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Joseph v. Louisiana Department of Corrections

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

August 10, 2017

JERRY JOSEPH, ET AL
v.
LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL

         SECTION: “S” (4)

          ORDER

          KAREN WELLS ROBY CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion for Leave to File Third Supplemental and Amending Complaint (R. Doc. 73) filed by Plaintiffs, Jerry Joseph and Merline Joseph seeking to add Murinda Perez on behalf of her minor child as a Plaintiff in this action. The motion is opposed. R. Doc. 74. The motion was submitted on August 9, 2017 and heard with argument that same day. For the following reasons, the motion is DENIED.

         I. Background

         This action was filed in the District Court on March 9, 2015. R. Doc. 1. The Plaintiffs allege that the Plaintiff's son Keith Joseph (“Deceased”) was booked as an inmate at the Tangipahoa Parish Prison in Tangipahoa, Louisiana on or about February 19, 2014. Id. at p. 4. The Plaintiffs further state that the Deceased suffered from various health conditions, including blood clots surrounding his lungs and a severe heart condition which left untreated caused him to suffer intolerable chest pain. Id. at p. 5. The Plaintiffs allege that throughout the Deceased's time at the Tangipahoa Parish Prison the Defendants in this action were informed of his medical condition and that the Tangipahoa Parish Prison was in control of the Deceased's medication. On March 3, 2014, the Deceased's physical condition deteriorated to the point that he was having intolerable chest pain and began requesting his medication from Defendant Officer Brock. Id. On March 11, 2014, the Deceased was brought to the on-duty Nurse for evaluation, but was returned to his cell despite his complaints. After returning to his cell, the Deceased allegedly continued to complain to Office Brock until he collapsed in front of Officer Brock and a number of other inmates. Id. at p. 6. Following his collapse, the Deceased was not administered Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation until a period of at least thirty minutes. Id. The Deceased died allegedly as a result of this neglect. As such, the Plaintiffs have filed this action against the Louisiana Department of Corrections and a number of other individuals associated with the prison seeking damages for mental pain, anguish, and distress, burial expenses, loss of love and affection, and all other damages. Id. at p. 8.

         At this time, the Plaintiffs have filed a motion seeking to add Murinda Perez as the natural tutrix and surviving parent of Keith Joseph's only child, “DJJ.” R. Doc. 73-1. The Plaintiffs argue that they are seeking to supplement their complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(d) to add Perez as a Plaintiff. R. doc. 73-2, p. 1. They argue that Perez only learned of Joseph's death in the calendar year of 2017. Id. at p. 2.

         The Defendants have opposed the instant motion. R. Doc. 74. The Defendants essentially argue that the motion should be denied as futile because the child's claim has prescribed and the claim should not relate back.

         During oral argument, the Court was troubled by a number of the statements put forth by the Plaintiffs' counsel in support of the instant motion. Two of those arguments bear noting here. First, the Court questioned the propriety and potential conflicts of interest at play in the Plaintiffs' motion seeking to add Perez as a party given that counsel indicated that he represented both parties. However, while the Court remains skeptical, counsel indicated that he had informed all parties of the potential conflict. Second, counsel's arguments also made the Court question when the Plaintiffs were actually aware of DJJ's existence. In particular, while counsel stated that he had questioned the Plaintiffs who stated that the deceased had no children, counsel also appeared to indicate that he was in possession of the Funeral Program, which indicates that DJJ was the deceased son, R. Doc. 74-6, p. 5, prior to its being filed into the record by the Defendant's counsel and before the lawsuit was filed.

         II. Standard of Review

         Rule 15(a) allows a party to amend its pleadings “only with the other party's written consent or the court's leave.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Moreover, the Rule urges that the Court “should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Id. In taking this liberal approach, the Rule “reject[s] the approach that pleading is a game of skill in which one misstep by counsel may be decisive to the outcome and accept the principle that the purpose of pleading is to facilitate a proper decision on the merits.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 48 (1957).

         “Rule 15(a) requires a trial court ‘to grant leave to amend freely, ' and the language of this rule ‘evinces a bias in favor of granting leave to amend.'” Jones v. Robinson Prop. Grp., 427 F.3d 987, 994 (5th Cir. 2005) (internal quotations marks omitted) (quoting Lyn-Lea Travel Corp. v. Am. Airlines, 283 F.3d 282, 286 (5th Cir.2002)). When denying a motion to amend, the court must have a “substantial reason” considering such factors as “‘undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failures to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party ...and futility of the amendment.'” Marucci Sports, LLC v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 751 F.3d 368, 378 (5th Cir. 2014) (quoting Jones, 427 F.3d at 994). An amendment is deemed to be futile if it would be dismissed under a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Id. (citing Briggs v. Miss., 331 F.3d 499, 508 (5th Cir 2003)).

         III. Analysis

         At this time, the Plaintiffs have filed a motion seeking to add Murinda Perez as the natural tutrix and surviving parent of Keith Joseph's only child. R. Doc. 73-1. The Plaintiffs argue that they are seeking to supplement their complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(d) to add Perez as a Plaintiff. R. doc. 73-2, p. 1. They argue that Perez only learned of Joseph's death in the calendar year of 2017. Id. at p. 2. However, the Defendants have countered that the claim is prescribed and the motion to amend should be denied.

         “[F]ederal courts apply the state statutes of limitation and tolling provisions to § 1983 claims.” Sanchez v. Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office, No. 08-1227, 2010 WL 1729381, at *2 (E.D. La. Apr. 22, 2010) (Lemmon, J.). Here, the claims for wrongful death and any survival actions are subject to a one year prescriptive period under Louisiana law. La. Civ. Code art. 2315.2; La. Civ. Code art. 3492. See, id.; see also, Williams v. United States, 353 F.Supp. 1226, 1230 (E.D. La. 1973) ...


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