United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. YANDLE United States District Judge.
the Court is Defendant Kimberly Butler's Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc.43). Plaintiff James Owens is an inmate
with the Illinois Department of Corrections
(“IDOC”). On January 15, 2014, Owens filed suit
against IDOC correctional officers and employees, alleging
various violations of his constitutional rights. Owens v.
Butler, 3:14-cv-55-NJR-DGW, Doc. 1 (S.D. Ill.). The
Court severed Plaintiff's claims into separate actions on
March 25, 2015 (Doc. 2). The instant action pertains to
Plaintiff's claim that on December 22, 2011, Defendants
John Doe #10 and John Doe #11 subjected him to excessive
force in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Id.)
Defendant Kimberly Butler was added in her official capacity
as the warden of Menard Correctional Center
(“Menard”), for the sole purpose of identifying
the John Doe defendants. (Id.)
now moves for summary judgment on Owens' claim that the
two John Doe defendants subjected him to excessive force, on
the bases that Owens has not amended the complaint to
identify the John Doe defendants and that the statute of
limitations bars Plaintiff from doing so. Plaintiff asserts
that the limitations period is equitably tolled and that
Defendant is equitably estopped from asserting the statute of
limitations defense. For the following reasons, the Court
GRANTS Defendant's motion.
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), the Court
“shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” In
ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must
“examine the record and all reasonable inferences in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party.”
Spurling v. C & M Fine Pack, Inc., 739 F.3d 1055,
1060 (7th Cir. 2014). Summary judgment will be denied
“if a material issue of fact exists that would allow a
reasonable jury to find in favor of the non-moving
argues that, based on the current posture of this case,
Owens' claim against John Doe defendants #10 and #11 can
no longer proceed. On April 16, 2015, the Court advised Owens
regarding his responsibility for identifying the John Doe
defendants and added the warden of Menard as a defendant to
assist Owens in fulfilling that responsibility (Doc. 9). On
June 22, 2015, the Court set the initial discovery deadline
for June 3, 2016 (Doc. 18). On Owens' motions, the
discovery deadline was extended to November 30, 2016 (Docs.
record reflects Owens' extensive efforts to identify the
John Doe defendants, including providing the physical
descriptions of the John Doe defendants, serving written
discovery and conducting depositions of supervisory
correctional officers. However, these efforts have not
resulted in the identification of the John Doe defendants.
Moreover, in light of these futile efforts and the
considerable passage of time since the alleged excessive
force incident, the Court is not persuaded that further
discovery would be fruitful. Although Owens asserts that the
alleged excessive force incident was recorded on camera,
there is no evidence suggesting that the defendants have
refused to produce it or that recording currently exists.
Owens now seeks to conduct additional discovery for the
purpose of identifying the John Doe defendants. Defendant argues
that, even if Owens received that opportunity and identified
the John Doe defendants at this point, the statute of
limitations would bar his claim.
applicable limitations period is Illinois' two-year
statute of limitations for personal injury claims.
Johnson v. Rivera, 272 F.3d 519, 521 (7th Cir.
2001). According to the Complaint, the alleged excessive
force incident occurred on December 22, 2011. Owens commenced
this lawsuit on January 15, 2014. Significantly, even if Owens
was now able to identify the John Doe defendants, he would be
unable to rely on the relation back doctrine for purposes of
the statute of limitations. See King v. One Unknown Fed.
Corr. Officer, 201 F.3d 910, 914 (7th Cir. 2000)
(“We have consistently held that Rule 15(c)(3) does not
provide for relation back under circumstances, such as here,
in which the plaintiff fails to identity the proper
party.”). Therefore, in the absence of applicable
equitable doctrines, the statute of limitations bars
Plaintiff's claim against John Doe Defendants #10 and
seeks to invoke the doctrine of equitable tolling, arguing
that his due diligence in seeking the John Doe
defendants' identities equitably tolls the statute of
limitations. “Equitable tolling permits a plaintiff to
avoid the bar of the statute of limitations if despite all
due diligence he is unable to obtain vital information
bearing on the existence of his claim. Smith v. City of
Chicago Heights, 951 F.2d 834, 839 (7th Cir. 1992). To
demonstrate due diligence, Owens relies on his efforts to
identify the John Doe defendants through discovery. (Doc. 45
the statute of limitations bars Owens' claim even if the
Court finds that Plaintiff exercised due diligence in
attempting to identify the John Doe defendants in discovery.
The alleged excessive force incident occurred on December 22,
2011. (Doc. 1.) Thus the 2 year limitations period had
expired when Owens filed this case and there is no evidence
of any efforts by him to identify these defendants prior to
also seeks to invoke the doctrine of equitable estoppel,
arguing that Defendant is equitably estopped from asserting
the statute of limitations defense because Defendant has
taken steps to prevent him from complying with the statute of
limitations. “Equitable estoppel comes into play if the
defendant takes active steps to prevent the plaintiff from
suing in time, as by promising not to plead the statute of
limitations.” Smith, 951 F.2d at 840.
“[T]he traditional elements of equitable estoppel are:
(1) misrepresentation by the party against whom estoppel is
asserted; (2) reasonable reliance on that misrepresentation
by the party asserting estoppel; and (3) detriment to the
party asserting estoppel.” LaBonte v. United
States, 233 F.3d 1049, 1053 (7th Cir. 2000).
“However, in suits against the government, one must
also establish affirmative misconduct on the part of the
government.” Id. “Affirmative misconduct
is more than mere negligence. It requires an affirmative act
to misrepresent or mislead.” Id.
argues that Defendant's misrepresentations prevented him
from discovering the identity of the John Doe defendants.
Specifically, he asserts that Defendant did not identify the
John Doe defendants, did not produce any photographs of the
guards and did not produce a video of the December 2011
incident, despite the existence of the video. Review of the
discovery documents offered by Plaintiff reveals that
Defendant did not identify the John Doe defendants, citing a
lack of personal knowledge, but provided Owens with a roster
of employees that worked on December 22, 2011. The Court
perceives no deficiencies in Defendant's response that
would constitute affirmative misconduct.
November 30, 2015, Plaintiff requested a court order for
Defendant to produce photographs of Menard Correctional
Center employees that resembled Plaintiff's description
of the John Doe defendants. (Doc. 26.) Generally, parties
must respond to discovery requests. See Fed. R. Civ.
P. 33(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2). However, this request was
directed to the Court in a reply brief in support of a motion
to compel, which was filed two weeks after the Court's
decision on the motion. Given the context of the request,
Defendant's failure to respond to the request does not
constitute an affirmative act to misrepresent or mislead.
Defendant's alleged failure to produce the video
recording, Owens cites the deposition testimony of Major John
M. Carter, a correctional officer, and Defendant's
discovery response stating that no such video ...