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Ramos v. Town of East Hartford

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 11, 2019

WILSON RAMOS, As Administrator of The Estate of Jose A. Maldonado, and Individually, Plaintiffs,
v.
TOWN OF EAST HARTFORD et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT [DKT. 105]

          VANESSA L. BRYANT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Wilson Ramos (“Ramos”), as administrator of the Estate of Jose A. Maldonado, and individually, initiated this action against the Town of East Hartford and Officers Jason Kaplan, James Lis, Jason Cohen, and Chief Scott Sansom (collectively, “Defendants”), for various state and federal claims stemming from an incident with Defendants on April 13, 2014 which resulted in the death of Ramos's brother, Jose Maldonado. On May 30, 2018, Plaintiffs moved for leave to file a second amended complaint. See Dkt. 105 [Pls.'s Mot. for Leave to File Second Am. Compl.]. Plaintiffs claim that the proposed second amended complaint merely amplifies their existing claims with facts learned in discovery. Defendants argue that Plaintiffs have not shown good cause to amend the complaint and any amendment would substantially prejudice them.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiffs move to amend two paragraphs of the first amended complaint.[1] Plaintiffs' first suggested change is set forth in full below with the proposed new language underlined (“Paragraph 42”):

42. Defendant officers were indifferent to the risk of death their use of force had caused Maldonado, and to their obligation to provide immediate medical assistance to preserve his life. They failed to assess his condition immediately in the aftermath of the taser discharge into his chest and the blunt trauma to his head (a) to learn that he was unconscious and in need of immediate medical assistance, or (b) to render life-saving assistance such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or the available automated external defibrillator (AED) prior to the arrival of emergency medical responders. They failed to summon emergency medical assistance for more than seven minutes, during which period Maldonado was dying from a sudden cardiac arrest.

         Plaintiffs' second suggested change is the addition of the following new paragraph which is set forth in full below (“Paragraph 54”):

54. Notwithstanding the known risk to life posed by firing a taser into the anterior chest, East Hartford police officers did so 16 times during 2014 and 2015. On no occasion did any superior officer object to that improper and dangerous practice, and none of the officers responsible were disciplined, counseled, or singled out for retraining. Among those incidents during that two-year period, four officers, including defendant Kaplan, were responsible for firing the taser into a civilian's chest in multiple separate incidents. In the 16 incidents, East Hartford police officers targeted black and Hispanic civilians 14 times and white civilians 2 times. Defendant East Hartford authorized, condoned, and ratified the excessive, life-threatening, and unlawful use of the taser weapon by its police officers in a manner that cost the life of Jose Maldonado and placed at risk the lives of many other individuals.

         II. Procedural History

         On February 2, 2016, Plaintiffs filed their initial complaint. On March 30, 2016, the Court adopted the parties' Rule 26(f) report which set May 2, 2016 as the deadline for amending the complaint. See Dkt. 10. On February 25, 2017, Plaintiffs moved to extend the discovery deadlines, but they did not request an additional opportunity to amend the complaint. See Dkt. 44 [Mot. Upon Consent to Modify Scheduling Order]. On March 8, 2017, the Court dismissed the case without prejudice pending a decision by the State's Attorney whether to prosecute any of the involved officers. See Dkt. 47 [Order Dismissing Case]. Plaintiffs filed a motion to reopen on June 28, 2017. See Dkt. 49 [Mot. to Reopen Case]. The Court granted the motion and issued a new scheduling order. See Dkts. 51, 53. The scheduling order did not include a new deadline for amending the complaint. See Dkt. 53. Both parties completed fact discovery by March 14, 2018 and expert discovery by August 29, 2018. See Dkt. 100 [Mot. On Consent for Enlargement of Time]. On May 30, 2018, Plaintiffs filed the instant motion for leave to file a second amended complaint.

         III. Standard of Review

         Leave to amend a complaint after a responsive pleading has been filed should be “freely” given “when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). Courts should grant applications to amend unless there is good reason to deny the motion such as “futility, bad faith, undue delay, or undue prejudice to the opposing party.” Min Jin v. Metro Life Ins. Co., 310 F.3d 184, 101 (2d Cir. 2002). However, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16 applies in cases such as this where a party seeks to modify an existing scheduling order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 16; see also Parker v. Columbia Pictures Indus., 204 F.3d 326, 340 (2d Cir. 2000) (“[D]espite the lenient standard of Rule 15(a), a district court does not abuse its discretion in denying leave to amend the pleadings after the deadline set in the scheduling order where the moving party has failed to establish good cause.”). Rule 16(b)(4) provides that a district court's scheduling order “may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b).

         The more onerous “good cause” standard applies where a scheduling order sets a deadline for amending a complaint. See Parker, 204 F.3d at 339-40; see also Grochowski v. Phoenix Constr., 318 F.3d 80, 86 (2d Cir. 2003); see also Lincoln v. Potter, 418 F.Supp.2d 8443, 453 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) (“When a party moves to amend the pleadings after the deadline to do so in the court's scheduling order has passed, he must satisfy the good cause requirement of Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b) . . .”). “‘Good cause' requires a greater showing than ‘excusable neglect.' At a minimum, good cause requires a showing by the moving party of an objectively sufficient reason for extending a deadline such that the deadlines cannot reasonably be met despite the diligence of the party needing the extension. The inquiry focuses on the moving party's reason for requesting the extension.” Pyke v. Cuomo, No. 92CV554(NPM/DRH), 2004 WL 1083244, at *2 (N.D.N.Y. May 12, 2004) (internal citations omitted). The Second Circuit has emphasized that “the primary consideration” in determining whether good cause has been shown “is whether the moving party can demonstrate diligence.” Kassner v. 2nd Ave. Delicatessen Inc., 496 F.3d 229, 244 (2d Cir. 2007).

         If the Court finds that Plaintiffs have satisfied the good cause standard set forth in Rule 16(b), it must then consider whether the amended complaint survives scrutiny under Rule 15. Under Rule 15(a), “[t]he court should freely give leave [to amend pleadings] when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). The Supreme Court has instructed that leave to amend should be granted “absent 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, or futility of the amendment[.]” Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).

         The Second Circuit has “referred to the prejudice to the opposing party resulting from a proposed amendment as among the ‘most important' reasons to deny leave to amend.” AEP Energy Servs. Gas Holding Co. v. Bank of Am. N.A., 626 F.3d 699, 725 (2d Cir. 2010) (citation omitted); see also State Teachers Ret. Bd. v. Fluor Corp., 654 F.2d 843, 856 (2d Cir. 1981). An “[a]mendment may be prejudicial when, among other things, it would require the opponent to expend significant additional resources to conduct discovery and prepare ...


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