The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN S. RHOADES, SR.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Defendant has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the motion.
Plaintiff Barbara F. Papenthien married Defendant Michael R. Papenthien in July 1983 and lived with him in Carlsbad, California. Plaintiff separated from Defendant ten years later and moved to New York, while Defendant moved to Illinois. The parties divorced in 1998.
On February 25, 1994, Plaintiff sued Defendant in this Court, claiming that Defendant had physically abused her. Plaintiff alleged state-law causes of action for assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff's Complaint alleged only one specific incident: Plaintiff alleged that Defendant had attacked her in a hotel room in Hong Kong on February 25, 1993 at 1:30 a.m. Plaintiff claims that Defendant punched her, choked her, and pushed her jaw into her face so hard that he fractured her mandibular discs, causing permanent damage.
Defendant brought a motion to dismiss for improper venue. Defendant argued that because the only incident Plaintiff had alleged took place in Hong Kong, and neither party resided in California any longer, venue was improper. The Court agreed and dismissed the Complaint.
On November 4, 1994, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint, alleging the same causes of action. This time, however, she alleged numerous incidents of violence. Plaintiff alleged eight incidents that took place in California prior to the Hong Kong incident. She also realleged the Hong Kong attack. Plaintiff further alleged an incident in New York in July 1993 -- several months after the Hong Kong incident.
Defendant brought another motion to dismiss for improper venue. Defendant argued that a one-year statute of limitations applied to Plaintiff's claims. See Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 340(3). Defendant argued that because all of the incidents that took place in California happened more than one year before Plaintiff filed either her Complaint or her First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff could not predicate her lawsuit on the California incidents. Thus, Defendant argued, Plaintiff could not base venue on the California incidents.
The Court agreed. The Court held that, at most, Plaintiff had alleged only two incidents that were not time-barred: the Hong Kong attack on February 25, 1993, and the New York incident in July 1993. The Court held that venue therefore did not lie in the Southern District of California.
Plaintiff appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. While her appeal was pending, the California Legislature enacted a three-year statute of limitations for domestic violence claims. See Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 340.15.
The Ninth Circuit reversed this Court, holding that venue was proper. To do so, the Ninth Circuit had to address the statute-of-limitations issue. This involved two distinct inquiries. First, the Ninth Circuit had to ascertain the appropriate filing date to use, i.e., the date Plaintiff filed her original Complaint, or the date she filed her First Amended Complaint. Second, the Ninth Circuit had to determine whether the old or new limitations period applied.
The Ninth Circuit first held that the relevant filing date was the date Plaintiff filed her original Complaint. The Ninth Circuit stated:
[Plaintiff's] First Amended Complaint relates back to the date of filing of the original complaint for purposes of compliance with the statute of limitations. The original Complaint was filed on February 25, 1994, alleging an incident of domestic violence on February 25, 1993. This complaint was timely pursuant to then existing law, which prescribed a one-year statute of limitations.
Papenthien v. Papenthien, 120 F.3d 1025, 1027 (9th Cir. 1997) (citations and footnote omitted).
The Ninth Circuit then held that the newly-enacted three-year limitations period applied. The Ninth Circuit stated: "California law permits the legislative enlargement of a limitation period to cases, like this one, that have been timely filed." Id. Thus, the Ninth Circuit found that Plaintiff could predicate her case on the California incidents. Accordingly, the Ninth Circuit reversed this Court's finding of improper venue and remanded the case.
Defendant has now filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that newly-discovered evidence reveals that the case is time-barred after all. Defendant's argument has several steps.
First, Defendant tries to free himself from the constraints of the Ninth Circuit's opinion. Defendant argues that because this Court dismissed the case for improper venue, the Ninth Circuit's entire discussion of the statute of limitations was dicta. Thus, Defendant argues, the Ninth Circuit's opinion does not constitute the law of the case. See Geldermann, Inc. v. Financial Management Consultants, 27 F.3d 307, 312 (7th Cir. 1994) (holding that dicta does not establish the law of the case); Coca-Cola Bottling Co. v. Coca-Cola Co., 988 F.2d 414, 429 (3d Cir. 1993) (same).
Having cast aside the Ninth Circuit's entire opinion, Defendant proceeds to the second part of his argument. Defendant argues that the Hong Kong incident occurred on February 25, 1993 at 1:30 a.m. Defendant notes that at that time, it was 8:30 a.m. on February 24 in San Diego. Defendant argues that because Plaintiff filed her original Complaint alleging only the Hong Kong incident on February 25, 1994, Plaintiff filed it one day late under then-existing law.
Third, Defendant argues that the First Amended Complaint does not relate back to the filing of the original Complaint. Defendant argues that because the original Complaint was time-barred under then-existing law, the "relation back" doctrine cannot save the First Amended Complaint. Thus, Defendant argues, the First Amended Complaint must stand on its own. Defendant then argues that because the last incident the First Amended Complaint alleges occurred in July 1993, and Plaintiff filed her First Amended Complaint in November 1994, she filed it several months late under then-existing law.
Last, Defendant argues that the newly-enacted three-year limitations period does not apply, because when Plaintiff filed both of her complaints, they were time-barred under then-existing law and therefore dead on arrival. Defendant argues that "no expansion of the statute of limitations by future legislation could resurrect the causes of action from the dead." (Mot. at 9.)
The Court will discuss each step of Defendant's ...