United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania
NEW-HOWARD, ET. AL. Plaintiffs,
JP MORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A., Defendant.
Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion to Stay (Doc. No. 71), Defendant's Response thereto (Doc. No. 72), Plaintiff's Petition for Leave to File Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 75), and Defendant's Memorandum of Law in opposition thereto (Doc. Nos. 78, 79). For the following reasons, the Court hereby GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Plaintiff's Motion to Amend, and DENIES Plaintiff's Motion to Stay. An Order follows.
Because the facts are well known to the parties and the Court, the Court summarizes here only those facts relevant to the instant motion. Pro se Plaintiffs Deonne New-Howard and Edgar Howard brought an action against JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. ("JPM"), for violation of various state and federal consumer protection laws. (Doc. No. 1). The allegations revolved around JPM's service of two mortgage agreements governing the Plaintiff's properties at 6856 Woolston Avenue, Philadelphia, PA (the "Woolston loan") and 5900 Addison Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19143 (the "Addison loan"). In February 2013, the parties reached a settlement agreement regarding the Addison loan and Plaintiffs agreed to a dismissal with prejudice as to claims regarding the Addison loan. (Doc. No. 50 at 3).
The Court subsequently granted in part and denied in part JPM's Motion for Summary Judgment in November 2013. (Doc. No. 55). Plaintiffs were permitted to proceed with one claim for the Woolston Loan, under the "catchall" section of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, 23 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 201-2 (4) (xxi) . JEd. In February 2014, Plaintiff Ms. New-Howard' s father, Kenneth New, and her husband, Edgar Howard, both passed away.
Since that time, the parties have rescheduled their arbitration hearing multiple times in order to engage in settlement conferences (Doc. Nos. 61, 64), petition the Court for further production of evidence by Plaintiffs (Doc. Nos. 68, 70), and confer with the Court regarding the status of the case (Doc. Nos. 73, 74) . In June 2014, Plaintiff requested the Court to stay the present action for 90 days due to health complications she and her nephew, of whom she has custody, have experienced subsequent to Mr. Howard's death. (Doc. No. 71). The Court granted JPM's request for a telephonic settlement conference (Doc. No. 72). The parties did not reach a settlement agreement regarding the Woolston Avenue loan during that conference or since that time. In July 2014, Plaintiff filed a Petition for Leave To File an Amended Complaint, (Doc. No. 75), which JPM opposes. (Doc. Nos. 78, 79).
In her Second Amended Complaint ("SAC"), Plaintiff asserts the claims and causes of action previously included in her Amended Complaint. Compare (Amended Complaint, Doc. No. 10) with (Second Amended Complaint, Doc. No. 75). In addition, she seeks to add the following new claims. As to the Woolston loan, Plaintiff adds facts regarding discussion between the parties as to a possible loan modification, as well as the substance of failed settlement discussions in front of the magistrate judge and the Court, and outside of court. (Doc. No. 75 ¶¶ 91-118). As to the Addison loan, Plaintiff asserts that Chase has not accepted Plaintiff's mortgage payments since February 17, 2014. (Doc. No. 75 at ¶ 12). Additionally, Chase "will not discuss anything with Plaintiff because, according to Chase, the settlement of the 'Addison Property' is in litigation according to Chase's records." Id. Plaintiff believes that Chase is refusing to accept her mortgage payments for the Addison property, and thus forcing that property into foreclosure, in retaliation for her not accepting their settlement offers regarding the Woolston Avenue loan. Id. at ¶ 19-20.
Plaintiff adds three new causes of action in her new complaint: Count Four, Breach of Settlement Agreement and Release Regarding the Addison Property; Count Five, Breach of JPM's 2013 Settlement Agreement with various plaintiffs in a case in the District Court for the Southern District of Florida regarding accusations that JPM forced homeowners into over-priced property insurance; and Count Six, Retaliation/Harassment.
Defendant JPM opposes Plaintiff s petition to amend her complaint, and requests the Court to enter judgment in Defendant's favor on the one remaining claim under the UTPCPL and dismiss all claims with prejudice. (Doc. No. 79 at 35).
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, after a responsive pleading, "a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave. The court should freely give leave when justice so requires." F.R.C.P. 15(a)2). "In the absence of substantial or undue prejudice to the nonmoving party - which, is the touchstone for the denial of an amendment' - Menial instead must be based on bad faith or dilatory motives, truly undue or unexplained delay, repeated failures to cure the deficiency by amendments previously allowed, or futility of amendment.'" USX Corp. v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 161, 166 (3d Cir. 2004)(citing Lorenz v. CSX Corp., 1 F.3d 1406, 1413-14 (3d Cir. 1993)).
A motion to amend that adds a "substantially different legal theory, " after the parties have conducted extensive discovery, has been considered unduly prejudicial and untimely. Carter v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp., 413 F.Supp.2d 495, 501 (E.D. Pa. 2005)(citing Berger v. Edgewater Steel Co., 911 F.2d 911 (3d Cir. 1990)). Such amendment has similarly been denied when "the matters sought to be added would unduly complicate the proceedings." Jenn-Air Products Co. v. Penn Ventilator, Inc., 283 F.Supp. 591, 596 (E. D. Pa. 1968).
Futility is analyzed under the same standard as a 12(b) (6) motion to dismiss - that is, leave to amend should be denied based on futility if the proposed amended complaint would fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. SmithKline Beecham Corp. v. Geneva Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 287 F.Supp.2d 576, 581 (E.D. Pa. 2002) .
While the mere passage of time alone is insufficient ground to deny leave to amend, "[a]t some point, however, Melay will become undue, placing an unwarranted burden on the court, or will become prejudicial, placing an unfair burden on the opposing party.'" USX Corp., 395 F.3d at 167 (quoting Cureton v. NCAA, 252 F.3d 267, 273 (3d Cir. 2001)). When a party delays making a motion to amend until after summary judgment has been granted to the adverse party, "[i]nterests in judicial economy and finality of litigation become ''particularly ...