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Echevarria v. Utitec, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 17, 2017

UTITEC, INC., Defendant.


          Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Haydee Echevarria filed a five count complaint alleging common law negligent supervision, as well as sexual harassment and retaliation under Title VII and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (“CFEPA”). She seeks leave pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15 to amend her Complaint to clarify several factual allegations and assert a claim of reckless supervision against the Defendant as a result of facts learned through discovery. Defendant opposes this motion on the grounds that Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate good cause for seeking to amend after the scheduling order deadline, that amendment would be futile because reckless supervision is not a recognized cause of action in Connecticut, and that an amendment would cause Defendant prejudice. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend [Dkt. No. 27] is GRANTED.

         II. Legal Standard

         If a scheduling order sets a deadline for amendment, the appropriate standard for evaluating a motion for amend is set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b)(4), which provides that a “schedule may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent.” See Kassner v. 2nd Avenue Delicatessen Inc., 496 F.3d 229, 243-44 (2d Cir. 2007); Parker v. Columbia Pictures Industries, 204 F.3d 326, 339-40 (2000). Defendant argues that because the Court's December 18, 2015 Order on Pretrial Deadlines set a deadline for filing amended pleadings of February 16, 2016, and Plaintiff did not seek leave to amend until June 15, 2016, the Court should apply the Rule 16 “good cause” standard. [Dkt. No. 28 at 1].

         The Order on Pretrial Deadlines instructs the parties to adhere to the deadlines it sets forth “[u]nless otherwise ordered by the Judge to whom this . . . case is assigned.” [Dkt. No. 3]. Although the Court's March 3, 2016 Scheduling Order, [Dkt. No. 14], does not list a specific deadline for amendment of the pleadings, the Court adopted the parties' Rule 26(f) report in that Order. In the Rule 26(f) report, the parties both indicated that they had no plans to amend but reserved their rights to do so “as facts developed during discovery warrant.” [Dkt. No 13 at 4]. The parties' Rule 26(f) report was filed only eight days before the original amendment deadline, which would not leave the parties with time to develop many facts “during discovery.” Moreover, the Rule 26(f) report specifies that the Defendant's Answer would not be due until February 19, 2016-three days after the original deadline for amending the pleadings. The Court's adoption of the Rule 26(f) report-by which it allowed the Defendant the right to amend its answer, and allowed the parties the right to amend after the development of facts during discovery-is therefore incompatible with, and supersedes, the deadline for amendment set forth in the Order on Pretrial Deadlines. Because Plaintiff filed its motion for leave to amend during discovery, as contemplated by the Rule 26(f) report, the Court must evaluate Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend using the standard set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15.

         Pursuant to Rule 15, a party “may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave. The court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Amendment is inappropriate when there is evidence of “undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive . . ., repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, etc.” Forman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). “[T]he district court has discretion to deny leave to amend where the motion is made after an inordinate delay, and the introduction of new claims and/or new parties would delay a scheduled trial.” Johnson v. N.Y., 100 F.3d 941, 941 (2d Cir. 1996) (finding it within Court's discretion to deny motion to amend Complaint where Complaint was filed in 1990, motion to amend was filed July 1993, and trial was scheduled for 1994).

         Within the Second Circuit, if an amendment is not futile, leave will be given unless the non-movant establishes prejudice or bad faith. Gas Holding Co. v. Bank of Am., N.A., 626 F.3d 699, 725-26 (2d Cir. 2010) (citing Block v. First Blood Assocs., 988 F.2d 344, 350 (2d Cir. 1993)). Of these, prejudice to the non-movant is the more important factor. Id. “Amendment may be prejudicial when, among other things, it would ‘require the opponent to expend significant additional resources to conduct discovery and prepare for trial' or ‘significantly delay the resolution of the dispute.'” Id. (quoting State Teachers Ret. Bd. v. Fluor Corp., 654 F.2d 843, 856 (2d Cir. 1981)).

         III. Discussion

          Defendant argues that the Court should not grant Plaintiff leave to amend based on futility and prejudice. In particular, Defendant argues that (1) no cause of action for “reckless supervision” exists in Connecticut, and (2) it has “lost the opportunity to prepare the defense witnesses on this new cause of action and to question the plaintiff on it.” [Dkt. No. 28 at 6-9, 10-11]. The Court will address each of these arguments in turn.

         A. Undue Delay

         Defendant alleges that Plaintiff's ignorance of the cause of action until recently is not a proper reason for delay, citing Second Circuit authority instructing that “the burden is on the party who wishes to amend to provide a satisfactory explanation for the delay, and the court is free to conclude that ignorance of the law is an unsatisfactory excuse.” Cresswell v. Sullivan & Cromwell, 922 F.2d 60, 72 (2d Cir. 1990). The Plaintiff has met her burden by disclosing that she learned during discovery facts which she had not known previously which support an extension of her negligence to claim a recklessness claim. This is the very purpose of discovery-to learn facts relevant to one's claims and defenses. Discovery of such facts is a proper basis to move to amend a complaint be it through discovery or at trial. Stillman v. InService Am., Inc., 455 F. App'x 48, 51 (2d Cir. 2012). This is especially true where the new information learned through discovery is of the same general nature as the claim originally asserted.

         B. Futility

         “An amendment to a pleading will be futile if a proposed claim could not withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).” Dougherty v. Town of N. Hempstead Bd. of Zoning Appeals, 282 F.3d 83, 88 (2d Cir. 2002). In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court should follow a “two-pronged approach” to evaluate the sufficiency of the complaint. Hayden v. Paterson, 594 F.3d 150, 161 (2d Cir. 2010). “A court ‘can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.'” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). “At the second step, a court should determine whether the ‘well-pleaded factual allegations, ' assumed to be true, ‘plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.'” Id. (quoting Iqbal ...

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