924 F.2d 1370 (7th Cir. 1991), 90-1363, Hill v. Shelander

Docket Nº:90-1363.
Citation:924 F.2d 1370
Party Name:Steven HILL, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. William SHELANDER, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:February 12, 1991
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 1370

924 F.2d 1370 (7th Cir. 1991)

Steven HILL, Plaintiff-Appellant,


William SHELANDER, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 90-1363.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

February 12, 1991

Argued Sept. 7, 1990.

Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc

Denied March 26, 1991.

Marcia F. Straub, Peoria, Ill., for plaintiff-appellant.

John E. Cassidy, III, Cassidy & Mueller, Peoria, Ill. and Stewart J. Umholtz, Office of the State's Atty., Tazewell County, Pekin, Ill., for defendant-appellee.

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Before CUMMINGS and COFFEY, Circuit Judges, and GORDON, Senior District Judge. [*]

CUMMINGS, Circuit Judge.

Steven Hill, the plaintiff in this Section 1983 action, seeks damages for injuries inflicted upon him by Sergeant William Shelander, a jail guard. Hill appeals from a grant of summary judgment in defendant's favor. On December 14, 1983, Hill was imprisoned in Tazewell County Jail in Illinois awaiting his sentence following a conviction for burglary. Shelander got into an argument with Hill, who opposed the relocation of another prisoner, and demanded that Hill emerge from his cell. Hill refused to come out. According to Hill's allegations, construed in his favor on this review of a grant of summary judgment by the district court, the following occurred. Shelander reached into the cell and placed his hand on Hill's shoulder; Hill removed the Sergeant's hand. Shelander responded to Hill's rebuff by grabbing Hill again by his shoulder and shirt, this time forcibly pulling Hill from his cellblock. Thinking that he might lose his hold on Hill, Shelander yanked Hill by his hair and then slammed Hill's head into the metal bars of the cell across from his own.

Hill sustained an injury to the back of his head, and Shelander inflicted further indignities upon the prisoner. Shelander hit Hill two more times, bruising his face and causing additional injury to Hill's head. For the final blow, Shelander kicked Hill in the testicles. After the beating, Hill was escorted to solitary confinement. As a result of Shelander's corporal punishment, Hill has suffered from severe headaches that continued well past the time of the incident.

Hill claimed in his lawsuit that Sergeant Shelander violated his Eighth Amendment constitutional right to remain free of "cruel and unusual punishment" and filed suit against Shelander under 42 U.S.C. Secs. 1983 and 1988. Hill prayed for relief of $250,000 in compensatory damages and another $250,000 in punitive damages. He filed his first complaint pro se. For purposes of determining Sec. 1983 liability, Hill's first complaint did not name Shelander in either his individual or official capacity. Hill later received court-appointed counsel, who filed first and second amended complaints naming Shelander in his official capacity. Sometime later, Hill's court-appointed counsel withdrew, resulting in the assignment of another lawyer to Hill's case. Hill's second lawyer recognized the technical error in the plaintiff's second amended complaint and tried to amend it to reflect the proper capacity in which Shelander was to be sued.

On September 25, 1989, the district court granted plaintiff's oral motion to sue defendant in his individual rather than in his official capacity, and accordingly on October 10 plaintiff filed an amendment to his second amended complaint to that effect. Afterwards defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that the statute of limitations on the underlying tort action had run, thus preventing Hill from amending his claim to name the defendant in his individual capacity.

In his response to Shelander's motion, Hill denied that his claim was time-barred, because the claim fell within the scope of Rule 15(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In pertinent part, Rule 15(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides as follows:

An amendment changing the party against whom a claim is asserted relates back if * * * the party to be brought in by amendment * * * (2) 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.

The district court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment. In an oral opinion Judge Mihm stated:

Since I find that the change here from official capacity to individual capacity is the same as--is, in effect, a change of

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party and consequently the last sentence of 15(c) applies and since I cannot characterize this as a mistake, then it cannot relate back. (P. 12 of oral opinion of January 12, 1990).

The parties agree that the suit was controlled by the Illinois five-year statute of limitations for civil tort actions. Ill.Rev.Stat. (1989) ch. 110, p 13-205. 1 However, Hill asserts the statute of limitations poses no bar to his claim, because his amendment as to capacity relates back to the original filing of the complaint, pursuant to Rule 15(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. We agree and, for the following reasons, reverse the determination of the trial court and remand for further proceedings.


I. The Sec. 1983 Action

This is a case of first impression in this Court. We must explore the meaning of two complex provisions--Rule 15(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. The question squarely before this Court is whether the plaintiff's decision to amend his complaint against Sergeant Shelander from an official capacity suit to an individual capacity suit constitutes a change of party within the meaning of Rule 15(c) so that the claim is not barred by the expiration of the statute of limitations.

Resolving this question requires us to probe the meaning and purpose underlying both the relation-back provision of Rule 15(c) and the identification of defendants in a civil rights suit under Section 1983. As both provisions are tailored to provide recourse for the legal claims of litigants, this Court must determine whether Hill's action falls under the protective shield of both provisions.

Plaintiff's underlying claim of civil rights deprivation is for the unconstitutional use of excessive force against him in violation of the Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment. Section 1983 provides a cause of action for deprivation of constitutional rights "under color of state law." As a prerequisite of such a Section 1983 suit, however, a civil rights plaintiff must specify whether suit is brought against the defendant in his official capacity or in his individual capacity. This is not an insignificant distinction. As characterized by the Supreme Court, "[p]ersonal-capacity suits seek to impose personal liability upon a government official for actions he takes under color of state law. * * * Official-capacity suits, in contrast, 'generally represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.' " Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 105 S.Ct. 3099, 87 L.Ed.2d 114 (1985). Whereas in an official capacity suit the plaintiff alleges that the defendant was party to the execution or implementation of official policy or conduct by a government because the real party in interest is the entity, an individual capacity suit focuses on the constitutional torts of an individual official. To establish personal liability in a Section 1983 action, "it is enough to show that the official, acting under color of state law, caused the deprivation of a federal right." Graham, 473 U.S. at 166, 105 S.Ct. at 3105. However, that showing is not enough for an official capacity suit, where the action alleged to be under color must be linked with the entity's policy or custom. Graham, 473 U.S. at 166, 105 S.Ct. at 3105; see also Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 105 S.Ct. 2427, 85 L.Ed.2d 791 (1985); Monell v. Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 2037, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978).

The distinction between an individual and official capacity suit determines both the source and nature of the damages award. As the Supreme Court wrote in Graham, "it is clear that a suit against a government official in his or her personal capacity cannot lead to imposition of fee liability upon the governmental entity. A victory in a personal-capacity action is a victory

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against the individual defendant, rather than against the entity that employs him." Graham, 473 U.S. at 167-168, 105 S.Ct. at 3105-3107; Henry v. Farmer City State Bank, 808 F.2d 1228, 1237 (7th Cir.1986). Thus a plaintiff is typically precluded from recovering punitive damages in an official capacity suit absent a waiver of such immunity by federal or state law. Kolar v. County of Sangamon, 756 F.2d 564, 567 (7th Cir.1985). Punitive damages may be recovered in an individual capacity suit "under the traditional bad faith standard," Kolar, 756 F.2d at 567 (citing Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 700, 98 S.Ct. 2565, 2578, 57 L.Ed.2d 522 (1978)), and are recoverable against a governmental official acting in his individual capacity where the officer acts under color of state law and in bad faith. We had occasion to clarify the availability of punitive damages under Sec. 1983 in Kolar because the initial complaint in that suit failed to specify whether Kolar sued the defendant in his official or individual capacity. We reviewed the contents of the complaint and concluded that the suit against the defendant was an official capacity suit, and that the County was therefore liable for attorney's fees and costs. Id. at 568.

The dissent attempts to turn our decision in Kolar against us, accusing its author (who also writes here for the Court) of jurisprudential inconsistency. The dissent siphons from Kolar the following rule--that a Sec. 1983 action that fails to designate the defendant in his...

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