Lawrence B. Dickens, Plaintiff,
Commissioner Robert Coupe, Bureau Chief Janet Durkee, Support Service Manager Tonya Smith, and Payroll Supervisor Tera Bench, Defendants.
Submitted: October 18, 2017
Plaintiffs Motion to Amend Pursuant to Super. Ct. Civ. Rule
Lawrence Dickens, Pro Se Plaintiff
Ophelia M. Waters, Esq., State of Delaware Department of
Justice, Attorneys for Defendant
MARY M. JOHNSTON, J.
AND PROCEDURAL CONTEXT
Lawrence B. Dickens is an inmate at James T. Vaughn
Correctional Center ("DOC") and brings this action
pro se. Defendants are various employees of DOC.
Dickens' cause of action arises out of a longstanding
dispute with DOC regarding Dickens' rate of pay as a
barber. After requesting a payroll review, Dickens received a
letter from DOC's business office on January 29, 2013,
detailing the changes in his rate of pay and explaining the
time periods for which he was not entitled to additional
compensation. Dickens did not institute this action until May
23, 2016. Without stating the statute or common law cause of
action on which he based his claim, Dickens alleged he
suffered emotional pain and financial loss as a consequence
of the Defendants' actions.
now brings a motion to amend his complaint to include
additional correctional center employees as
defendants. In response, Defendants argue Dickens does
not meet Rule 15(c)'s requirements for amendment, and
that the case should be dismissed because it is barred under
the statute of limitations and fails to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted.
"[a] statute of limitations is calculated from the time
of the wrongful act 'even if the plaintiff is ignorant of
the cause of action.'"Notwithstanding that principle,
under "the time of discovery rule, " the statute of
limitations is tolled when the plaintiff has suffered an
inherently unknowable injury of which the plaintiff is
without deciding, that Dickens' cause of action satisfies
the "time of discovery rule, " at the very latest,
Dickens' claim accrued when he received the letter
explaining his reduction in pay on January 29, 2013. Dickens
filed his complaint on May 23, 2016. This action is therefore
time-barred if Dickens' cause of action is subject to a
statute of limitations of three years or less.
Dickens does not state the cause of action on which he bases
his claim, the appropriate statute of limitations is not
immediately apparent. Defendants contend the claim is
properly characterized as one for "wages, labor or
personal services performed, or for damages . . . resulting
from the failure to pay any such claim . . .
." The statute of limitations for such claims
is one year. In his reply, Dickens does not directly
dispute this, but asserts that he brings his action under
Delaware's Tort Claims Act. The most generous
interpretation of his claim would categorize it as an
"action to recover damages caused by an injury
unaccompanied with force or resulting indirectly from the act
of the defendant." Such a cause of action would be subject
to a three-year limitation and would therefore still be barred.
Court finds Dickens' claim has been brought beyond any
potentially applicable statute of limitations. ...