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Patrick B., A Minor, By and Through His Parent, Keshia B., of v. the Paradise Protectory and Agricultural

March 30, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Sylvia H. Rambo


Following this court's dismissal of Plaintiff's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction as a result of Plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed three motions: (1) a motion to alter or amend judgment (Doc. 31), (2) a motion for leave to file an amended complaint (Doc. 33), and (3) a motion to supplement the record (Doc. 37). The motions are ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the court will grant all three motions.

I. Background

Plaintiff filed his original complaint on May 13, 2011. (Doc. 1.) In the original complaint, Plaintiff, Patrick B., a minor child, by and through his parent, Keshia B., sought monetary damages, declaratory relief, and reasonable attorneys' fees and costs under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("Section 504"), 29 U.S.C. § 794, the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq., and Pennsylvania law. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 1, 54-62.) On September 6, 2011, Defendant Lincoln Intermediate Unit ("LIU") filed a motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). (Doc. 18.) On September 9, 2011, Defendants Paradise Protectory and Agricultural School, Inc.; Paradise School for Boys; Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Inc.; and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg ("Paradise Defendants") filed a motion to dismiss, joining in LIU's motion and also moving to dismiss the ADA claims because Paradise Defendants are not "public entities" within the meaning of the ADA. (Doc. 20.) In its response, Plaintiff conceded that Paradise Defendants are not public entities under the ADA and therefore did not oppose dismissal of the ADA claim against Paradise Defendants on those grounds.

On November 10, 2011, the court issued its Memorandum and Order dismissing the complaint against all Defendants for lack of jurisdiction, finding that Plaintiff was required to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing the complaint, and failed to do so. The court explained:

[P]laintiff here is seeking not only compensatory damages, but also declarative relief and attorney's fees. Case law is clear that various forms of equitable relief, including the issuance of a declaratory judgment, can be obtained through the IDEA's administrative proceedings. Hesling II, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65450, at * 3-4; Hesling v. Avon Grove Sch. Dist. ("Hesling I"), 428 F. Supp. 2d 262, 273 (E.D. Pa. 2006). Likewise, the IDEA provides that "in any action or proceeding brought under this section, the court, in its discretion, may award reasonable attorneys' fees as part of the costs -- (I) to the prevailing party who is the parent of a child with a disability." 20 U.S.C. § 1415 (i)(3)(B)(i)(I). Thus, because some of the relief sought by Plaintiff is available from an administrative proceeding, exhaustion is required.

Patrick B. v. The Paradise Protectory and Agric. Sch., Inc., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130297, *12-13 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 10, 2011).

On December 7, 2011, Plaintiff filed a motion to alter or amend judgment and brief in support (Docs. 31 & 32) and a motion for leave to file an amended complaint and brief in support (Docs. 33 & 34). On December 23, 2011, Plaintiff also filed a motion to supplement the record and brief in support (Docs. 37 & 38). On January 9, 2012, Defendant LIU filed a brief in opposition (Doc. 39) in which Paradise Defendants joined (Doc. 40). Finally, on January 20, 2012, Plaintiff filed a reply brief. (Doc. 41). Thus, the motions are ripe for disposition. The court will address each motion in turn.

II. Legal Standard

A motion to alter or amend a judgment (hereinafter, referred to interchangeably as a "motion for reconsideration") is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), which allows a party to move to alter or amend a judgment within twenty-eight (28) days of its entry. Baker v. United States, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 2816, *7-8, n.5 (3d Cir. Feb. 13, 2012). "The purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence." Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985). "Accordingly, a judgment may be altered or amended if the party seeking reconsideration shows at least one of the following grounds: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court [issued its judgment]; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice." Max's Seafood Cafe, ex rel. Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing North River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995)).

These three narrow allowances are the only permissible grounds for a motion to reconsider. "A motion for reconsideration is not to be used as a means to reargue matters already argued and disposed of or as an attempt to relitigate a point of disagreement between the Court and the litigant." Ogden v. Keystone Residence, 226 F. Supp. 2d 588, 606 (M.D. Pa. 2002) (internal quotations omitted). Likewise, reconsideration motions may not be used to raise new arguments or present evidence that could have been raised prior to the entry of judgment. McDowell Oil Serv. Inc. v. Interstate Fire and Cas. Co., 817 F. Supp. 538, 541 (M.D. Pa. 1993). "Reconsideration of judgment is an extraordinary remedy, [and] such motions are to be granted sparingly." D'Angio v. Borough of Nescopeck, 56 F. Supp. 2d 502, 504 (M.D. Pa. 1999).

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), a party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course twenty-one days after serving it and twenty-one days after the filing of a responsive pleading or twenty-one days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f), whichever is earlier. Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a). Otherwise, a party may amend its pleading only with opposing party's consent or the court's leave. "The court should freely give leave when justice so requires." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). Whether to grant or deny the motion is within the district court's discretion. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). A court may deny a motion for leave to amend if "(1) the moving party has demonstrated undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motives, (2) the amendment would be futile, or (3) the amendment would prejudice the other party." Fraser v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 352 F.3d 107, 116 (3d Cir. 2003). Mere delay will not warrant the denial of a motion for leave to amend "absent a concomitant showing of undue prejudice or bad faith." Zygmuntowicz v. Hospitality Invs., Inc., 151 F.R.D. 53, 55 (E.D. Pa. 1993).

Prejudice has been defined as "undue difficulty in prosecuting a position as a result of a change in tactics or theories." Id. "Amendment of the complaint is futile if the amendment would not cure the deficiency in the original complaint or if the amended complaint cannot withstand a motion to dismiss." Massarsky v. Gen. Motors Corp., 706 F.2d 111, 125 (3d Cir. 1983).

In sum, when considering a motion for leave to amend, the court must weigh the prejudice to the non-moving party against the harm to the movant if leave is not granted. 3 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice ยง 15.15. The court should also consider judicial economy and the impact an ...

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