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Jansson v. Stamford Health, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 30, 2018

SAMANTHA JANSSON, Plaintiff,
v.
STAMFORD HEALTH, INC. d/b/a STAMFORD HOSPITAL, STAMFORD HOSPITAL, STAMFORD ANESTHESIOLOGY SERVICES, P.C., VANTAGEPOINT LLC d/b/a VANTAGEPOINT HEALTHCARE ADVISORS, MICHAEL COADY, SHARON KIELY, SAL MANCINO and THERESA BOWLING, Defendants.

          RULING ON PLAINTIFF'S THIRD MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT [DOC. 150]

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

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Samantha Jansson brings this employment discrimination action, alleging that she was wrongfully terminated by her two former employers, Stamford Hospital (including Stamford Health, Inc., doing business as Stamford Hospital) and Stamford Anesthesiology Services P.C. ("SAS"). The Court has recounted the facts of the case in its previous ruling, familiarity with which is assumed. See Jansson v. Stamford Health, Inc., No. 3:16-CV-260 (CSH), 2017 WL 1289824, at *1-3 (D. Conn. Apr. 5, 2017).

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's third motion to amend the complaint. Doc. 150. Plaintiff's path to this request to amend is convoluted in that, upon entry of the Court's Ruling on her previous motion to amend, she first failed to read the attached Ruling and filed an "Amended Complaint" containing claims and parties the Court had dismissed from the action. As Defendants noted in their Objection to the pending motion, "Plaintiff continued to include each and every one of the Dismissed Counts the Court had ordered removed from the Amended Complaint and also included all of the Dismissed Parties that the Court had ordered removed from the case." Doc. 155, at 5 (citing Doc. 139).

         After Defendants' counsel demanded that Plaintiff stipulate to the dismissal of counts and parties in accordance with the Court's Ruling [Doc. 138], Plaintiff moved for an extension of time until May 12, 2017, to file a new Amended Complaint "in accordance with the Court's Order of April 5, 2017, " due to the fact that "Plaintiff's lead counsel"was not fully aware of the parameters of the Court's Order when the Amended Complaint was filed on April 28, 2017."[1] Doc. 140.

         Responding to Plaintiff's request to extend time, various defendants consented to the extension provided Plaintiff would file an Amended Complaint in compliance with the Court's order - i.e., one that excluded the dismissed counts and parties. See Doc.141, 142, 145. Despite the Court's order in July 2016 that any amended complaint was to be filed "forthwith, " Plaintiff intimated in her reply brief that she believed that she had the right to re-plead various causes of action that the Court had found deficient in her Proposed Amended Complaint. Doc. 143.

         On May 4, 2017, although the Court granted Plaintiff's motion for extension of time, it directed her to file an amended complaint in the form directed by the applicable Ruling. Doc. 146. The Court specifically stated: "As to claims which the Court dismissed, Plaintiff has no permission to replead them at this time. Those counts were dismissed as failing to state viable claims, which were 'futile' pursuant to Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). Absent permission to file a second Amended Complaint, a re-draft of her dismissed claims based on intervening discovery in this action is not permitted." Doc. 146.

         Moreover, "in considering any such motion [to amend], in addition to the possibility of 'futility' of the claims, the Court must assess whether there is 'good cause' for the amendment because such a motion would fall outside the previously set deadlines to amend the Complaint (6/30/2016), pursuant to the Court's [38] Scheduling Order, as expanded for one amendment by [56] Order, granting leave to amend (7/15/2016))." Id. In so ordering, the Court stated that it would examine whether Plaintiff "has demonstrated diligence . . . and whether the amendment would not significantly prejudice [defendants]." Id.

         Two weeks later, on May 12, 2017, Plaintiff filed yet another noncompliant amended complaint [Doc. 149], including the dismissed parties as defendants but setting forth no causes of action. Defendants' counsel then contacted Plaintiff's counsel to advise of Defendants' "intention to move to dismiss the facially invalid Amended Complaint, " which resulted in Plaintiff filing a "Notice of Revised Amended Complaint." Doc. 152, 152-1. That Notice stated that her May 12, 2017 Amended Complaint-filed to "correct" the non-compliant April 28, 2017 Amended Complaint - was inadvertently filed without any causes of action included. Four days later, on May 30, 2017, Plaintiff filed a "Revised" Amended Complaint, " which is now the operative complaint in this action. Doc. 153.

         On May 12, 2017, prior to filing the Revised Amended Complaint, Plaintiff filed the current motion requesting leave to amend her previous, deficient Amended Complaint [Doc. 149], with a seventy-page, fifteen count "Proposed Second Amended Complaint." Doc. 150.

         After more than 15 months of litigation and the Court's sixty-page Ruling delineating which counts failed to state a claim, Plaintiff now seeks to replace the operative Revised Amended Complaint [Doc. 153] with this new pleading. Her "new" claims include the following: retaliation and interference under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2617, against Stamford Hospital (Count Nine); claims for aiding and abetting under the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act ("CFEPA"), Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-60(a)(5), against VantagePoint LLC, Michael Coady, Salvatore Mancino, Theresa Bowling, and Stamford Hospital (Counts Ten to Fourteen); and interference under Title VII against Stamford Hospital (Count Fifteen).[2]

         These additional claims include claims against defendants whom the Court dismissed from the action, directing the Clerk to terminate them upon the filing of a compliant amended complaint. Moreover, these claims encompass claims that were dismissed "for failure to state a claim" in that Ruling as well.[3]

         Needless to say, the manner in which Plaintiff has filed her various amended complaints has led to chaos and confusion among the parties, including which parties will remain in the case and which causes of action will go forward or be necessarily eliminated for failing to state a claim. This Ruling resolves Plaintiff's third motion to amend with finality to end the confusion regarding Plaintiff's claims so that the case may proceed.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Rule 15(a) and the Foman Standard

         A party may only amend its pleading once as a matter of course within 21 days after serving it.[4] Plaintiff's present motion to amend is her "third" such motion and is thus governed by Rule 15(a)(2), Fed. R. Civ. P., which provides that "a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave" and "[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires."[5] Plaintiff's motion to amend is energetically opposed by Defendants so she has no written consent from the opposing parties to amend. She must, therefore, seek the Court's leave.

         In Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962), the United States Supreme Court articulated the relevant standard for a court to determine whether to grant a party's request to amend his or her pleading under Federal Civil Rule 15(a). In particular, the Foman court stated: "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 the amendment, etc. - the leave sought should, as the rules require, be 'freely given.'" 371 U.S. at 182. "Of course, the grant or denial of an opportunity to amend is within the discretion of the District Court, but outright refusal to grant the leave without any justifying reason appearing for the denial is not an exercise of discretion; it is merely abuse of that discretion and inconsistent with the spirit of the Federal Rules." Id.

         The Second Circuit consistently applies Foman in favor of motions to amend. See, e.g., Knife Rights, Inc. v. Vance, 802 F.3d 377, 389 (2d Cir. 2015) (Rule 15(a)(2) "affords district courts considerable discretion to deny amendment when there has been '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, [or] futility of amendment.'") (quoting Foman, 371 U.S. at 182); Kroshnyi v. U.S. Pack Courier Servs., Inc., 771 F.3d 93, 109 (2d Cir. 2014) ("The Federal Rules provide that courts 'should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires'" and "[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 . . . [or] undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment . . . the leave sought should, as the rules require, be 'freely given.'") (quoting Foman, 371 U.S. at 182); Grullon v. City of New Haven, 720 F.3d 133, 139 (2d Cir. 2013) ("When a party requests leave to amend his complaint, permission generally should be freely granted.") (citing Foman, 371 U.S. at 182); Milanese v. Rust-Oleum Corp., 244 F.3d 104, 110 (2d Cir. 2001) ("Leave to file an amended complaint 'shall be freely given when justice so requires, ' Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a), and should not be denied unless there is evidence of undue delay, bad faith, undue prejudice to the non-movant, or futility.").

         B. Undue Prejudice

         As this Court has previously stated, "[i]nstructed 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." Nwachukwu v. Liberty Bank, 257 F.Supp.3d 280, 285 (D.Conn. 2017)

         Applying the Foman standard to Plaintiff's third motion to amend, the Court finds that it must exercise its discretion to determine whether it should review the motion to amend on the merits or deny it in whole cloth to prevent "undue prejudice" to the non-moving parties. Plaintiff has shown no blatant bad faith so the Court assesses the possibility of "undue delay" in filing a third motion to amend.

         Although undue delay in bringing a motion to amend is one of the Foman factors, "[m]ere delay, . . . absent a showing of bad faith or undue prejudice, does not provide a basis for a district court to deny the right to amend." State Teachers Ret. Bd. v. Fluor Corp., 654 F.2d 843, 856 (2d Cir. 1981). See also Richardson Greenshields Sec., Inc. v. Lau, 825 F.2d 647, 653 n.6 (2d Cir. 1987) (collecting cases); Middle Atl. Utils. Co. v. S. M. W. Dev. Corp., 392 F.2d 380, 384 (2d Cir. 1968). "Delay must be considered in context; not all delay will result in denial of a motion to amend." Oneida Indian Nation of New York State v. Cty. of Oneida, N.Y., 199 F.R.D. 61, 74 (N.D.N.Y. 2000).

         "Obviously, '[u]ndue prejudice arises when an amendment comes on the eve of trial and would result in new problems of proof.'" Fresh Del Monte Produce, Inc. v. Del Monte Foods, Inc., 304 F.R.D. 170, 174 (S.D.N.Y. 2014) (quoting Ruotolo v. City of New York, 514 F.3d 184, 192 (2d Cir. 2008)). "Nonetheless, allegations that an amendment will require the expenditure of additional time, effort, or money do not themselves constitute undue prejudice." Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). "[T]he fact that the opposing party will have to undertake additional discovery, 'standing alone, does not suffice to warrant denial of a motion to amend a pleading.'" Christians of California, Inc. v. Clive Christian New York, LLP, No. 13 CIV. 0275 (KBF) (JCF), 2014 WL 3605526, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. July 18, 2014) (quoting United States ex. Rel. Maritime Administration v. Continental Illinois National Bank & Trust Co. of Chicago, 889 F.2d 1248, 1255 (2d Cir.1989)).

         In the case at bar, Plaintiff has represented to the Court that "[f]or approximately the past nine months, the parties have proceeded with discovery on all of the claims alleged in the original complaint and the proposed amended complaint." Doc. 150-1, at 5. She has further stated that "[d]iscovery is ongoing" and the "parties have exchanged documents." Id. It is out of this ongoing discovery that Plaintiff has gathered the additional facts she seeks to insert in her proposed amended complaint to support the additional claims. Plaintiff also states that the "key actors for the institutional clients would be deposed irrespective of their status as individual defendants" so that amendment at this time "will not result in any expansion of discovery." Id.

         No dispositive motion is pending and the parties "are working together to create a proposed amended [Rule] 26(f) scheduling order." Id., at 6. Under these circumstances, Plaintiff suggests that there is no "undue delay" with respect to her proposed amendment.

         The Court must therefore examine "undue prejudice, " as claimed by the Defendants in this action. The Second Circuit has stated:

In determining what constitutes "prejudice, " we consider whether the assertion of the new claim would: (i) require the opponent to expend significant additional resources to conduct discovery and prepare for trial; (ii) significantly delay the resolution of the dispute; or (iii) prevent the plaintiff from bringing a timely action in another jurisdiction.

Block v. First Blood Assocs., 988 F.2d 344, 350 (2d Cir. 1993).

         In the case at bar, the present motion has required Defendants to expend additional resources in opposing Plaintiff's repeated motions to amend; and discovery has been ongoing on all potential claims. The constant skirmishing over which complaint is operative - given the Plaintiff's repeated failure to file a compliant complaint following the Court's prior Ruling, granting in part and denying in part, her second motion to amend - has also drawn out the dispute in this matter.

         Moreover, Plaintiff's third motion to amend was filed almost a year after her first motion to amend [Doc. 48, filed June 29, 2016], two months after the Court last ruled on her second motion to amend [Doc. 138, filed April 5, 2017], and more than two years into these proceedings, which commenced by removal on February 17, 2016. The fact that Plaintiff has been given previous opportunities to amend militates against allowing additional such opportunities.

         On the other hand, Plaintiff has not intentionally repeatedly failed to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed. Her present motion to amend - albeit her third -was filed because she claims she has diligently extracted sufficient facts during discovery to make out her claims. It is on this basis that she attempts to re-insert them in expanded form. Although serial filing of motions to amend may create "undue prejudice" to defendants in certain circumstances, this case remains in the discovery phase and the parties are now in the process of deciding what case deadlines they will propose in a joint Rule 26(f) Report.[6]

         Upon due consideration of the facts presented regarding "undue prejudice, " the Court finds that it is in the interests of justice to consider the motion on its merits. The fact that Defendants may have to undertake additional discovery is not sufficient to constitute "undue prejudice" and deny consideration of this motion to amend where Plaintiff has obtained new facts during discovery which give rise to her proposed amendments. Moreover, discovery is not completed and there have been no summary judgment motions filed. See, e.g., State Teachers Ret. Bd. v. Fluor Corp., 654 F.2d 843, 855-56 (2d Cir. 1981) (three-year delay did not bar amendment where no trial date had been set and no motion for summary judgment had been filed by defendants); Olaf Soot Design, LLC v. Daktronics, Inc., No. 15 CIV. 5024 (RWS), 2017 WL 4861994, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 26, 2017) ("Courts are more likely 'to find prejudice where the parties have already completed discovery and the defendant has moved for summary judgment.'") (quoting Werking v. Andrews, 526 Fed.Appx. 94, 96 (2d Cir. 2013)). This is clearly not a case "on the eve of trial, " where Defendants might face problems of proof. See, e.g., Bradick v. Israel, 377 F.3d 262, 263 (2d Cir. 1967) (per curiam), cert. denied, 389 U.S. 858 (1967).

         However, due to the previous procedural chaos regarding Plaintiff's filings, the Court takes the following measure to prevent further delay. In the interest of justice, in resolving Plaintiff's present motion, the Court states definitively that the period to amend will close with this Ruling. In so holding, the Court wishes to prevent unlimited attempts by Plaintiff to amend, multiple rounds of briefing regarding amendment, protracted initial stages of this litigation, and confusion as to the relevant issues for discovery. Upon conclusion of this Ruling, with input from the parties, the Court will establish firm, viable case deadlines for the remainder of this matter.

         Exercising leniency as to this final request to amend, the Court will now review Plaintiff's added factual allegations in the complaint to determine whether they actually clarify and sufficiently enhance her claims or whether the new claims are futile, or subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim.

         C. Potential Futility

         With respect to futility, "[w]here it appears that granting leave to amend is unlikely to be productive, . . . it is not an abuse of discretion to deny leave to amend." Ruffolo v. Oppenheimer & Co., 987 F.2d 129, 131 (2d Cir. 1993) (citing Foman, 371 U.S. at 182). See also Health-Chem Corp. v. Baker, 915 F.2d 805, 810 (2d Cir. 1990) ("[W]here . . . there is no merit in the proposed amendments, leave to amend should be denied."); Albany Ins. Co. v. Esses, 831 F.2d 41, 45 (2d Cir. 1987) ("[T]he district court may deny leave to replead if the proposed amendments would be futile.").

         In general, leave to amend must be freely given. However, denial is proper where the proposed amendment would be "futile, " Foman, 371 U.S. at 182, so that the amended pleading fails to state a claim or would be subject to dismissal on some other basis, , Lucente v. Int'l Bus. Machines Corp., 310 F.3d 243, 258 (2d Cir. 2002). See also Donovan v. Am. Skandia Life Assur. Corp., 217 F.R.D. 325, 325 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) ("Where a proposed amended complaint cannot itself survive a motion to dismiss, leave to amend would be futile and may clearly be denied."), aff'd, 96 Fed.Appx. 779 (2d Cir. 2004); Bentley v. Greensky Trade Credit, LLC, No. 3:14-CV-1157 (VAB), 2015 WL 9581730, at *2 (D.Conn. Dec. 30, 2015) ("[A] Court may deny leave to amend if the proposed amendment would be futile because it fails to state a claim that would survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)."), reconsideration denied sub nom., Bentley v. Tri State of Branford, LLC, No. 3:14-CV-1157 (VAB), 2016 WL 2626805 (D. Conn. May 6, 2016). See also Faryniarz v. Ramirez, 62 F.Supp.3d 240, 249 (D.Conn. Dec. 1, 2014) (collecting cases).[7]

         A claim is futile if it lacks the facts necessary to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In deciding whether to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a court must "take[ ] factual allegations [in the complaint] to be true and draw[ ] all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 71 (2d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). Although a complaint need not contain "detailed factual allegations, " it must contain "more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         Put simply, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Rather, the plaintiff's complaint must include "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. "A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim is context-specific, requiring the reviewing court to draw on its experience and common sense." Id. at 663-64 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         D. Plaintiff's Proposed "New" Claims

         In assessing Plaintiff's proposed claims for potential futility, the Court has previously examined these claims, which now contain additional and newly designated paragraphs of factual allegations. The Court reviews these claims to determine whether, with the additional facts presented, they state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. "[O]nly a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id.

         1.Count Nine - Violation of FMLA - Retaliation - Stamford Hospital

         a. St ...


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