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Johnson v. Columbia County

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division

July 5, 2017

FLORRIE JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
COLUMBIA COUNTY, GEORGIA; CLAY N. WHITTLE, Columbia County Sheriff in his Official Capacity; JOHN DOES 1-6; JANE DOES 1-6; and XYZ CORPORATION, Defendants.

          ORDER

          BRIAN K. EPPS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff filed this action regarding her alleged mistreatment during her arrest and incarceration at Columbia County Detention Center. (Doc. no. 1-5.) In addition to the specifically identified Defendants, Plaintiff also named John Does 1-6 and Jane Does 1-6 as Defendants in her complaint. (Id.) Plaintiff now seeks to substitute Jennifer Sturkey and Miriam Dunne for Jane Does 1 and 2 and Gilbert Lopez for John Doe 1. (Doc. nos. 11, 15). For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motions to Substitute. (Id.)

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff brought this action in Columbia County Superior Court on August 24, 2016, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Georgia state law. (Doc. no. 1-5.) Plaintiff alleged she was denied medical treatment for her diabetes, which resulted in a seizure, was sprayed in the face with a delousing agent, and was exposed to male deputies and inmates while being showered during her arrest and subsequent incarceration at the Columbia County Detention Center. (Id.) Plaintiff named as Defendants (1) Columbia County, Georgia; (2) Clay N. Whittle, Columbia County Sheriff; (3) John Does 1-6; and (4) Jane Does 1-6. (Id.) Defendants timely removed the case to federal court on September 30, 2016. (Doc. no. 1.)

         On November 9, 2016, Defendants Columbia County and Sherriff Whittle provided Plaintiff with the required disclosures under Fed. R. of Civ. P. 26 and documents Bates-stamped numbers Defendant 0001 through 0074. (Doc. no. 14-1, Ex. A.) These disclosures included an internal investigative report identifying Nurse Sturkey as the medical professional who treated Plaintiff and Deputy Jailer Dunne as the officer who required Plaintiff to take a shower and sprayed her with Liceall Shampoo. (Doc. no. 14-2, Ex. B.) These disclosures also included handwritten witness statements from Jennifer Sturkey, LPN and Miriam C. Dunne describing their interactions with Plaintiff. (Doc. no. 14-3, Ex. C.)

         On November 18, 2016, Defendants responded to Plaintiff's First Interrogatories and identified Miriam C. Dunne and Nurse Jennifer Sturkey as witnesses. (Doc. no. 14-4, Ex. D, pp. 2-3.) Defendants further identified Nurse Sturkey as the person who “provided medical care to the plaintiff while the plaintiff was incarcerated at the Columbia County Detention Center.” (Id. at 3.) Defendants also gave the following description of Miriam Dunne's involvement:

Miriam Dunne was the officer responsible for preparing the plaintiff for housing in the Detention Center, which included showering[, ] clothing exchange and delousing. During this process, lice control shampoo (sometimes referred to as “Lice-All”) was accidentally sprayed into the plaintiff's eyes. The plaintiff showered and washed away any shampoo that may have sprayed into her eyes.

(Id. at 5.)

         Between the complaint filing and Plaintiff's deposition on March 28, 2017, Plaintiff discovered information indicating Gilbert Lopez, a male officer, assisted with the strip search of Plaintiff and physically touched her during the search. (See doc. no. 15, pp. 1-2, n.1.) Plaintiff testified extensively during her deposition as to Mr. Lopez's identity and involvement in the shower incident. (Doc. no. 16-1, Ex. A.)

         In the meantime, on November 10, 2016, the Court issued a scheduling order based on the parties' Rule 26(f) Report setting November 29, 2016 as the last day for filing motions to amend or add parties. (Doc. no. 8.) Although the parties have requested several extensions to complete discovery, (doc. nos. 9, 12), neither party ever requested nor has the Court ever granted an extension of the deadline for amendment.

         On April 6, 2017, more than four months after the deadline for amendment, Plaintiff filed the instant motion seeking to amend her complaint and substitute Jennifer Sturkey and Miriam Dunne for Jane Does 1 and 2. (Doc. no. 11.) Defendants opposed the motion on the grounds Plaintiff has not shown the requisite “good cause” for amendment after a scheduling order deadline and any amendment would be futile because the statute of limitations has run. (See doc. no. 14.) On June 2, 2017, Plaintiff filed her reply brief combined with a second motion to substitute Gilbert Lopez for John Doe 1. (Doc. no. 15.) Plaintiff contends the identity of Ms. Sturkey, Ms. Dunne, and Mr. Lopez were not disclosed until after the statute of limitations had run and that she properly preserved her claims against any unnamed Defendants by naming John Does 1-6 and Jane Does 1-6. (See id.) Plaintiff further argues it would have been impossible for her to investigate every witness named in the initial disclosures by the scheduling deadline set by the Court. (Id.) Defendants oppose Plaintiff's second motion on the same grounds as the first. (See doc. no. 16.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Plaintiff Has Not Shown the Good Cause Necessary to Amend Her Complaint after the Scheduling Deadline.

         A plaintiff seeking to amend her complaint after a deadline set by a scheduling order must demonstrate good cause under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b). See Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4) (“A schedule may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent.”); S. Grouts & Mortars, Inc. v. 3M Co., 575 F.3d 1235, 1241 (11th Cir. 2009); Sosa v. Airprint Sys., Inc., 133 F.3d 1417, 1418 (11th Cir. 1998). “Rule 16(b)'s good cause standard ‘precludes modification unless the schedule cannot be met despite the diligence of the ...


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