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Garvin v. City of Philadelphia

December 31, 2003


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (D.C. Civ. No. 02-02214) District Judge: Honorable Robert F. Kelly

Before: Mckee, Smith, and Greenberg, Circuit Judges

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Greenberg, Circuit Judge


Argued November 7, 2003



This matter comes on before this court on Tysheia Garvin's appeal from an order entered by the district court on December 6, 2002, denying her motion to amend her complaint and an order entered on January 3, 2003, denying a motion for reconsideration of that order. This case arose out of an incident on April 24, 2000, when Philadelphia police arrested Garvin after she engaged in two altercations outside of the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia. On April 18, 2002, six days prior to the running of the two-year statute of limitations, Garvin filed a complaint against the City and Police Officer John Doe *fn1 alleging that she was injured when an arresting officer, "Police Officer John Doe, intentionally and maliciously grabbed and jerked the handcuffs [placed around her wrists], throwing [her] to the ground face first with nothing to break her fall." RR at 20-21.*fn2

Garvin brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("section 1983") against the City charging that it failed to train its police officers properly and engaged in a custom, practice or policy which permits the use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Garvin also sued Officer Doe under section 1983 in both his official and individual capacities, seeking compensatory and punitive damages, maintaining that he violated her rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Her complaint with respect to punitive damages states that "[t]he above-described actions of Defendant, Police Officer John Doe, in his individual capacity, were so malicious, intentional and reckless and displayed such a reckless indifference to the Plaintiff 's rights and well being, that the imposition of punitive damages is warranted." RR at 22. In addition, Garvin brought supplemental state law claims against Officer Doe for assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

On April 24, 2002, Deputy Philadelphia City Solicitor Lynne Sitarski entered her appearance for the City,*fn3 and then on May 13, 2002, she filed an answer and affirmative defenses on its behalf. In its answer the City stated that the allegations in the paragraphs of the complaint relating to Officer Doe "pertain to parties other than answering defendant, and therefore require no response." SA at 2.*fn4

Sitarski did not enter an appearance for Officer Doe or file an answer on his behalf and indeed never has taken either step in this action.

On May 31, 2002, the district court entered a scheduling order requiring the parties to exchange their initial disclosures under Rule 26(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure starting on that date. The scheduling order set October 31, 2002, as the date by which all fact discovery needed to be completed and thus allowed five months for that purpose.

On July 24, 2002, the City served Garvin with its initial disclosures and attached the police department records related to the April 24, 2000 incident, including Garvin's arrest report. The "Philadelphia Police Department Arrest Report" for Garvin identifies a female officer as having placed her under arrest and the initial disclosures listed eight officers who were persons "reasonably likely to have some information that bears significantly on the claims and defenses involved in the present action." RR at 34.

Garvin maintains that the female officer identified as the arresting officer in the City's initial disclosures did not actually place her under arrest as she claims to have been injured while being arrested by a male officer. Nevertheless, even though Garvin regarded the arrest report as inaccurate on this critical point, she did not attempt to depose within the time for discovery fixed by the court any of the eight officers the City listed in its initial disclosures to determine the identity of the officer who arrested her.

On October 29, 2002, two days before fact discovery was scheduled to end under the district court's May 31, 2002 order, and more than three months after the City supplied her with what she asserts is an incorrect identification of the arresting officer, Garvin brought a motion to amend her complaint to substitute the names of four police officers for the John Doe defendant and for an enlargement of time to conduct depositions of the newly named defendants. In her motion to amend, Garvin stated that "[n]othing in defendants' Initial Disclosures or in the attached documents identified the police officer responsible for actually arresting/using force against the Plaintiff." RR at 3. Garvin further maintained that she had made a good faith effort to determine the actual name of the John Doe defendant. Garvin conceded that the statute of limitations as to the four officers had run on April 24, 2002, but sought to have her amendment relate back to the date of the filing of her initial complaint on April 18, 2002, so that the complaint would have been timely as to the four officers.

On December 6, 2002, the district court denied Garvin's motion to amend as it held that the amended complaint would not meet the conditions required for relation back under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c). Thus, the proposed amendment would have been futile as the action against the officers would have been barred by the statute of limitations. Garvin then filed a motion for reconsideration and a request that the district court certify the question for an interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1292(b). The district court denied Garvin's motion and request on January 3, 2003, and on February 24, 2003, granted summary judgment to the City of Philadelphia on the merits with respect to Garvin's claims against it ...

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