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Edwards v. North American Power & Gas, LLC

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 1, 2016

PAUL T. EDWARDS, Plaintiff,
v.
NORTH AMERICAN POWER AND GAS, LLC, Defendant.

          RULING ON PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO AMEND THE COMPLAINT

          Victor A. Bolden United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Paul T. Edwards has brought a putative class action against North American Power and Gas, LLC (“NAPG”).[1] Mr. Edwards has filed a motion to amend his Complaint. Mot. to Amend Compl., ECF No. 52.[2] He asks the Court for leave to add Plaintiffs from Rhode Island and New Hampshire as well as claims under each respective state’s unfair trade practices law and claims under each state’s law for breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Am. Mot. to Amend Compl., ECF No. 52; see Proposed Am. Compl., ECF No. 52-1. He also seeks to add a breach of contract claim[3] under Connecticut law. See Proposed Am. Compl. at Count IV, ECF No. 52-1. Finally, he asks to add an additional named Plaintiff, Gerry Wendrovsky, who resides in New York but owns property in Connecticut. Id. ¶9. NAPG opposes Mr. Edwards’s motion. Def.’s Opp. Br., ECF No. 53.

         After the Motion to Amend the Complaint was filed, the Court issued an Order identifying some concerns about whether the allegations in the Complaint established subject matter jurisdiction sufficiently. Ruling Addressing the Court’s Subject Matter Jurisdiction, ECF No. 60. Mr. Edwards filed a Second Proposed Amended Complaint addressing these concerns to the Court’s satisfaction. Am. Ex. A, Proposed Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 61. Accordingly, the Court can take up the Motion to Amend the Complaint. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. Timeliness of the Motion

         NAPG first argues that the Court should not evaluate Mr. Edwards’s Motion to Amend his Complaint on the merits because it is untimely. NAPG’s Opp. Br. 6-8, ECF No. 53. The Court agrees that the request is nunc pro tunc but finds that there is good cause to excuse the delay.

         When a plaintiff moves to amend the complaint after the deadline for filing such a motion has passed, that party must establish “good cause” for the delay under Rule 16(b)(4), which depends primarily on the “diligence of the moving party.” Parker v. Columbia Pictures Indus., 204 F.3d 326, 340 (2d Cir. 2000). District courts may also consider “other relevant factors, including, in particular, whether allowing the amendment of the pleading at this stage of the litigation will prejudice defendants.” Kassner v. 2nd Ave. Delicatessen, Inc., 496 F.3d 229, 244 (2d Cir. 2007). Ultimately, the decision whether to allow a late motion to amend the complaint lies within the Court’s discretion. See id.

         In its Ruling on NAPG’s Motion to Dismiss, the Court explicitly gave Mr. Edwards leave to amend his Complaint to add plaintiffs from other states.[4] Mr. Edwards did not unduly delay in doing so. He filed his Motion to Amend six days after the first set of diverse plaintiffs retained him, and less than two months after the Court’s deadline for adding plaintiffs had elapsed. Mot. to Amend Compl. ¶4, ECF No. 52; see also United States v. Cohan, No. 3:11-CV- 412(CSH), 2012 WL 4758142, at *1 (D. Conn. Oct. 5, 2012) (“[G]ood cause may be found where the movant learns of the facts supporting amendment after expiration of the relevant filing deadline….”). In the interim period, the parties have only engaged in document discovery, thus the prejudice NAPG will suffer if the Court allows Mr. Edwards’s late motion is limited.

         Because the delay was minimal, Mr. Edwards’s counsel acted diligently in finding other diverse plaintiffs, and any prejudice suffered by NAPG will be minimal, the Court will accept Mr. Edwards’s late-filed Motion to Amend the Complaint and will proceed to review it on the merits.

         II. Analysis of Motion to Amend the Complaint

         Rule 15 provides that “[t]he court should freely” grant leave to amend “when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). In considering whether to grant a litigant leave to amend, the Court considers such factors as undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, undue prejudice, and futility of amendment. See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); see also Block v. First Blood Assocs., 988 F.2d 344, 350 (2d Cir. 1993) (“The rule in this Circuit has been to allow a party to amend its pleadings in the absence of a showing by the nonmovant of prejudice or bad faith.”). A proposed amendment is futile if it fails to state a claim that would survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Lucente v. Int’l. Bus. Machs. Corp., 310 F.3d 243, 258 (2d Cir. 2002).

         A. Proposed Rhode Island Addition

         NAPG argues that adding a Rhode Island plaintiff, John Arcaro, and claims under Rhode Island law is inappropriate because another Rhode Island plaintiff has filed a putative class action against NAPG in the District of Connecticut, Fritz v. North American Power & Gas, LLC, No. 3:14-cv-00634(WWE) (D. Conn.) and addresses the same conduct and legal claims.[5]NAPG’s Opp. Br. 8-16, ECF No. 53. Thus, NAPG asks the Court to refuse the amendment under the “prior pending action” or “first to file” doctrine. Id. Mr. Edwards agrees that his proposed Rhode Island claims are similar to those currently pending in the Fritz case. Pl.’s Reply Br. 2, ECF No. 54. But he argues that his Rhode Island case was filed first and that this Court should consolidate the Rhode Island aspect of his Proposed Amended Complaint with the Fritz case, rather than dismiss it. Id.

         The Court agrees that the Fritz case addresses the same conduct and legal claims[6]implicated by Mr. Edwards’s proposed Rhode Island amendment. The Second Circuit has indicated that, under the prior pending action doctrine, “[w]here there are two competing lawsuits, the first suit should have priority, absent the showing of balance of convenience… or special circumstances… giving priority to the second.” Adam v. Jacobs, 950 F.2d 89, 92 (2d Cir. 1991) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted) (alterations in original). Mr. Edwards included Rhode Island claims in his initial Complaint filed in November 2014, four months before the Rhode Island claims in the Fritz case were initially filed.

         However, the Court finds that the balance of convenience tips in favor of prioritizing the Fritz case. The Fritz case is already well into discovery on the Rhode Island claims. As a result, it would be more efficient to favor Fritz over the instant case. Moreover, Mr. Edwards’s counsel explicitly asks that his Rhode Island case be consolidated with Fritz, not that it proceed parallel to Fritz or instead of Fritz. Pl.’s ...


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