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Jarrell v. Thompson

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division

April 24, 2019

WILLIAM KEITH JARRELL, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN THOMPSON, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AND REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          STEPHEN HYLES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's motions for leave to amend his complaint (ECF Nos. 20, 23) and appointment of counsel (ECF Nos. 19, 24). Also pending is Defendant Thompson's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint (ECF No. 15). For the reasons explained below, Plaintiff's motion seeking to add Nurse Bennett as a defendant and claims for injunctive relief is granted, and his motions for appointment of counsel are denied. It is recommended that Plaintiff's motion to amend his complaint by dropping Defendant Thompson be granted, Plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief be dismissed, and Defendant Thompson's motion to dismiss terminated as moot.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff seeks relief under 42 U.S.C § 1983, alleging Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Plaintiff's complaint stems from an incident occurring on May 21, 2017, while he was an inmate at Rutledge State Prison (“RSP”). On that date, Plaintiff alleges he “swallowed 18 razors, ” and Defendants failed to respond appropriately to his medical condition. Compl. 5, ECF No. 1. After preliminary review, the Court allowed Plaintiff's claims to proceed. Order 9, Nov. 15, 2018, ECF No. 7.

         On January 28, 2019, Defendants Vaughn and Thornton answered, and Defendant Thompson moved to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint (ECF Nos. 16, 15).[1] On February 15, 2019, Plaintiff moved for appointment of counsel and filed a motion to amend his complaint (ECF Nos. 19, 20). However, Plaintiff's motion to amend his complaint was not signed as required by Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, so the Clerk notified him of the deficiency. Plaintiff filed a signature page (ECF No. 23) on March 8, 2019, which the Court construed as responsive to the Court's directive, and it deemed his motion to amend filed as of that date. Text-Only Order, Mar. 20, 2019, ECF No. 25. On the same day, Plaintiff again moved for appointment of counsel (ECF No. 24). On March 29, 2019, in response to an order from the Court, Plaintiff clarified that his motions to amend sought to add Nurse Bennett as a defendant to the lawsuit and drop Defendant Thompson. Pl.'s Resp. to Court Order, ECF No. 29. These motions are ripe for review.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Motions to Amend Complaint

         Plaintiff moves to amend his complaint by dropping Defendant Thompson as a party, adding “Nurse Bennett” as a defendant, and adding claims for injunctive relief. Mot. to Amend Compl. Attach. 3, at 2, 5, 7, ECF No. 20-3; Pl.'s Resp. to Court Order. The Court will first address Defendant Thompson and then the motions to add Nurse Bennett and claims for injunctive relief.

         B. Defendant Thompson

         Plaintiff seeks to amend his complaint by dropping Defendant Thompson from this lawsuit. In response to Plaintiff's motion, Defendant Thompson asked the Court to deny it, or, in the alternative, dismiss the claims against him. Def. Thompson's Resp. to Mot. to Amend 3, ECF No. 26. Defendant Thompson referred to a supplemental brief he previously filed in support of his motion to dismiss. Id. at 3. Attached to that brief was a letter signed by Plaintiff indicating he wished to voluntarily dismiss Defendant Thompson. Def. Thompson Suppl. Br. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss 1-2, ECF No. 18; Def. Thompson Suppl. Br. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss Attach. 1, ECF No. 18-1. Subsequent to Defendant Thompson's response, Plaintiff responded to a Court inquiry by clarifying that his motion to amend sought to drop Defendant Thompson from the lawsuit. Pl.'s Resp. to Court Order. In light of this clarification, it is recommended that Plaintiff's request to drop Defendant Thompson be granted and Defendant Thompson dismissed from this action. Fed.R.Civ.P. 21.

         B. Nurse Bennet and Claims for Injunctive Relief

         Plaintiff is entitled to amend his complaint to add Nurse Bennett and seek injunctive relief without seeking leave of the Court. Plaintiff filed his motion to amend on February 15, 2019. Pl.'s Mot. to Amend 1, ECF No. 20. This was within 21 days of Defendants' Vaughn and Thornton's answer and Defendant Thompson's motion to dismiss, and thus within the time period where Plaintiff could amend his complaint as a matter of right. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1)(B). However, as Plaintiff's motion to amend was not signed as required by Rule 11, the Clerk sent a notice of deficiency to Plaintiff, instructing him of the need to sign his motion. On March 8, 2019, Plaintiff provided the required signature. Suppl. to Mot. to Amend Compl., ECF No. 23.

         The Supreme Court has held that where a pro se litigant fails to satisfy Rule 11's signature requirement, he may promptly cure the defect such that the signed document relates back to the date of the original filing. Becker v. Montgomery, 532 U.S. 757, 760 (2001). The Court noted this was consistent with Rule 11's provision that the omission of a signature could be corrected promptly after being called to the attention of the party. Id. at 764 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(a)). Other courts have cited Becker to allow such relation-back. See, e.g., Birch v. Thompson, 224 Fed.Appx. 705, 706 (9th Cir. 2007) (finding habeas petition timely filed because signed petition related back to the originally filed unsigned petition).

         Here, Plaintiff filed an unsigned motion to amend within 21 days of the Defendants' responsive pleadings and then promptly corrected the omission of his signature when it was called to his attention. Although the Court issued an order deeming Plaintiff's amended complaint filed as of March 8, 2019, that order was not intended to foreclose Plaintiff's right to amend his complaint as of right or to promptly correct the signature omission as allowed by Rule 11. To avoid confusion, therefore, the Court amends its order of March 20, 2019 (ECF No. 20) to reflect that Plaintiff's motion to ...


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