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Averill v. Jones

United States District Court, D. Delaware

August 13, 2019

JONES, et al., Defendants.

          Stephen B. Brauerman, Sara E. Bussiere, Bayard, P.A., Wilmington, DE - attorneys for Plaintiff

          Daniel A. Griffith, Scott G. Wilcox, Whiteford Taylor & Preston LLC, Wilmington, DE - attorneys for Defendants



         Before the Court is a motion for summary judgment (D.I. 199) by Defendants Ihouma Chuks, Olatokunbo Gbadebo, Dr. Linda Galef-Surdo and Ema Ndi (collectively, “the Medical Defendants”), seeking summary judgment that Plaintiff Wayne R. Averill's (“Plaintiff or “Averill”) claims against them are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will GRANT the Medical Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 14, 2012, Averill, a former inmate at James T. Vaughn Correction Center, filed a pro se complaint asserting violations of his civil rights pursuant to Section 1983, as well as claims of medical negligence, medical malpractice, and negligence. (D.I. 3). Plaintiffs complaint named a series of medical professionals and medical providers as defendants. (Id.). On January 2, 2013, Plaintiff filed the First Amended Complaint, (D.I. 19), adding additional defendants - including Correct Care Solutions, LLC (“CCS”) (the prison medical provider from July 2010 through June 2014) - and extending the period of alleged violations into 2013. On September 19, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint, including twenty additional defendants and extending the alleged conduct through the summer of 2013. (D.I. 24). A month later, on November 21, 2013, Plaintiff moved to amend the Second Amended Complaint. (D.I. 25). After reviewing and screening the Second Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and § 1915A, the Court dismissed all defendants except for four individually named defendants, two medical providers, and a number of Jane/John Does who were employed by the medical providers. (D.I. 26). In the accompanying order, the Court stated “[w]hen plaintiff learns the identity of the [Correctional Medical Services, Inc (“CMS”)] and CCS Doe Defendants, he shall immediately move the court for an order directing amendment of the caption and service upon them.” (D.I. 27 at 1) (emphasis added). The parties engaged in discovery in 2014 and 2015. On March 12, 2015, Plaintiff submitted interrogatory responses identifying each of the Medical Defendants as participants in his care during the time at issue, but did not seek to amend the Second Amended Complaint or the caption to add them. (D.I. 90 at 8, 10, 20, 21, 24, 30).

         On June 23, 2015, the Court entered a scheduling order that allowed amendment of the pleadings until August 24, 2015. (D.I. 98 at 1). No. amended pleadings were filed before that deadline. On October 13, 2015, Plaintiff sought leave to file an 83-page amended complaint with additional claims and defendants. (D.I. 101, Ex. 1). The court denied the motion, as a failure to comply with the Scheduling Order, a failure to comply with the Local Rules, and an improper attempt to add “new defendants for acts unrelated to the original complaint.” (D.I. 125).

         Plaintiff was assigned counsel on May 9, 2016. (D.I. 139). Thereafter, the Court entered an amended scheduling order that set a March 29, 2017 deadline for amendment of pleadings. (D.I. 151). On March 29, 2017, Plaintiff moved for leave to file a Third Amended Complaint, which included claims against the Medical Defendants in place of previously listed “CCS Jane/John Doe” defendants. (D.I. 153). On October 16, 2017, the Court granted the motion in part and denied it in part. (D.I. 170). On November 3, 2017, Plaintiff filed the Third Amended Complaint. (D.I. 174).

         The Medical Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on December 13, 2017. (D.I. 182). The Court denied that motion, allowing the parties to engage in a short period of expedited discovery on the issues of application of the statute of limitations to the claims against the Medical Defendants. (D.I. 198). Plaintiff conducted no additional discovery with respect to the statute of limitations and potential relation back. (D.I. 200 at 7). On November 16, 2018, the Medical Defendants filed the pending motion for summary judgment. (D.I. 199). Plaintiff opposes the motion. (D.I. 202).


         Pursuant to Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “[t]he 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.” The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-86 (1986). An assertion that a fact is not genuinely disputed must be supported by citing to “particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, ” or by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A) & (B). If the moving party has carried its burden, the nonmovant must then “come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court will “draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

         To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must “do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586; see also Podobnik v. U.S. Postal Serv., 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005) (party opposing summary judgment “must present more than just bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions to show the existence of a genuine issue”) (internal quotation marks omitted). The “mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment” and a factual dispute is genuine only where “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). “If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Id. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Thus, the “mere existence of a scintilla of evidence” in support of the nonmoving party's position is insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment; there must be “evidence on which the jury could reasonably find” for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.


         The Medical Defendants argue that summary judgment is appropriate because Plaintiff's § 1983 claims are barred by the two-year statute of limitations and do not relate back to the original pleading. (D.I. 200). As an affirmative defense, the burden of proving that the statute of limitations bars the action falls upon the Medical Defendants. See Richard B. Roush, Inc. Profit Sharing Plan v. New England Mut. Life Ins. Co., 311 F.3d 581, 585 (3d Cir. 2002) (“Because the statute of limitations is an affirmative defense and because [the defendant] is the movant for summary judgment, the burden of proof that the statute of limitations bars [the plaintiff's] action rests on [the defendant].”). Plaintiff does not, however, dispute that the amendment naming the Medical Defendants was outside of the two-year statute of limitations. (D.I. 202 at 4 (“Plaintiff does not dispute that the amendment naming the Individual CCS Defendants was outside the two-year statute of limitations.”)). Thus, the Court finds that the Medical Defendants have met their ...

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