United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
B. RUSSELL, SENIOR JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss filed by
Defendant Robert Harris. (R. 47). Plaintiff Ms. Alice Penman
has responded (R. 50), and this matter is now ripe for
adjudication. For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES
the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (R. 47).
April 23, 2018 Ms. Penman filed a Complaint against multiple
defendants, including Robert Harris, for events alleged to
have taken place on April 25, 2017 inside Kentucky State
Penitentiary, which resulted in Inmate Marcus Penman's
death. Harris is an officer at Kentucky State Penitentiary.
In her initial Complaint, Ms. Penman brought claims against
Harris for failure to intervene under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
negligence under Kentucky common law, and intentional
infliction of emotional distress under Kentucky common law.
The Complaint failed to expressly state that Harris was sued
in his individual capacity.
26, 2018 Harris filed a motion to dismiss Ms. Penman's
claims against him pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). Harris argued that because the Complaint
did not expressly state he was being sued in his individual
capacity, he received no notice that Ms. Penman intended to
hold him personally liable. On August 15, 2018, instead of
responding to Harris's motion to dismiss, Ms. Penman
filed her Amended Complaint. In it, she expressly states that
she is suing Harris in his individual capacity. The Amended
Complaint also adds Harris to a deliberate indifference claim
already pending against other defendants.
now moves to dismiss the Amended Complaint. He again argues
that Ms. Penman's original Complaint only brought claims
against him in his official capacity because it failed to
expressly state otherwise. Thus, according to Harris, the
individual capacity claims brought against him in the Amended
Complaint are new claims and fall outside the applicable
statute of limitations. Relying heavily on Lovelace v.
O'hara, 985 F.2d 847, 850 (6th Cir. 1993), Harris
argues further that the new individual capacity claims do not
relate back to the original Complaint. Ms. Penman responds
arguing that her initial Complaint provided Harris with
sufficient notice that he was being sued in his individual
capacity, and that in any event, the individual capacity
claims brought by the Amended Complaint relate back to the
original pursuant to Rule 15(c)(1)(B) and 15(c)(1)(C).
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a
plaintiff's complaint include “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.” “Rule 12(b)(6) provides that a
complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted.” Bloch v. Ribar,
156 F.3d 673, 677 (6th Cir. 1998). Importantly, “[w]hen
considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the district court must
accept all of the allegations in the complaint as true, and
construe the complaint liberally in favor of the
plaintiff.” Lawrence v. Chancery Court of
Tennessee, 188 F.3d 687, 691 (6th Cir. 1999). Thus,
“unless it can be established beyond a doubt that the
plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim
which would entitle him to relief, ” the motion should
be denied. Achterhof v. Selvaggio, 886 F.2d 826, 831
(6th Cir. 1989). “However, the Court need not accept as
true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual
inferences.” Blakely v. United States, 276
F.3d 853, 863 (6th Cir. 2002). A “complaint must
contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting
all the material elements to sustain a recovery under some
viable legal theory.” Andrews v. Ohio, 104
F.3d 803, 806 (6th Cir. 1997).
though a “complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion
to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a
plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his
entitlement to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). This means that the
plaintiff's “[f]actual allegations must be enough
to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the
assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true
(even if doubtful in fact).” Id. The concept
of “plausibility” denotes that a complaint should
contain sufficient facts “to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570.
The element of plausibility is met “when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129
S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). But where the court is unable to
“infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct,
the complaint has alleged-but has not show[n]-that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. at 1950
(internal quotation marks omitted).
generally a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), which considers only
the allegations in the complaint, is an “inappropriate
vehicle for dismissing a claim based upon the statute of
limitations, ” when “the allegations in the
complaint affirmatively show that the claim is time-barred,
” “dismissing the claim under Rule 12(b)(6) is
appropriate.” Cataldo v. U.S. Steel Corp., 676
F.3d 542, 547 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing Jones v. Bock,
549 U.S. 199, 215, 127 S.Ct. 910, 166 L.Ed.2d 798 (2007)).
undisputed that the applicable statute of limitations is one
year, and that Ms. Penman's Amended
Complaint was filed past that time. Thus, Harris's Motion
to Dismiss raises only two issues: First, did Ms.
Penman's initial Complaint provide Harris with sufficient
notice that he was being sued in his individual capacity?
Second, do the individual capacity claims relate back to the
original Complaint? Starting with whether the initial
Complaint provided Harris with sufficient notice that he was
being sued in his individual capacity, the Court will address
each issue respectively.
Original Complaint Provided Harris with Sufficient Notice
that was Being Sued in His Individual Capacity.
on Wells v. Brown,891 F.2d 591, 593 (6th Cir. 1989),
Harris argues that Ms. Penman's original complaint only
brought claims against him in his official capacity because
it failed to expressly state that he was being sued in his
individual capacity. However, the Sixth Circuit has
“relaxed the holding set forth previously in