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L.S. v. Webloyalty.Com, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 24, 2017

L.S., a minor, by P.S., his parent and next friend, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
WEBLOYALTY.COM, INC., GAMESTOP CORPORATION, and VISA INC., Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND

          CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. Senior United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Amend/Correct [Doc. 129], which seeks to add two additional affirmative defenses - namely, release and statute of limitations - to Defendants' Answer [Doc. 125] to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint [Doc. 91]. Because more than 21 days elapsed between the filing of the Answer and Defendants' instant effort to amend, the desired amendment requires either Plaintiff's consent or leave of the Court. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a). Plaintiff has not consented, and has filed a Memorandum in Opposition [Doc. 131], to which Defendants have filed a Reply [Doc. 132]. Therefore, the proposed amendments require the leave of the Court. This Order evaluates the proposed amendments and resolves the instant Motion.

         I .STANDARD FOR GRANT OF LEAVE TO AMEND

         The leading case on the propriety of amendment of pleadings by leave of court is Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178 (1962). The Supreme Court stated generally that "the purpose of pleading is to facilitate a proper decision on the merits." 371 U.S. at 182 (citing and quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 48 (1957)). Foman then voices this oft-quoted guidance:

In the absence of any apparent or declared reason - such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, 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. - the leave sought [to amend] should, as the rules require, be "freely given."

371 U.S. at 182.

         Instructed by Foman, federal trial courts are lenient in allowing amendments to pleadings, but they are not supine. If the party opposing amendment demonstrates the presence of one or more of the negative factors listed in Foman, the amendment will not be allowed, for in that circumstance the cause of justice would not be served. In our case, Plaintiff argues that Defendants' proposed amendments are made in bad faith, unduly prejudicial to Plaintiff, and futile. See Pl. Br. The Court will consider each of these contentions in turn.

         Plaintiff also urges the Court to deny leave to amend for Defendants' failure to "show good cause." Pl. Br. 11. Plaintiff argues "[t]he time to amend their answer as of right expired. . . . Defendants provide no explanation as to why they could not have timely asserted their so-called 'release' and 'statute of limitations' defenses or any reason why they omitted those defenses from their answer and so have certainly made no showing of good cause." Id. This misstates the standard for amendment of the pleadings. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) instructs judges to "freely give leave" to amend, "where justice so requires." It does not require the amending party to demonstrate good cause.[1] While the window for amending a pleading as of right may close after 21 days, that does not, as Plaintiff suggests, make any amendment sought after 21 days "untimely."

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. As to Bad Faith

         In their Amended Rule 26(f) Report [Doc. 122], Plaintiff and Defendants differed on the time for commencement of discovery in this matter, among other scheduling disputes. Defendants justified their proposed timetable, in part, by their professed intention to bring early dispositive motions in this case:

This matter is ripe for early disposition by way of a motion for judgment on the pleadings regarding Plaintiff's remaining claim under [the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act] and a motion for partial summary judgment regarding Plaintiff's remaining claim under the [Electronic Funds Transfer Act]. Defendants will file such motions within 30 days after the Answer, i.e., by May 15, 2017. Accordingly, Defendants propose that fact discovery, if necessary, be commenced only after the Court enters a decision on these motions.

         Am. R. 26(f) Report, at 16. As of this writing, no motion for judgment on the pleadings or summary judgment has been filed. Plaintiff now maintains that the instant Motion moots Defendants' proposed motion for judgment on the pleadings as to the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices ("CUTPA") claim, and demonstrates bad faith on the part of Defendants. See Pl. Br. 11-12. Plaintiff argues that Defendants' proposed motion for judgment on the pleadings "represent[ed] that the pleadings were closed, " casting doubt on the good faith of Defendants in bringing the instant Motion to re-open the pleadings. Id. at 12.

         The Court is not convinced by this line of reasoning, nor by the cases Plaintiff cites to support it. The bare facts do not suggest bad faith by any objective standard. Defendants, by the Amended Rule 26(f) Report, notified Plaintiff and the Court of their intention to file a dispositive motion at a future point in this litigation. After filing the Answer [Doc. 125] and before filing that anticipated dispositive motion, Defendants realized they had omitted affirmative defenses from their pleading, and sought to remedy that ...


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