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Mincy v. Chmielewski

July 17, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Christopher C. Conner United States District Judge

(Judge Conner)


Presently ripe for disposition are the following motions filed by plaintiff Hilton Mincy ("Mincy"): motion to amend complaint (Doc. 98); motion to consolidate trial (Doc. 98); and motion to amend the discovery deadline order and to clarify the discovery order (Doc. 109). For the reasons set forth below, the motions to amend the complaint, to consolidate, and to amend the discovery deadline order will be denied. The motion to clarify will be granted.

I. Motion to Amend Complaint

Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides this court with discretion to grant or deny leave to amend a pleading. Zenith Radio Corp. v. Hazeltine Research, Inc., 401 U.S. 321, 330 (1971). The rule, however, advises that "leave shall be freely given when justice so requires," FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a), and, in general, courts liberally permit parties to amend their pleadings. See Boileau v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 730 F.2d 929, 938 (3d Cir. 1984); Cornell & Co. v. Occupational Safety & Health Review Comm'n, 573 F.2d 820, 823 (3d Cir. 1978).

Despite this general liberality, the Supreme Court has enumerated specific factors that may justify the denial of leave to amend. See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). These factors include "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, [and] futility of amendment." Id. at 182; see also Bailey v. United Airlines, 279 F.3d 194 (3d Cir. 2002). A denial of leave to amend where none of these factors are present is an abuse of discretion. Alvin v. Suzuki, 227 F.3d 107, 121 (3d Cir. 2000). "It is well-settled that prejudice to the non-moving party is the touchstone for the denial of an amendment." Cornell & Co., 573 F.2d at 823.

Plaintiff seeks to amend to "conform the Complaint to the discovery and to clarify the specific causes of action with regard to the federal constitutional violations." (Doc. 98, p. 2). He represents that there is no prejudice to defendants because he discussed the possibility of amending the complaint with defense counsel as early as December 2005. He also represents that the Third Amended Complaint is attached to his motion.

Defendants respond by stating that "[t]he amended complaint filed by this inmate adequately describes the facts and the legal bases for his claim" and that leave is appropriate when a party is seeking to conform a pleading to evidence, not discovery. (Doc. 102, pp. 4-6). Further, more than six months have passed since counsel indicated that he was considering amending the complaint, the parties have engaged in extensive discovery in both this case and the companion case of Mincy v. Klem, 1:05-CV-1458, and, with a limited exception, discovery in this case is closed. In addition, dispositive motions have been filed in both cases. Defendants also argue that an amendment is unnecessary based on Mincy's concession that the facts and claims he seeks to set forth in the proposed amendment are the same as those set forth in the prior complaints. Defendants admit that they are unable to determine whether there are any new legal theories because Mincy, despite his representation to the contrary, failed to file a proposed amended complaint. However, they argue that if there are, in fact, new theories presented, then the proposed amendment is prejudicial on its face.

The court finds defendants' arguments persuasive and, for the reasons advanced by defendants, will deny leave to amend.

II. Motion to Consolidate Trial

Rule 42(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides the following:

When actions involving a common question of law or fact are pending before the court, it may order a joint hearing or trial of any or all the matters in issue in the actions; it may order all the actions consolidated; and it may make such orders concerning proceedings therein as may tend to avoid unnecessary costs or delay.

In determining whether to consolidate, the court must balance the savings of time and effort gained through consolidation against the prejudice, inconvenience, or expense that it might cause. See Bernardi v. City of Scranton, 101 F.R.D. 411, 413 (M.D. Pa. 1983).

Review of the complaints filed in this action and Mincy v. Klem, 1:05-CV-1458, reveals that they do not involve common questions of law. The claims raised in Mincy v. Klem are based on the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, Pennsylvania Constitution and tort laws. The claims raised in ...

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