United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
November 18, 2005.
JILL CELLI, Plaintiff,
NORTHEASTERN EDUCATIONAL. INTERMEDIATE UNIT 19, et. al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. CAPUTO, District Judge
Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to
File Amended Complaint (Doc. 51). For the reasons set forth
below, the motion will be granted.
On October 14, 2004, Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging
violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 through the infringement of her
First Amendment rights, civil conspiracy, violations of the
Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law, defamation, and intentional
infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. 1.) On December 14, 2004,
Defendants School District of Abington Heights, David Arnold,
Ed.D., Mariellen Sluko, Mary Alice Bartz, and Barbara Urnoskie
filed a Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 16.) On August 17, 2005, the
Court granted the Motion to Dismiss, in part, and denied the
Motion in part. (Doc. 50.) The Court dismissed Plaintiff's
section 1983 claim against Defendant Urnoski, Plaintiff's
conspiracy claim, and Plaintiff's claim for intentional
infliction of emotional distress. Id. In September, 2005,
Plaintiff resigned from her position at Northeastern Educational
Intermediate Unit. On September 26, 2005, Plaintiff filed the
present Motion for leave to file an amended complaint. (Doc. 51.) Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint
includes more in depth allegations of civil conspiracy and a
claim for constructive discharge. Id. Defendants filed a Brief
in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion. (Doc. 56.) This matter is
fully briefed and ripe for disposition.
Under Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "a
party may amend the party's pleadings . . . by leave of court . . .
and leave shall be freely given when justice so requires." FED.
R. CIV. P. 15(a). While Rule 15 liberally allows leave to amend
be "freely given," district courts have the discretion to deny a
motion for leave to amend where it is apparent from the record
that: (1) there is undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive; (2)
the amendment would be futile; or (3) the amendment would
prejudice the other party. See Lake v. Arnold, 232 F.3d 360,
373 (3d Cir. 2000).
It is within the sound discretion of the trial court to
determine whether a party shall have leave to amend pleadings out
of time. See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Heyl &
Patterson Int'l, Inc. v. F.D. Rich Housing, 663 F.2d 419, 425
(3d Cir. 1981). However, "[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 the allowance of the amendment,
futility of the amendment, etc. the leave sought should, as the
rules require, be `freely given.'" Foman, 371 U.S. at 182.
In the Third Circuit, the touchstone for the denial of leave to
amend is undue prejudice to the non-moving party. See Heyl,
663 F.2d at 425; Cornell & Co., Inc. v. OSHRC, 573 F.2d 820, 823 (1978). Merely claiming prejudice,
however, is not enough to prevent the leave from being granted.
See Heyl, 663 F.2d at 426. The non-moving party "must show that
it was unfairly disadvantaged or deprived of the opportunity to
present facts or evidence which it would have offered had the
[moving party's] amendments been timely." Id. When the motion
for leave to amend is made before trial begins, prejudice vel
non generally turns on whether the non-moving party would be
able, without undue burden, to conduct any additional discovery
necessitated by the amendment. See, e.g., Dole v. Arco Chemical
Co., 921 F.2d 484, 488 (3d Cir. 1990) (possibility that some
additional discovery would be required was not unduly
In opposing Plaintiff's motion, Defendants argue undue delay by
Plaintiff in requesting leave to file an amended complaint.
Specifically, Defendants argue that Plaintiff received notice
that her Complaint was deficient through the Court's Order of
August 17, 2005, but no action was taken to correct the Complaint
until over a month later. I do not agree that this alone
constitutes undue delay.
The actions and events leading to Plaintiff's amended complaint
include the Court's Order of August 17, 2005 and Plaintiff's
resignation in September, 2005. Both parties acknowledge that
discovery in the case is still necessary and ongoing, summary
judgment has not been filed or decided, the case has not gone to
trial, and this is Plaintiff's first amendment to the Complaint.
Considering the status of the case, I do not find a month delay
in the filing of Plaintiff's motion to amend to constitute undue
delay. Therefore, Defendants must demonstrate undue prejudice in
order for Plaintiff's Motion to be denied. Defendants have failed to demonstrate undue prejudice.
Defendants argue that significant discovery has already taken
place in the case and the "additional cost that Defendants will
have to spend to respond to the new pleading, along with
additional discovery costs and preparation to defend the new
cause of action, will be substantial and will cause undue
hardship and prejudice to Defendants." (Doc. 56 at 3.) I find
that the additional discovery required of Defendants does not
rise to the level of undue prejudice. As I stated previously,
both parties acknowledge that discovery in the case is still
necessary and ongoing, summary judgment has not been filed or
decided, the case has not gone to trial, and this is Plaintiff's
first amendment to the Complaint. In addition, both Plaintiff's
reinstated conspiracy claim and her new constructive discharge
claim are significantly related to Plaintiff's initial causes of
action and theories of recovery. Discovery related to these
claims, at this stage of the proceedings, will not amount to
undue prejudice for Defendants. Therefore, Plaintiff's Motion for
Leave to File Amended Complaint (Doc. 51) will be granted.
An appropriate Order follows. ORDER
NOW, this 18th day of November, 2005, IT IS HEREBY
ORDERED that: Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Amended
Complaint (Doc. 51) is GRANTED.
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