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Jones v. Faulkner County

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

January 10, 2017



          Susan Webber Wright, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Russell E. Jones (“Jones”) filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that he was denied medical care during his three-day detention at the Faulkner County Detention Center (“FCDC”) in October 2012. Now before the Court is a motion for judgment on the pleadings by separate defendants Nancy Bryant, Lance Culberson, and Billy Kelly [ECF Nos. 92 & 93] and Jones's response in opposition [ECF Nos. 94 & 95]. After careful consideration, and for reasons that follow, the motion is granted and all claims against the movants are dismissed with prejudice. Additionally, all claims against absent defendants Pamela Carter, Katoya Douglas, Zachary Gibbs, Uniece Jackson, Charles Myers, and Megan Waters are dismissed without prejudice, pursuant to Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.


         Jones alleges that during his detention at the FCDC, from October 12 through 15, 2012, deputies and jail personnel refused his repeated requests for anti-seizure medication, which caused him to experience convulsive seizures and suffer physical injuries. Jones further alleges that some of the named defendants forcefully strapped him to a restraint chair while he was experiencing seizures, which inflicted additional injuries. Jones charges that the refusal to provide him medical care amounted to deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, in violation of his constitutional rights, and that strapping him to a restraint chair amounted to battery. Jones also claims that several of the named defendants breached their employment contracts by failing to protect his health and welfare.

         The procedural history of this case, detailed in a previous order, [1] is circuitous. With his original complaint, filed October 4, 2013, Jones identified four defendants by name, and he also listed John Does I-X. Jones's attorney certified, pursuant to Ark. Code. Ann. § 16-56-125, [2] that John Does I-X were then unknown, but proper, defendants.[3] Subsequently, the named defendants moved for summary judgment, and Jones sought leave to file an amended complaint that removed all “John Does” from the list of defendants and identified by name seven of the John Does I-X listed in the original complaint.[4] In support of his motion to amend, Jones stated:

Following partial discovery, Plaintiff was able to ascertain the identity of other individuals responsible for his injuries and said individuals should be made a party to this action. Plaintiff had listed the individuals as John Does in the original complaint and Plaintiff it now able to specifically name the individuals and serve them with a copy of the complaint. None of the parties will be prejudiced by the amendment of the complaint since opposing counsel, which represents all the Defendants, was fully aware of the names of each individual involved in the alleged incident herein.[5]

         The Court granted the motion for summary judgment and denied Jones's motion to amend. Jones appealed, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Eighth Circuit agreed that the defendants identified and named in the original complaint were entitled to summary judgment in their favor. However, the Court of Appeals concluded that this Court erred in denying leave to amend, and it remanded with instructions to allow Jones to amend his complaint “as to” the John Doe defendants that Jones had identified in his proposed amended complaint. Jones v. Faulkner Cty., 609 F.App'x 898, 900 (8th Cir. 2015).

         After remand, Jones filed a first amended complaint, naming nine defendants: The named defendants listed in the original complaint, who had been dismissed from the case; the John Doe defendants that Jones had previously identified with his proposed amended complaint; and two new defendants, Matthew Hugen, and Jim Barnett.[6] Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the previously dismissed defendants and associated claims, and the Court granted the motion and instructed Jones to file a second amended complaint, which reflected the true status and law of this case.

         On April 20, 2016, Jones filed a second amended complaint that named seventeen defendants.[7] Nine of the seventeen defendants had never been named a defendant in a previous pleading or listed as a Doe Defendant: Nancy Bryant (“Bryant”), Pamela Carter (“Carter”), Lance Culberson (“Culberson”), Katoya Douglas (“Douglas”), Zachary Gibbs (“Gibbs”), Uniece Jackson (“Jackson”), Billy Kelly (“Kelly”), Charles Myers (“Myers”), and Megan Waters (“Waters”).

         By order entered October 27, 2016, the Court noted that Jones had yet to serve the aforementioned nine defendants as required under Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(m), and the Court directed him to either effect service within fourteen days or file a motion showing good cause for an extension of time for service. The Court advised Jones that failure to comply with the order would result in dismissal without prejudice of all claims against the absent defendants. Subsequently, Jones filed proof of service for three of the nine defendants: Bryant, Culberson, and Kelly. With the second amended complaint, Jones alleged that these defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the constitution. He also charged Culberson and Kelly with the tort of battery and breach of employment contracts.


         Bryant, Culberson, and Kelly move for dismissal of all claims against them on the ground that they are time-barred. Under Arkansas law, the statute of limitations for battery is one year. See Ark. Code Ann. § 16-56-104. Jones alleges that the battery occurred, at the latest, on October 15, 2012, and he did not file the second amended complaint naming Culberson and Kelly until April 20, 2016, well after the one-year statute of limitations period had expired.

         Jones's claims pursuant to § 1983 were also filed beyond the applicable limitations period. The forum state's statute of limitations for personal injury actions serves as the statute of limitations for claims brought pursuant to § 1983, and in Arkansas, the statute of limitations for personal injury actions is three years. See Morton v. City of Little Rock, 934 F.2d 180, 182 (8th Cir. 1991). Jones sues the movants for alleged unconstitutional violations that occurred during the period October 12 through 15, 2012, and he brought the claims approximately six months after the three-year statute of limitations period had expired.

         Jones proposes that because he listed John Doe defendants I-X in the original complaint, his claims against Bryant, Culberson, and Kelly relate back to the filing of the original complaint. An amended pleading identifying a defendant by name will “relate back” to a previously filed complaint against a “John Doe” defendant only when the conditions set forth in Rule 15(c) are satisfied. Foulk v. Charrier, 262 F.3d 687, 696 (8th Cir. 2001)(citing Barrow v. ...

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