d 547, 551 (7th Cir. 1996). Under Illinois law, the statute of limitations for personal injury torts is two years. 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/13-202. With the exception of the exhaustion of administrative remedies, there are no applicable grounds for equitable tolling and Plaintiff represented that he exhausted all available remedies prior to filing the initial Complaint. (Doc. 1 at 9.)

         The relation back doctrine allows amended pleadings to relate back to the date of an original pleading. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c). “Rule 15(c)(1)(C) applies where the amendment changes the party or the naming of the party against whom a claim is asserted.” Hunt ex rel. Chiovari v. Dart, 612 F.Supp.2d 969, 973 (N.D. Ill. 2009); Arreola v. Godinez, 546 F.3d 788, 796 (7th Cir. 2008). Here, the vast majority of Plaintiff's proposed amendments would add party defendants. To satisfy Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c), the proposed defendants either must know or should know that Plaintiff would have sued them absent a mistake and, if so, whether the mistake impaired the ability of the proposed defendants to defend themselves. Joseph v. Elan Motorsports Techs. Racing Corp., 638 F.3d 555, 560 (7th Cir. 2011); Worthington v. Wilson, 8 F.3d 1253, 1256-57 (7th Cir. 1993). Stated otherwise, “A potential defendant who has not been named in a lawsuit by the time the statute of limitations has run is entitled to repose-unless it is or should be apparent to that person that he is the beneficiary of a mere slip of the pen, as it were.” Joseph, 638 F.3d at 560.

         The record contains no indication that the proposed defendants either knew or should have known of Plaintiff's intent to include them in this action, and Plaintiff has identified no mistake. Therefore, the relation back doctrine does not apply. The statute of limitations bars the addition of parties as proposed and such claims are futile.

         The only proposed amendment involving the existing defendants is Plaintiff's ADA claim in which he alleges that his designation as a predator by mental health staff constitutes a disability and that Defendants prevented him from accessing the yard and confined him to North 2 housing because of that designation. The relation back doctrine likely applies to this claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c)(1)(B). However, this proposed claim does not adequately suggest a statutory disability. The ADA defines “disability” as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Gogos v. AMS Mech. Sys., Inc., 737 F.3d 1170, 1172 (7th Cir. 2013); 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1). “[M]ajor life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2)(A); Scott v. Kaneland Cmty. Unit Sch. Dist. No. 302, 898 F.Supp.2d 1001, 1005 (N.D. Ill. 2012). Whether the predator designation constitutes or correlates with a physical or mental impairment is entirely ...

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