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Evarts v. Quinnipiac University

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 10, 2017

ELLSWORTH EVARTS, Plaintiff,
v.
QUINNIPIAC UNIVERSITY, Defendants.

          RULING ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE AMENDED ANSWER [DOC. 25]

          CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Ellsworth Evans commenced this civil action against Defendant Quinnipiac University ("Quinnipiac') alleging that it discriminated against him on the basis of his disability in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq., and the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601, et seq. In particular, Plaintiff alleged in his complaint that from January 24, 2014, to June 28, 2014, Quinnipiac failed to "afford reasonable accomodation [sic]" after he had surgery, "sent [him] home, " and "refused to [allow him] to return to work even after [his] surgeon released [him] for duty." Doc. 1, ¶¶ 7, 9. Plaintiff further asserted that Quinnipiac "insisted [his] FMLA [benefits] had expired."[1] Id. In his prayer for relief, Plaintiff requested backpay and other monetary damages, including "retirement benefits." Id., at 4-5. He also demanded a jury trial. Id., at 5.

         Pending before the Court is Defendant's motion for leave to amend its Answer to "assert a Seventh Defense alleging that, to the extent plaintiff is entitled to back pay, defendant is entitled to an offset in an amount equal to the wage replacements plaintiff received from defendant or any other sources for the time period starting with his putative medical release to return to work, with restrictions, following an extended leave of absence and continuing until his reinstatement." Doc. 25, at 2. The Court resolves that motion herein.

         II. DISCUSSION

         "A district court has broad discretion to decide whether to grant leave to amend, " so that the Second Circuit reviews such a decision only "for an abuse of discretion." Copeland ex rel. NBTY, Inc. v. Rudolph, 160 Fed.Appx. 56, 58 (2d Cir. 2005) (quoting In re Tamoxifen Citrate Antitrust Litig., 429 F.3d 370, 404 (2d Cir. 2005)). Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), the district court "should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires."[2] Moreover, pursuant to the seminal standard set forth by the United States Supreme Court in Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962), "[i]n 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 should, as the rules require, be 'freely given.'"

         "The general rule in federal courts is that a failure to plead an affirmative defense results in a waiver." Odyssey Reinsurance Co. v. Cal-Regent Ins. Servs. Corp., 123 F.Supp.3d 343, 356 (D.Conn. 2015) (quoting Travellers Int'l, A.G. v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 41 F.3d 1570, 1580 (2d Cir. 1994)). See also generally 5 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1278 (3d ed. 2015) ("It is a frequently stated proposition of virtually universal acceptance by the federal courts that a failure to plead an affirmative defense as required by Federal Rule 8(c) results in the waiver of that defense and its exclusion from the case[.]"). With respect to a set-off in particular, "iirrespective of whether a setoff claim is properly characterized as an affirmative defense, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(c), or a compulsory or permissive counterclaim, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 13, it must be set forth in the pleadings to provide a basis for relief . . . ." Arch Ins. Co. v. Precision Stone, Inc., 584 F.3d 33, 42 (2d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). The present motion to amend to add an affirmative defense is thus necessary to assert the defense at issue.

         Examining the Foman factors, the proposed amendment has been presented in a timely fashion and in good faith, upon the emergence of relevant facts during discovery at the Plaintiff's recent deposition. Doc. 25, at 2. There is no indication of "undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, " Foman, 371 U.S. at 182. This is Defendant's first request to amend its Answer, which eliminates the possibility of any "repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, " id. Defendant's counsel has represented that she "has inquired of plaintiff's counsel and he has no objection to this motion" to amend. Doc. 25, at 3. Absent objection by Plaintiff, no basis has been presented upon which the Court may find "undue prejudice" to Plaintiff "by virtue of allowance of the amendment, " Foman, 371 U.S. at 182. Although the amendment has been sought after the close of discovery, the facts relevant to the amendment (i.e., what payments he may have received to defray his damages) are within Plaintiff's knowledge. Furthermore, there will be no delay in the case proceedings because Defendant represents that it "is already in the process of gathering the information necessary for evaluating the defense, having deposed plaintiff and served the discovery requests regarding plaintiff's damages claim on August 8, 2017." Doc. 25, at 3.

         As to timing of amendments, the Second Circuit has held that leave to amend to add affirmative defenses may be granted even at the time of summary judgment. See Estate of Hamilton v. City of New York, 627 F.3d 50, 58 (2d Cir. 2010) ("[A] district court may still entertain affirmative defenses at the summary judgment stage in the absence of undue prejudice to the plaintiff, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the defendant, futility, or undue delay of the proceedings.") (quoting Saks v. Franklin Covey Co., 316 F.3d 337, 350 (2d Cir. 2003)). Therefore, although the proposed amendment is sought at the close of discovery, the facts giving rise to amendment were revealed near that close so that the request is reasonable under the circumstances.

         Finally, the Court examines whether the amendment is "futile." In the case at bar, the proposed amendment, captioned "Seventh Defense, " states as follows:

To the extent plaintiff is entitled to back pay for the period he was absent from work after allegedly being released to return to work by his physician(s) (and defendant expressly denies plaintiff enjoys any such entitlement) defendant is entitled to an offset of damages in an amount equal to the wage replacements plaintiff received from defendant or any other sources in connection with the same absence.

Doc. 25-1 (Proposed Amended Answer), at 4.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 8(c) requires that, "[i]n responding to a pleading, a party must affirmatively state any avoidance or affirmative defense, " including, inter alia, "payment." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(c)(1). "An affirmative defense is defined as '[a] defendant's assertion raising new facts and arguments that, if true, will defeat the plaintiff's or prosecution's claim, even if all allegations in the complaint are true.'" Saks v. Franklin Covey Co., 316 F.3d 337, 350 (2d Cir. 2003) (quoting Black's Law Dictionary 430 (7th ed.1999)). A setoff of an amount in damages may reduce, if not negate, an award of damages in the event the plaintiff wins the case.

         In general, "[a] prevailing plaintiff in an employment discrimination action has a duty to mitigate his damages by exercising reasonable diligence in seeking substitute employment that is substantially similar to his former employment or risk having the amount of any damages awarded reduced by the amount that could have been earned." Greenway v. Buffalo Hilton Hotel, 951 F.Supp. 1039, 1059 (W.D.N.Y. 1997), aff'd as modified, ...


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