145 F. Supp.2d 146 (2001) | Cited 0 times | D. Puerto Rico | May 10, 2001


Plaintiff, Walberto Pagán Vélez, brings a suit pursuantto 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1988) against Defendants, ZoéLaboy-Alvarado, Administrator of the Administration of Corrections forthe Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ("AOC"); LuisÁlvarez-Galván, Director of Security for the AOC; SigfredoCabrera-Jiménez, former Director of Security for the AOC;Benjamín Ramos-Román, Commander of the Guards at the SabanaHoyos Penal Camp; Miguel A. Rivera-Rodríguez, a Lieutenant atSabana Hoyos; Rafael López-Ramos, Ernesto Quiles-Arroyo, andVíctor Ruíz-Sárraga, Superintendents for the AOC atSabana Hoyos; Jaime Cruz-Lopéz and Adalberto Correa-Aguilar,Sergeants at Sabana Hoyos; Angel Molina-Ríos, WilliamColl-Villafañe, Manuel A. Cólon-Maldonado, andHéctor Alicea-Rivera, Custody Officers at Sabana Hoyos; ArcadioLópez-Ruiz and Alexander López Rojas, Custody Officers atthe Detention Center in western Mayagüez, Puerto Rico(collectively, "Defendants" or "Moving Defendants"); and numerous othercorrections officials, their spouses, and conjugal partnerships, foralleged violations of his constitutional rights.

Defendants move for summary judgement on statute of limitationsgrounds.


Factual and Procedural Synopsis

Plaintiff asserts that while he was an inmate at the Sabana Hoyosminimum security penal camp in Puerto Rico, he, in conjunction with otherinmates, attempted to file a lawsuit against prison officials forallegedly subjecting them to "inhumane and cruel conditions." DocketDocument No. 56.

After several alleged, failed attempts to file Plaintiffs complaint,which corrections officials purportedly thwarted, prison officialsallegedly transported Plaintiff to the United States District Court inHato Rey, Puerto Rico, on October 9, 1998, so that he could file hiscomplaint. Id. Nevertheless, Plaintiff avers that prison officialsallegedly again prevented him from initiating a lawsuit. Id.

Subsequently, Plaintiff contacted the media to inform them about thepurported conditions at Sabana Hoyos and the aforementioned sequence ofevents. Id. After a news reporter visited the prison to investigate thestory, Defendants allegedly beat Plaintiff severely on November 11,1998, in retaliation for attempting to file his joint complaint at thefederal courthouse and for informing the news media about his situation.Id. Defendants then transferred Plaintiff to the Guerrero CorrectionalInstitution in Puerto Rico, allegedly also in retaliation for Plaintiffsacts. Id.

On January 22, 1999, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed his original,section 1983 complaint with this court. Docket Document No. 1. In it,Plaintiff named the AOC and Ruiz-Sárraga as Defendants and claimedthat Ricardo Rosado Latorre, a Sergeant at the Detention Center inwestern Mayagüez; Wilfredo Pérez Soler, a Custody Officer atthe same Detention Center; and two unnamed officers from the samefacility had physically assaulted him in retaliation for having attemptedto file his complaint with this court.1 Id.Plaintiff seeks $2,000,000 in damages and the termination from theiremployment of those officers who allegedly had beat him. Id.

Through his legal representation, Plaintiff subsequently amended hiscomplaint on February 3, 2000, and then again on November 14, 2000.Docket Documents Nos. 14 and 56. In his first amended complaint,Plaintiff added numerous persons as Defendants, includingLaboy-Alvarado, Alvarez-Galván, Cabrera-Jiménez,Ramos-Román, Rivera-Rodriguez, López-Ramos, Quiles-Arroyo,Ruiz-Sárraga, Cruz-Lopéz, Correa-Aguilar,Molina-Ríos, Coll-Villafañe, Colón-Maldonado,Alicea-Rivera, López-Ruiz, and López Rojas. Docket DocumentNo. 14. Plaintiff alleged that these Defendants violated his right to befree from cruel and unusual punishment as guaranteed by the Eighth andFourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, U.S. CONST.amends. VIII, XIV, as well as the Constitution of Puerto Rico. Id.Plaintiff also asseverated that Defendants violated his right to accessthe courts and press pursuant to the First Amendment to the U.S.Constitution and the Constitution of Puerto Rico. Id. Consequently,Plaintiff claimed that Defendants were jointly and severally liable forall damages to be proven at trial and for punitive damages. Id.

The second amended complaint joins two more Defendants, Rosado Latorreand Pérez Soler. Docket Document No. 56. The claims whichPlaintiff alleges and the relief which he seeks remain constant from thefirst to the second amended complaint. Id.

Defendants Laboy-Alvarado, Alvarez-Galván,Cabrera-Jiménez, Ramos-Román, Rivera-Rodriguez,López-Ramos, Quiles-Arroyo, and Ruíz-Sárraga movefor summary judgement. These Defendants, with the exception ofRuiz-Sárraga, argue that Plaintiffs first amended complaint, whichjoins them to his original complaint, is time-barred because Plaintiffsclaims against Defendants do not relate back to the original action asrequired by FED. R.Civ.P. 15(c). Docket Document No. 70. DefendantRuiz-Sárraga argues that the state law claim against him istime-barred because Plaintiff did not assert it within the prescribedlimitations period. Id.

Defendants Cruz-Lopéz, Correa-Aguilar, Molina-Rios,Coll-Villafañe, Colón-Maldonado, Alicea-Rivera,López-Ruiz, and López Rojas join the summary judgementmotion. Docket Documents Nos. 71, 72, and 75.


Summary Judgement Standard

The standard for summary judgement is straightforward andwell-established. A district court should grant a motion for summaryjudgement "if the pleadings, depositions, and answers to theinterrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, ifany, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and themoving party is entitled to a judgement as a matter of law."FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c); see Lipsett v. Univ. of P.R., 864 F.2d 881, 894 (1stCir. 1988). A factual dispute is "material" if it "might affect theoutcome of the suit under the governing law," and "genuine" if theevidence is such that "a reasonable jury could return averdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

The burden of establishing the nonexistence of a genuine issue as to amaterial fact is on the moving party. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 331, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). This burden hastwo components: (1) an initial burden of production, which shifts to thenonmoving party if satisfied by the moving party; and (2) an ultimateburden of persuasion, which always remains on the moving party. See id.In other words, "[t]he party moving for summary judgement, bears theinitial burden of demonstrating that there are no genuine issues ofmaterial fact for trial." Hinchey v. NYNEX Corp., 144 F.3d 134, 140 (1stCir. 1998). This burden "may be discharged by showing that there is anabsence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex, 477U.S. at 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548. After such a showing, the "burden shifts tothe nonmoving party, with respect to each issue on which he has theburden of proof, to demonstrate that a trier of fact reasonably couldfind in his favor." DeNovellis v. Shalata, 124 F.3d 298, 306 (1st Cir.1997) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-25, 106 S.Ct. 2548).

Although the ultimate burden of persuasion remains on the moving partyand the court should draw all reasonable inferences in favor of thenonmoving party, the nonmoving party will not defeat a properly supportedmotion for summary judgement by merely underscoring the "existence ofsome alleged factual dispute between the parties"; the requirement isthat there be a genuine issue of material fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at247-48, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505; Goldman v. First Nat'l Bank of Boston,985 F.2d 1113, 1116 (1st Cir. 1993). In addition, "factual disputes thatare irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at248, 106 S.Ct. 2505. Under Rule 56(e) of the Federal Rules of CivilProcedure, the nonmoving party "may not rest upon the mere allegations ordenials of the adverse party's pleadings, but . . . must set forthspecific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."FED.R.CIV.P. 56(e); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256, 106 S.Ct. 2505.Summary judgement exists to "pierce the boilerplate of the pleadings, "Wynne v. Tufts Univ. Sch. of Med., 976 F.2d 791, 794 (1st Cir. 1992), and"determine whether a trial actually is necessary." Vega-Rodriguez v.P.R. Tel. Co., 110 F.3d 174, 178 (1st Cir. 1997).



A. Relation Back of Defendants

Our first inquiry focuses on timing. Plaintiff filed his originalcomplaint on January 22, 1999. Docket Document No. 1. The pleading namesthe AOC and Ruíz-Sárraga as Defendants in its caption, butmentions only Rosado Latorre, Pérez Soler, and two unnamedofficers from the Detention Center in western Mayagüez as thealleged perpetrators of his beating. Id. On February 3, 2000, Plaintiffamended his complaint, mentioning for the first time the bulk of hisnamed Defendants. Docket Document No. 14. Defendants contend that sincethe applicable limitations period had run at the time of the firstamended complaint, Plaintiff could not have added them to the presentsuit. Docket Document No. 70.

To determine the applicable statute of limitations for this action, wefirst turn to section 1983 to determine its provisions. Section 1983,however, lacks an accompanying federal statute of limitations. See42 U.S.C. § 1983.2 Consequently, we adopt relevant provisionsfrom the analogous statute of limitations of the forum state. See Wilsonv. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 266-80, 105 S.Ct. 1938, 85 L.Ed.2d 254 (1985)(directing federal courts in section 1983 actions to borrow and apply astate's statute of limitations for personal injuries cases).

For section 1983, the most appropriate provision is the statute oflimitations for personal injury cases. See Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235,236, 109 S.Ct. 573, 102 L.Ed.2d 594 (1989) (stating that courts, whenevaluating the timeliness of a section 1983 claim, "should borrow thestate statute of limitations for personal injury actions") (citationomitted). In Puerto Rico, a one-year statute of limitations governspersonal injury actions. See 31 L.P.R.A. § 5298(2) (1991).3Therefore, we apply the one-year prescriptive period to Plaintiffssection 1983 action. See Rivera-Ramos v. Roman, 156 F.3d 276, 282 (1stCir. 1998); Rodriguez Narvaez v. Nazario, 895 F.2d 38, 41-43 (1st Cir.1990).

"Although the limitations period is determined by state law, the dateof accrual is a federal law question." Carveras-Rosa v. Alves-Cruz,127 F.3d 172, 174 (1st Cir. 1997) (per curiam); see also Rivera-Ramos,156 F.3d at 282 ("For section 1983 actions, federal law governs the dateon which a cause of action accrues (i.e. when the statute begins to run)while the length of the period and tolling doctrine are taken from locallaw.") (citation omitted). The one-year statute of limitations "beginsrunning one day after the date of accrual, which is the date plaintiffknew or had reason to know of the injury." Benitez-Pons v. Commonwealthof P.R., 136 F.3d 54, 59 (1st Cir. 1998) (citation omitted).

Here, Plaintiff maintains that Defendants Rosado Latorre andPérez Soler, and two unnamed officers physically assaulted him onNovember 11, 1998. Docket Document No. 1, 14, and 56. Since Plaintiffsclaims accrued on that date, cf. Jacobsen v. Osborne, 133 F.3d 315, 319(5th Cir. 1998) (finding that a claim for wrongful arrest and confinementaccrued on the day that plaintiff had knowledge of the events), Plaintiffhad until November 11, 1999, to file a complaint against all Defendantsnamed in the first amended complaint. See Carreras-Rosa, 127 F.3d at175.4 Plaintiff did not do so.

Moving Defendants other than Ruíz-Sárraga contend thatPlaintiff could not join them as defendants after the statute oflimitations had run because they did not receive timely notice ofPlaintiffs originalaction and they lacked knowledge of Plaintiffs mistake in omitting themfrom his original complaint, as required by FED. R.Civ.P. 15(c)(3).Docket Document No. 70.

1. Rule 15(c)(3)

After the running of the relevant statute of limitations, Rule 15(c)determines whether a plaintiff may amend a complaint to add a defendantby relating the amended complaint back to the original one. Wilson v.United States, 23 F.3d 559, 562 (1st Cir. 1994). Rule 15(c) provides:

An amendment of a pleading relates back to the date of the original pleading when:

1. relation back is permitted by the law that provides the statute of limitations applicable to the action, or

2. the claim or defense asserted in the amended pleading arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth or attempted to be set forth in the original pleading, or

3. the amendment changes the party or the naming of the party against whom a claim is asserted if the foregoing provision (2) is satisfied and, within the period provided by Rule 4(m) for service of the summons and complaint, the party to be brought in by amendment (A) has received such notice of the institution of the action that the party will not be prejudiced in maintaining a defense on the merits, and (B) knew or should have known that, but for a mistake concerning the identity of the proper party, the action would have been brought against the party.

FED.R.CIV.P 15(c). Thus, Rule 15(c) requires that three conditions be metbefore a plaintiff can add a defendant through the relation-backmechanism of subsection three: (1) same transaction or occurrence; (2)timely notice; and (3) knowledge of a mistake in identity. Leonard v.Parry, 219 F.3d 25, 28 (1st Cir. 2000).

a. Same Transaction or Occurrence

The first requirement is satisfied in this case. Defendants do notcontest that both the original and amended complaints spring from thesame factual well.

b. Timely Notice

Defendants contend that they did not receive timely notice ofPlaintiffs action. Docket Document No. 70. Specifically, they assert thatthey first received notice when Plaintiff served them with summons and acopy of the amended complaint on these respective dates: Alicea-Rivera,February 6, 2000; Laboy-Alvarado, February 9, 2000;Alvarez-Glaván, Cabrera-Jiménez, Ramos-Román,Rivera-Rodriguez, López-Rojas, López-Ramos,López-Ruiz, Quiles-Arroyo, and Ruiz-Sárraga, February 16,2000; Colón-Maldonado, Correa-Aguilar, February 22, 2000;Coll-Villafañe, Cruz-López, and Molina-Rios, March 14,2000. Docket Documents Nos. 70, 71, 72, and 75.

For notice to be timely pursuant to FED. R.Civ.P. 15(c)(3)(A),Defendants must have been served with the summons and amended complaintno more than 120 days after the filing of the original complaint.Wilson, 23 F.3d at 562-63 (citing Rule 15(c)). Plaintiff filed theoriginal complaint on January 22, 1999. Docket Document No. 1. We findthat the dates on which Defendants were served with the summons andamended complaint are clearly beyond the requisite 120 days.5

Plaintiff, however, posits that pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 15(c)(1), hemay take advantage of state law to add Defendants as joint tortfeasorswith the AOC and Ruiz-Sárraga despite the consequences of FED.R.Civ.P. 15(c)(3). Docket Document No. 77. Defendants dispute Plaintiffsconclusion for several reasons. See Docket Document No. 70.

Before reaching either of these positions, we first consider whetherMoving Defendants had an identity of interest with the AOC andRuiz-Sárraga such that the former can be considered to havereceived constructive notice of Plaintiffs action within the limitationsperiod. See Ayala Serrano v. Lebron Gonzalez, 909 F.2d 8, 12 (1st Cir.1990) (quoting Schiavone v. Fortune, 477 U.S. 21, 31, 106 S.Ct. 2379, 91L.Ed.2d 18 (1986) ("The linchpin [in a Rule 15(c) analysis] is notice,and notice within the limitations period.")); Ocasio Ortiz v. BetancourtLebron, 146 F.R.D. 34 (D.P.R. 1992) ("[B]oth [judicial] consistency andefficiency will be promoted if we first turn to the binding rules anddecisions of the Circuit, and seek recourse to . . . 15(c)(1) only if thefederal standard would preclude amendment.").

The First Circuit has developed the "identity of interest" concept asjudicial gloss on Rule 15(c). See Ayala Serrano, 909 F.2d at 12 (citationomitted). The principle provides that:

[t]he institution of the action serves as constructive notice of the action to the parties added after the limitations period expired, when the original and added parties are so closely related in business or other activities that it is fair to presume the added parties learned of the institution of the action shortly after it was commenced.

Hernández Jiménez v. Calero Toledo, 604 F.2d 99, 102-03(1st Cir. 1979); see also Ayala Serrano, 909 F.2d at 12-13 (followingHernandez Jiménez). Thus, if the "`the named defendant and theparty that the plaintiff actually intended to sue have an `identity ofinterest,' . . . [and] the other requirements of Rule 15(c) have beensatisfied,'" the addition of the intended parties is permissible. AyalaSerrano, 909 F.2d at 12 (citation omitted).

Although the identity of interest test is normally applied in thecorporate context, Gleason v. McBride, 869 F.2d 688, 693 (2d Cir. 1989),the First Circuit has utilized it in cases arising under42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1988). See Ayala Serrano, 909 F.2d at 10;Hernández Jiménez, 604 F.2d at 103.

One of the issues that the First Circuit faced in Ayala Serrano waswhether an inmate-plaintiff could add Cruz Lebrón González("Lebrón"), a prison officer, as a defendant to his complaintpursuant to the relation back principles of FED.R.CIV.P. 15(c).6 TheFirst Circuit answered the question in the affirmative with certainconditions. The Circuit found that an identity of interest existedbetween the originally named defendants and Lebrón because, interalia, the originally named defendants were Lebrón's superiors;Lebrón had been present during the assault on the inmate; andafter the inmate had filed the complaint, Lebroón continuedworking as a prison officer at the facilitywhere the incident had taken place. Ayala Serrano, 909 F.2d at12-13. Consequently, the Circuit found that Lebrón must havereceived notice of the inmate's suit within the limitations period.Id. at 13.

In the prisoner-police officer context, an identity of interest hasalso been found where newly added police officers remained in active dutyand participated in an administrative investigation of the allegedincident regarding the prisoner, Ocasio Ortiz, 146 F.R.D. at 40-41, andwhere the original defendants shared legal counsel with the newly namedofficers. See Jacobsen v. Osborne, 133 F.3d 315, 320 (5th Cir. 1998).

In the case at bar, Plaintiffs original pro-se complaint namesDefendants AOC and Ruíz-Sárraga in the caption, andDefendants Rosado Latorre, Pérez Soler, and two unnamed officerswho worked at the Detention Center in western Mayagüez in the bodyof the complaint. Docket Document No. 1. Moving Defendants were eitheremployees or officers of the AOC during the time in question. See, e.g.,Docket Documents Nos. 14, 37, and 38. Also, after the date that Plaintiffalleges that he was attacked in retaliation for asserting his FirstAmendment rights, almost all Defendants continued working for the AOC,and most of these continued working at the detention facility at SabanaHoyos. Docket Document No. 101.7 Additionally, Defendants admit thatmost of them participated in an internal investigation concerning theincident with Plaintiff. Id. Crucially for our analysis, however, onlyDefendants López-Ruiz and López-Rojas were allegedlypresent during the purported physical assault on Plaintiff Docket DocumentNo. 14.8

Consequently, with the exception of Defendants López-Ruiz andLópez-Rojas, we find that it is not reasonable to assume thatDefendants who were newly named in the first amended complaint hadconstructive notice of Plaintiffs suit during the time period prescribedby Rule 15(c)(3). Cf. Ayala Serrano, 909 F.2d at 12-13 (finding, interalia, that moving defendant was present at the time of the allegedconstitutional violation); Ocasio Ortiz, 146 F.R.D. at 40 (same).

c. Knowledge of a Mistake in Identity

For Plaintiff to be able to add Defendants López-Ruiz andLópez-Rojas pursuant to Rule 15(c)(3), the third requirement,knowledge of a mistake in identity, must also be satisfied. FED.R.CIV.P.15(c)(3). To fulfill this element,

[t]he amendment's proponent must show not only that he made a mistake anent the proper party's identity, but also the later-named party, within the prescribed time limit, knew or should have known that, but for this mistake, the action would have been brought against [him].

Leonard, 219 F.3d at 28.

In the case before us, Defendants López-Ruiz andLópez-Rojas allegedly participated in the beating of PlaintiffDocket Document No. 14. Although theoriginal complaint, which Plaintiff filed pro se, does not list DefendantsLópez-Ruiz and López-Rojas in the caption nor identify themby name in the text of the complaint, the text of the complaint does mentionthat two unnamed officers from the Detention Center in western Mayagüezjoined in the alleged attack on Plaintiff Docket Document No. 1.Defendants López-Ruiz and López-Rojas were Custody Officersfrom the Detention Center in western Mayagüez working at Sabana Hoyoson the date of Plaintiffs alleged beating. Docket Document No. 14.

Consequently, we find that Defendants López-Ruiz andLópez-Rojas reasonably should have known that but for a mistake inidentity, they would have been named in the original complaint. SeeSendobry v. Michael, 160 F.R.D. 471, 473 (M.D.Pa. 1995) ("A party whoparticipated in conduct described in a complaint should reasonably expectto be named regardless of whether the caption refers to that party as`John Doe' or as an `unnamed defendant'."); cf. Leonard, 219 F.3d at 28(finding that the person who had engaged in the conduct which is allegedin the original complaint knew or should have known about the mistake inidentity); In re Integrated Res. Real Estate Ltd. P'ship Sec. Litig.,815 F. Supp. 620, 646 (S.D.N.Y. 1993) ("`[I]dentity of interests has alsoserved as [a] touchstone for determining whether a new party knew orshould have known that "but for" a mistake in identity, he would havebeen sued in the first instance.'") (citation omitted).

Since under Rule 15(c)(3) Plaintiff would not be allowed to addremaining Moving Defendants, we now consider the applicability of Rule15(c)(1).

2. Rule 15(c)(1)

Plaintiff argues that pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 15(c)(1), he may takeadvantage of state law to add Moving Defendants as joint tortfeasors withthe AOC and Ruíz-Sárraga even though, under FED. R.Civ.P.15(c)(3), he may not do so. Docket Document No. 77.

Moving Defendants reject this argument. Docket Document No. 70.Assuming that Puerto Rico law would permit the addition of thenewly-named Defendants, Defendants posit that Puerto Rico law, operatingthrough Rule 15(c)(1), conflicts with a federal procedural rule, namelyFED.R.CIV.P. 15(c)(3). Id. As such, Defendants contend that cases such asHanna v. Plumer, 380 U.S. 460, 85 S.Ct. 1136, 14 L.Ed.2d 8 (1965), andMcIntosh v. Antonino, 71 F.3d 29 (1st Cir. 1995), among others, instructthat the federal rule trumps the local rule. Id. Relatedly, Defendantsposit that Rule 15(c)(1) is inapplicable in this section 1983 case because42 U.S.C. § 1988 (1988).9 requires that the applicationof state law be not inconsistent with federal law. Id.

Defendants are mistaken. We first discuss the net effect of Rule15(c)(1) and then explicate why its application in this case isconsistent with prevailing federal law.

Pursuant to Rule 15(c)(1), a plaintiff may amend a pleading to add newdefendants if "relation back is permitted by the law that provides thestatute of limitations applicable to the action." FED.R.CIV.P. 15(c)(1).As we noted above, Puerto Rico state law controls the running of thestatute of limitations. It also governs the tolling of the prescribedperiod. Rivera-Ramos, 156 F.3d at 282 ("For section 1983 actions, federallaw governs the date on which a cause of action accrues (i.e., when thestatute begins to run) while the length of the period and tollingdoctrine are taken from local law.") (citation omitted).

Accordingly, pursuant to Article 1874 of the Puerto Rico Civil Code,"the interruption of prescription against one defendant also tolls thestatute against any other defendants who are solidarily liable with thefirst."10 Tokyo Marine & Fire Ins. Co. v. Perez & Cia., De P.R.,Inc., 142 F.3d 1, 4 (1st Cir. 1998); 31 L.P.R.A. § 5304 (1991)("Interruption of prescription of actions in joint obligations equallybenefits or injures all the creditors or debtors."). However, "tolling iseffective with regard only to identical causes of action." RodriguezNarvaez, 895 F.2d at 43 (citations omitted).

Hence, for Plaintiff to be able to add Moving Defendants through therelation back principle of Rule 15(c)(1), two conditions must be met:Moving Defendants must be solidarily liable under Puerto Rico law; andPlaintiffs first amended complaint must assert identical causes of actionagainst Moving Defendants as Plaintiffs original complaint assertedagainst Defendants AOC and Ruíz-Sárraga.

The Puerto Rico Supreme Court has held that joint tortfeasors aresolidarily liable. Tokyo Marine, 142 F.3d at 6 (reviewing the Puerto RicoSupreme Court's discussion in Arroyo v. Hosp. La Concepción, 130P.R.Dec. 596, 608, 1992 WL 755630 (1992), of Article 1802 of the PuertoRico Civil Code). "Under article 1802, when the negligent acts of morethan one person have adequately caused a harm, each such person is ajoint tortfeasor who is liable in full to the plaintiff for the harmcaused." Id.

Here, Plaintiff has alleged that Defendants are jointly and severallyliable for the injuries and harms which he suffered. Docket Document No.14. If Plaintiff can meet his evidentiary burdens with respect to eachDefendant, those Defendants who have been found liable by the jury wouldbe solidarily liable. Thus, we find that pursuant to Article 1874 of thePuerto Rico Civil Code, Plaintiffs timely filing of his section 1983complaint against Defendants AOC and Ruíz-Sárragainterrupted the prescription of his section 1983 suit against MovingDefendants. See Tokyo Marine, 142 F.3d at 6-7 (citation omitted).

We pause to note that joint and several liability as well assolidarity, as defined for Article 1874 purposes, do not mean that theestablishment of one defendant's liability facilitates or somehow altersthe standard for finding the liability of any other defendant who isjointly and severally liable to the one initially found liable. See TokyoMarine, 142 F.3d at 6 ("[S]olidaritydoes not presuppose that the scope or source of liability is identical foreach solidary debtor. To the contrary, . . . solidary debtors may beobligated to different degrees."). Joint and several liability refersinstead to the apportionment of damages or contribution. Id.; see alsoBLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY 926 (7th ed. 1999) (defining solidary liability as"[t]he liability of any one debtor among two or more joint debtors to paythe entire debt if the creditor so chooses.").

We next consider whether the original complaint and the first amendedcomplaint assert identical causes of action against Defendants.

Originally, Plaintiff brought a pro-se section 1983 suit againstDefendants AOC and Ruíz-Sárraga, alleging that they, inconjunction with Defendants Rosado Latorre and Pérez Soler,physically assaulted him in retaliation for Plaintiff having attempted tofile a complaint with this court. Docket Document No. 1. In his firstamended complaint, Plaintiff, this time represented by counsel, againbrought a section 1983 action alleging the same incident. Docket DocumentNo. 14. The first amended complaint alleges that Defendants, with theexception of Defendants López-Ruiz and López-Rojas,violated Plaintiffs constitutional right to be free from cruel andunusual punishment and his First Amendment right to access the courts andpress. Id. Since Plaintiff is asserting identical causes of action, MovingDefendants could be held solidarily liable with Defendants AOC andRuíz-Sárraga for purposes of tolling the running of thestatute of limitations pursuant to 31 L.P.R.A. § 5304. Therefore,Plaintiff could properly add in his first amended complaint remainingMoving Defendants to his action pursuant to Rule 15(c)(1).

This result is consistent with the intent and purpose of Rule15(c)(1). Recently enacted through the 1991 Amendments to Rule 15, Rule15(c)(1) is "intended to make it clear that the rule does not apply topreclude any relation back that may be permitted under the applicablelimitations law." FED.R.CIV.P. 15 advisory committee's note. Hence,regardless of whether the controlling body of limitations law is federalor state in nature, "if that law affords a more forgiving principle ofrelation back than the one provided in this rule, it should be availableto save the claim." Id. (citing Marshall v. Mulrenin, 508 F.2d 39 (1stCir. 1974)); see Ocasio Ortiz, 146 F.R.D. at 39 (citing 6A CHARLES A.WRIGHT & ARTHUR R. MILLER, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE, § 1503 (2ded. 1990 Supp. 1992)). The application of Rule 15(c)(1) in this casepermits the addition of those Moving Defendants who would otherwise not beincluded through the operation of Rule 15(c)(3) or the identity ofinterest principle.

Additionally, the application of Rule 15(c)(1) in the case at bar isnot inconsistent with the precedent of the United States Supreme Court orthe First Circuit. In Marshall v. Mulrenin, the First Circuit consideredwhether a Massachusetts statute, which allowed the addition of partiesthrough amended pleadings, controlled in a case in which a federalprocedural rule disallowed the addition. Mulrenin, 508 F.2d at 40-41. TheCircuit concluded that the state rule governed. Id. at 44. The FirstCircuit reasoned that the Supreme Court in Hanna v. Plumer recognizedthat despite a direct conflict between a federal and state rule, thefederal procedural rule should not be applied when doing so wouldundermine the substantive purpose of the nominally procedural staterule. Id. at 44 ("It merely means that a [federal] rule is not to beapplied to the extent, if any, that it would defeat rights arising fromstatesubstantive law as distinguished from state procedure.").

We apply Mulrenin "s reasoning to this case. Cf. Pessotti v. EagleMfg. Co., 946 F.2d 974, 980 n. 6 (1st Cir. 1991) (recognizing thatMulrenin remains good law after the 1991 amendments to Rule 15(c)). TheFirst Circuit has acknowledged that the rules governing Puerto Rico'sstatute of limitations have a substantive, rather than procedural,foundation. Rodriguez Narvaez, 895 F.2d at 43 ("[T]he rules governing thelimitations of actions form part of the substantive, not procedural, lawof Puerto Rico.") (citations omitted). Thus, despite the oppositeconsequences "of Rule 15(c)(3), Plaintiff may rely on Puerto Rico'stolling provisions, operating through Rule 15(c)(1), to add the remainingMoving Defendants.

Defendants also principally rely on McIntosh v. Antonino, 71 F.3d 29(1st Cir. 1995), for their opposition to the use of Rule 15(c)(1). DocketDocument No. 70. McIntosh, however, concerns, inter alia, theapplicability of a state rule regarding filing by mail. McIntosh, 71 F.3dat 36-37. It is not a case which addresses the relation back rules ofFED.R.CIV.P. 15(c). Therefore, we find it distinguishable from thepresent case.

Similarly, Defendants' argument regarding 42 U.S.C. § 1988falters. As we have discussed, the application of Rule 15(c)(1) is notinconsistent with federal law. Accordingly, its application in this casedoes not run counter to section 1988.

In sum, Plaintiff properly added Defendants López-Ruiz andLópez-Rojas pursuant to Rule 15(c)(3), and remaining MovingDefendants pursuant to Rule 15(c)(1).

B. Relation Back of Claims

Defendants maintain that the state law claims which Plaintiff assertsin the amended complaints are time-barred by the applicable state statuteof limitations, and that the original complaint did not serve to tollthis limitations period. Docket Document No. 70. Plaintiff retorts thatthe state law claims which he first raised in the amended complaintrelate back to the original complaint because they arise from the sametransaction and occurrence. Docket Document No. 77.

Rule 15(c) permits the amendment of an original complaint to add newclaims as long as "the claim or defense asserted in the amended pleadingarose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth orattempted to be set forth in the original pleading." FED.R.CIV.P.15(c)(2). This rule reflects the policy objective of ensuring thatdefendants have constructive notice of potential, related claims in atimely fashion. Drakatos v. R.B. Denison, Inc., 493 F. Supp. 942, 946 n.6 (D.Conn. 1980) ("Rule 15(c) is based on a theory of constructivenotice."). Thus, the limitations period for amended claims isirrelevant. Miller v. Amer. Heavy Lift Shipping, 231 F.3d 242, 248 (6thCir. 2000).

[O]nce litigation involving particular conduct or a given transaction or occurrence has been instituted, the parties are not entitled to the protection of the statute of limitations against the later assertion by amendment of defenses or claims that arise out of the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence as set forth in the original pleading.

Id. (quoting Brown v. Shaner, 172 F.3d 927, 932 (6th Cir. 1999)); seealso, e.g., Merican Curtis, Inc. v. Meg-Na Transp., Inc., No. 83-6525,1986 WL 10291 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 10, 1986) (citations omitted); Drakatos,493 F. Supp. at 946 ("The amendment is deemed to have been asserted atthe time of the original complaint; whether or not the statute oflimitationshas elapsed since that time is immaterial.").

Here, Plaintiff asserted in his original complaint that severalcorrections officials physically assaulted him on November 11, 1998, as aconsequence of Plaintiff having attempted to file a complaint in federalcourt. Docket Document No. 1. Plaintiffs amended complaint of February3, 2000, asseverates that the alleged beating on November 11, 1998, byDefendants constitutes cruel and unusual treatment of him in violationof, inter alia, the Constitution and laws of Puerto Rico.11 Since theclaims in the original and amended complaints arise out of the sametransaction and occurrence, "[t]here is no reason to apply a statute oflimitations when, as here, [Defendants have] had notice from thebeginning that [Plaintiff] was trying to enforce a claim against [them]because of the events leading up to [the alleged attack]." Tiller v.Atl. Coast Line R. Co., 323 U.S. 574, 581, 65 S.Ct. 421, 89 L.Ed. 465(1945). Consequently, the state law claims asserted in the amendedcomplaint, Docket Document No. 14, relate back to the originalcomplaint. Docket Document No. 1.

C. Lawyer Misconduct

During our review of the record, including the briefs submitted by theparties in support of their positions regarding Defendants' summaryjudgement motion, we noticed that counsel for Plaintiff, JoséRamón Olmo Rodriguez, filed an opposition to the summary judgementmotion which plagiarizes full pages of Ortiz v. Colon, No. 96-1153, slipop. at 2-7 (D.P.R. Feb. 11, 2000). See Docket Document No. 77. We foundnot a single citation to Ortiz, but did notice adjustments in theappropriate places which were commensurate with the facts of Plaintiffscase. In fact, by our estimation, approximately sixty-six percent of thebrief is a verbatim reproduction of the Judge Casellas' Opinion andOrder. See id. This behavior is reprehensible.

It is well established that federal courts possess those inherentpowers which "are necessary to the exercise of all others." United Statesv. Hudson, 11 (7 Cranch) U.S. 32, 34, 3 L.Ed. 259 (1812). Part of thecourt's inherent power is the authority to sanction counsel formisconduct and to "assess expenses . . . against counsel who willfullyabuse [the] judicial process." Roadway Express, Inc. v. Piper,447 U.S. 752, 766, 100 S.Ct. 2455, 65 L.Ed.2d 488 (1980); see also RamosColon v. United States Attorney for Dist. of P.R., 576 F.2d 1, 3 (1stCir. 1978) (quoting Flaksa v. Little River Marine Constr. Co.,389 F.2d 885, 888 (5th Cir. 1968) ("[T]he inherent power of the court tomanage its affairs necessarily includes the authority to imposereasonable and appropriate sanctions upon errant lawyers practicingbefore it.")); United States v. Kouri-Pérez, 8 F. Supp.2d 133, 140(D.P.R. 1998) (reprimanding defense counsel for inappropriate behaviorand imposing monetary fine of $4,000), appeal dismissed, 187 F.3d 1, 14(1st Cir. 1999).

We find counsel's behavior to be intolerable. In addition to theself-evident reasons for denouncing this practice, the impugnable briefwas a disservice to Plaintiff, counsel's client, and this court, as itdid not fully address all the arguments raised in Defendants' motion forsummary judgement.

In the future, we expect counsel to maintain the highest standards ofintegrity in all of his representations with this court. We will nottreat so gingerly further lapses in his judgement.



In accordance with the foregoing, we DENY Defendants' motions forsummary judgement. This Opinion and Order disposes of Docket DocumentsNos. 70, 71, 72, and 75.

1. The text of the original complaint actually alleges that DefendantsAOC, Ruíz-Sárraga, Rosado Latorre, Pérez Soler, andtwo unnamed officers from the Detention Center in western Mayagüezretaliated against Plaintiff for having filed the federal complaint.Docket Document No. 1. Given that the alleged retaliatory beatingpreceded the filing of the original complaint by approximately twomonths, we assume that Plaintiff meant to state that these Defendantsallegedly retaliated against him for attempting to file the complaint infederal court.

2. Section 1983 provides:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage, of any State or Territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proceeding for redress. 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

3. Section 5298 reads:

The following prescribe in one (1) year:

(1) Actions to recover or retain possession.

(2) Actions to demand civil liability for grave insults or calumny, and for obligations arising from the fault or negligence mentioned the section 5141 of this title, from the time the aggrieved person had knowledge thereof.

31 L.P.R.A.§ 5298.

4. In Carreras-Rosa, the plaintiffs' action accrued on May 20, 1994,the statute of limitations began running on May 21, 1994, and, thus, theplaintiffs had until May 20, 1995 to file their complaint. SeeCarreras-Rosa, 127 F.3d at 175.

5. Defendants Alicea-Rivera, Quiles-Arroyo, and López-Ramosmisstate the dates on which they received notice. Our review of therecord reveals that they were served on February 16, 2000, DocketDocument No. 17; February 22, 2000, Docket Document No. 18; and March16, 2000, Docket Document No. 22, respectively. Nevertheless, thesealtered dates do not affect our ultimate conclusion that they were servedbeyond the prescribed period.

6. Although Ayala Serrano predates the 1991 amendments to Rule 15(c),its reasoning is still sound. See, e.g., Ocasio Ortiz, 146 F.R.D. at 40(citing Ayala Serrano approvingly).

7. Defendants' brief was submitted in compliance with our April 20,2001 Order asking the parties to address the identity of interest issue.Docket Document No. 99.

8. Defendants López-Ruiz and López-Rojas deny beingpresent at the time Plaintiff was allegedly beaten. Docket Document No.39 However, given that Defendants have not proffered evidence to thecontrary, we resolve factual disputes in favor of the party opposing thesummary judgement motion, in this case, Plaintiff. See Anderson, 477U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505 ("The evidence of the non-movant is to bebelieved, and all reasonable inferences to be drawn in his favor.")(citation omitted).

9. Section 1988 reads:

The jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters conferredon the district courts by the provisions of titles 13,24, and 70 of the Revised Statutes for the protection ofall persons in the United States in their civil rights,and for their vindication, shall be exercised andenforced in conformity with the laws of the UnitedStates, so far as such laws are suitable to carry thesame into effect; but in all cases where they are notadapted to the object, or are deficient in theprovisions necessary to furnish suitable remedies andpunish offenses against law, the common law, as modifiedand changed by the constitution and statutes of theState wherein the court having jurisdiction of suchcivil or criminal cause is held, so far as the same isnot inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of theUnited States, shall be extended to and govern the saidcourts in the trial and disposition of the cause, and,if it is of a criminal nature, in the infliction ofpunishment on the party found guilty.

42 U.S.C. § 1988.

10. The term "solidarily liable" refers to joint and severalliability. See Tokyo Marine, 142 F.3d at 4 n. 1.

11. Plaintiffs amended complaint states that his cause of actionarises under, inter alia, "the Constitution and laws of the Commonwealthof Puerto Rico, in particular 31 L.P.R.A. § 1802." Docket DocumentNo. 14. Section 1802 of Title 31 of the Laws of Puerto Rico, however,concerns dangerous or noxious constructions. See 31 L.P.R.A. § 1802.We assume this is an error on Plaintiffs be half, as section 1802 doesnot remotely implicate the facts of this case and, thus, would not relateback pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 15(c)(2). Nonetheless, Plaintiffs claimsfor cruel and unusual punishment and denial of access to the courts undercorresponding Puerto Rico law remain and do relate back to the originalcomplaint, as per the accompanying text to this footnote.

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