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Vernon v. Custer

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

April 15, 2014

CHARLES CUSTER, et al., Defendant


MARTIN C. CARLSON, Magistrate Judge.

I. Introduction

Tyrik Vernon is an inmate in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Greene, in Western Pennsylvania. In this action, Vernon has endeavored to bring claims against a number of supervisory officials within the Department of Corrections, as well as a number of employees at SCI-Coal Township, where Vernon was housed before his transfer to SCI-Greene in the spring of 2013.

Vernon has filed three separate amended complaints which attempted to bring claims against the defendants at SCI Coal Township for alleged violations of his right to procedural due process in connection with certain disciplinary proceedings that were brought against him in 2012. In addition, Vernon has claimed that the defendants retaliated against him for engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment. Finally, Vernon has alleged that some of the defendants at Coal Township committed intentional torts against him in violation of federal law, in connection with his disciplinary proceedings.

To date, Vernon's efforts to articulate claims upon which relief may be granted against the SCI Coal Township defendants have been consistently unavailing. Thus, we have dismissed Vernon's prior complaints against these defendants, but have permitted Vernon one final opportunity to state a claim against these defendants. Undeterred by his failure to state a claim in this case against any of the defendants are alleged to have taken actions against Vernon while at SCI Coal Township, Vernon has now moved to supplement his complaint to add allegations against defendants at SCI Greene, a correctional facility located in the jurisdiction of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 37.) The defendants have opposed this motion arguing that this Court should not allow Vernon to add claims against state officials in Western Pennsylvania which could not otherwise be properly brought in this Court to his complaint. (Doc. 41.) This motion is fully briefed by the parties, (Docs. 41 and 45.), and is ripe for resolution. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be denied.

II. Discussion

Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs amendments and supplementation of pleadings. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15. Rule 15(a) authorizes a party to amend his pleading once as a matter of course within 21 days after serving it, or if the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is required, 21 days after service of the responsive pleading, or 21 days after service of a dispositive motion under Rule 12, whichever is earlier. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1)(A) and (B). "In all other cases, a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent, or the court's leave, " which courts are to freely give "when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Consistent with this policy, leave to amend rests in the discretion of the court and may, which justice so requires, be denied if the court finds "undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of the allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, etc." Foman v. Davis , 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); see also Oran v. Stafford , 226 F.3d 275, 291 (3d Cir. 2000).

Rule 15(d), in turn, governs the submission of supplemental pleadings. That rule provides that upon the motion of a party, "the court may, on just terms, permit a party to serve a supplemental pleading setting out any transaction, occurrence, or event that happened after the date of the pleading to be supplemented." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(d). A supplemental complaint thus "refers to events that occurred after the original pleading was filed" whereas an amendment to a complaint "covers matters that occurred before the filing of the original pleading but were overlooked at the time." Owens-Illinois, Inc. v. Lake Shore Land Co. , 610 F.2d 1185, 1188-89 (3d Cir. 1979); see also Moore's Federal Practice 3d ยง 15.30 ("Rule 15(d) applies only to events that have occurred since the date of the filing of the pleading."). Thus, the purpose of the rule "is to promote as complete an adjudication of the dispute between the parties as possible by allowing the addition of claims which arise after the initial pleadings are filed." Carl Zeiss Meditec v. Xoft, Inc., C.A. No. 10-308-LPS/MPT, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36785, * 4 (D. Del. April 5, 2011) (citation omitted).

"The standard under Rule 15(d) is essentially the same' as that under Rule 15(a), and leave to supplement should be granted unless it causes undue delay or undue prejudice." Micron Tech. v. Rambus, Inc. , 409 F.Supp.2d 552, 558 (D. Del. 2006) (citing Medeva Pharma Ltd. v. Am. Home Prods. Corp. , 201 F.R.D. 103, 104 n.3 (D. Del. 2001)). Application of Rule 15(d) in a given case is committed to the Court's broad discretion. Intel Corp. v. Amberwave Sys. Corp. , 233 F.R.D. 416, 418 (D. Del. 2005). "The decision of whether to permit a supplemental pleading is within this Court's discretion. See Owens-Illinois, Inc. v. Lake Shore Land Co. , 610 F.2d 1185, 1188-89 (3d Cir.1979); see also Burns v. Exxon Corp. , 158 F.3d 336, 344 (5th Cir.1998) (holding that district court did not abuse its discretion in denying leave to file supplemental complaint.)" Hassoun v. Cimmino 126 F.Supp.2d 353 , 360-361 (D.N.J.2000). Therefore, decisions regarding motions to amend or supplement pleadings rest in the sound discretion of the district court and will not be disturbed absent a abuse of that discretion. See e.g., Bjorgung v. Whitetail Resort, LP , 550 F.3d 263 (3d Cir. 2008); Cureton v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n. , 252 F.3d 267 (3d Cir. 2001).

That discretion, however, is governed by certain basic principles, principles that are embodied in Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In this regard, while Rule 15 provides that leave to amend should be freely given when justice so requires, the district court still retains broad discretion to deny a motion to amend, Bjorgung v. Whitetail Resort, LP , 550 F.3d 263 (3d Cir. 2008); Cureton v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n. , 252 F.3d 267 (3d Cir. 2001), and may deny a request:

if the plaintiff's delay in seeking to amend is undue, motivated by bad faith, or prejudicial to the opposing party. Adams, 739 F.2d at 864. Delay becomes "undue, " and thereby creates grounds for the district court to refuse leave, when it places an unwarranted burden on the court or when the plaintiff has had previous opportunities to amend. Cureton , 252 F.3d at 273 (citing Adams, 739 F.2d at 868; Lorenz v. CSX Corp. , 1 F.3d 1406, 1414 (3d Cir.1993)). Thus, our review of the question of undue delay... will "focus on the movant's reasons for not amending sooner, " Cureton , 252 F.3d at 273, and we will balance these reasons against the burden of delay on the District Court. Coventry v. U.S. Steel Corp. , 856 F.2d 514, 520 (3d Cir.1988).

Bjorgung v. Whitetail Resort, LP, supra , 550 F.3d at 266.

Furthermore, "[a]mong the grounds that could justify a denial of leave to amend are undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, prejudice, and futility.' In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig. , 114 F.3d 1410, 1434 (3d Cir.1997) (Burlington'); Lorenz v. CSX Corp. , 1 F.3d 1406, 1413-14 (3d Cir.1993). Futility' means that the complaint, as amended, would fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Burlington , 114 F.3d at 1434." Shane v. Fauver , 213 F.3d 113, 115 (3d Cir. 2000). Moreover, a party seeking to supplement pleadings must act in a diligent fashion. Thus, for example, "[a] District Court has discretion to deny a plaintiff leave to amend where the plaintiff was put on notice as to the deficiencies in his complaint, but chose not to resolve them. Rolo v. City Investing Co. Liquidating Trust , 155 F.3d 644, 654 (3d Cir.1998)." Krantz v. Prudential Investments Fund Management LLC , 305 F.3d 140, 144 (3d Cir. 2002).

Finally, in every instance, the exercise of this discretion must be guided by the animating principle behind Rule 15(d), which is "to make pleadings a means to achieve an orderly and fair administration of justice." Griffin v. County School Bd. of Prince Edward County , 377 U.S. 218, 227 (1964). Therefore, in considering a motion to amend we must always "appl[y] Rule 15(d) in a manner aimed at securing the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action-[t]he standard applicable to motions to amend under [Rule 15(d)] is essentially the same standard that applies to [Rule 15(a)].'" Masimo Corp. v. Philips Elec. N. Am. Corp. , 2010 WL 1609899, at *1 (D.Del. Apr.20, 2010) (quoting Medeva Pharma ...

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