United States District Court, D. Delaware
CAROL ANN JOHNSON-KRUMM, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of JUSTIN M. JOHNSON, deceased, Plaintiff,
CITY OF SEAFORD, SEAFORD POLICE DEPARTMENT, LT. RICHARD JAMISON, SGT. THOMAS LEE, CPL. TOBY LAURION, CPL. JAMES BACHMAN, CPL. COLE SCOTT, in their Official and Individual Capacities. Defendants.
E. Farnan, Michael J. Farnan, Rosemary Jean Piergiovanni,
FARNAN LLP, Wilmington, Delaware Counsel for Plaintiff.
A. Griffith, Kaan Ekiner, WHITEFORD TAYLOR & PRESTON LLC,
Wilmington, Delaware Counsel for Defendants.
F. CONNOLLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Carol Ann Johnson-Krumm initiated this action with the pro se
filing of a complaint against Defendants City of Seaford (the
"City") and Seaford Police Department (the
"Police Department") on June 24, 2016. D.I. 2. In
November 2016, the Honorable Gregory M. Sleet, who originally
presided over this action, issued an order to show cause why
the complaint should not be dismissed for failure to serve
process within 90 days of the filing of the complaint. D.I.
4. After receiving a letter from Plaintiff in response to the
order to show cause, Judge Sleet issued an order on December
13, 2016 "pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(m)" that
granted Plaintiff until February 13, 2017 "to effect
service upon the defendants." D.I. 8. Plaintiff
subsequently retained counsel, who assisted her in filing a
First Amended Complaint on November 6, 2017. The First
Amended Complaint added claims against Lt. Richard Jamison,
Sgt. Thomas Lee, Cpl. Toby Laurion, Cpl. James Bachman, and
Cpl. Cole Scott in their official and individual capacities
(collectively the "Individual Defendants";
collectively with City and the Police Department,
"Defendants"). D.I. 40.
before me is Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) Plaintiffs claims
against the Individual Defendants. D.I. 41.
claims arise from an incident occurring on July 11, 2014 at
the Nanticoke Riverfest, an annual festival in Seaford,
Delaware. D.I. 2 at 4-5; D.I. 40 at ¶¶ 15, 22.
Plaintiffs son, Justin M. Johnson, was apprehended by Seaford
police officers after being told he could not ride his bike
through the festival. D.I. 2 at 4; D.I. 40 at ¶¶
22-27. While Mr. Johnson was still on his bike and wearing a
backpack, one of the officers handcuffed him and placed him
under arrest. D.I. 2 at 4; D.I. 40 at ¶¶ 26-27.
Shortly after being handcuffed, Mr. Johnson, while still
wearing his backpack, broke free from the officers and ran
into the Nanticoke River. D.I. 2 at 5; D.I. 40 at ¶ 38.
Mr. Johnson struggled in the water and was pulled out by
rescue personnel after he had been in the water for at least
30 minutes. D.I. 2 at 5; D.I. 40 at ¶¶ 40-46. After
his rescue, Mr. Johnson was transported to Nanticoke Memorial
Hospital, where he was declared brain dead. D.I. 2 at 5-6;
D.I. 40 at ¶ 47. Mr. Johnson died on July 15, 2014. D.I.
40 at ¶ 48.
has alleged claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the
City, the Police Department, and the Individual Defendants in
their official capacities. D.I. 40 at 9-12. Plaintiff also
alleges claims against the Individual Defendants in their
individual capacities under § 1983 and Delaware state
tort law. Id. at 12-16. Defendants have moved for
dismissal of the claims against the Individual Defendants
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) on the grounds that the claims are
time-barred as a matter of law. D.I. 42 at 4.
state a claim upon which relief can be granted, a complaint
must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not
required, but the complaint must set forth sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is facially
plausible when the factual content allows the court to draw
the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss, the court must accept as true all factual
allegations in the complaint and view them in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. Umland v. Planco Fin.
Servs., 542 F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008).
have moved for dismissal on the basis that the claims alleged
against the Individual Defendants are time-barred, having
been asserted after the expiration of the two-year statute of
limitations. Plaintiff counters that the claims against the
Individual Defendants relate back to the filing date of the
original complaint and are permitted by Federal Rule of Civil
1983 claims are characterized as personal injury claims, and
district courts must apply the state statute of limitations
for personal injury claims." Gibbs v. Deckers,
234 F.Supp.2d 458, 461 (D. Del. 2002). Thus, each of
Plaintiff s claims is subject to a two-year statute of
limitations. See 10 Del. C. § 8119 (imposing a
two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims).
"Claims not filed within the two-year statute of
limitations period are time-barred and must be
dismissed." Cohee v. Danberg, , 2018 WL
1110285, at *2 (D. Del. Feb. 28, 2018). Here, the date of
underlying incident was July 11, 2014, meaning Plaintiff was
required to bring her claims by July 11, 2016 in order for
them to fall within the two-year statute of limitations.
Plaintiff filed her initial complaint before July 11, 2016
but she did not add her claims against the Individual
Defendants until she filed her First Amended Complaint on
November 6, 2017. Therefore, the claims asserted against the
Individual Defendants will be time-barred unless Plaintiff
proves they relate back to the original complaint under Rule
15(c). See Singletary v. Pa. Dep'tof Corr., 266
F.3d 186, 189 (3d Cir. 2001) ("Rule l5(c) provides for
the 'relation back' of amended complaints that add or
change parties if certain conditions are met, in which case
the amended complaint is treated, for statute of limitations
purposes, as if it had been filed at the time of the original
Plaintiff names additional parties in her amended pleading,
three conditions must be satisfied for her First Amended
Complaint to relate back to the filing of the original
complaint. First, the new claims must have arisen from the
same conduct set out in the original pleading. See
Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c)(1)(C). Second, within the time period
provided by Rule 4(m), the newly named parties must have
"received such notice of the action that [they] will not
be prejudiced in defending on the merits." Fed.R.Civ.P.
l5(c)(1)(C)(i). Third, the newly named parties must have
"kn[own] or should have known that ...