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I was assaulted by police officers. They stopped me for no reason. They held me on the scene and I asked them why I was stopped. One of the cops punched me in the face and told me to shut the fuck up. I asked him why he was such a coward that he had to hit me. He then broke my arm by taking me to the ground and stomping me. I told him to go fuck himself. Right after that, another patrol car pulled up with someone who was not a police officer in the back seat. That person was a civilian. She shook her head no when she was looking at me. The officers told me I was free to leave.

I never got the officer’s name who punched me and broke my arm. I want to sue him. How can I do that without knowing his name or badge number? Is naming the defendant in a police brutality case difficult?

You have to file in federal court. In federal court, you file your complaint against John Doe. You have 120 days under FRCP 15 to relate back your initial claim to the day you filed it with the proper names. The lawyers for the city of the police that you sued must provide you with the names of the police offers by the Rule 16 conference. Therefore, you will get the name of the correct officer to sue.

The real problem comes up when you file your complaint at the statute of limitations. In that case, if you do not file your amended complaint within 120 days of the day of your initial complaint, there is no way to fix it, so be sure you get that Rule 16 conference scheduled ASAP.

There is a way to attempt to get the name in state court. Its tricky. I have only been successful at it once. In Pennsylvania state court in naming the defendant in a police brutality case, you simply file a writ of summons against the city or township you are suing and send an interrogatory asking the name of all of the officers who were involved. If they don’t answer, you file a discovery motion to force them to give it to you. Once you get the answer, you file your complaint. Be careful with this approach and make sure you file your writ of summons way before the statute of limitations runs.

Brian J. Zeiger, Esquire, is an experienced and successful criminal defense and civil rights attorney. He is a seasoned trial lawyer with significant experience before juries and judges. Brian understands civil rights cases, including Taser, Wrongful Death, Excessive Force, Police Brutality, Police Misconduct, Malicious Prosecution, Monell Claims, Sexual Assault, Prisoner’s Rights, Time Credit, Medical Malpractice, and Medical Indifference.