United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
MATTHEW W. BRANN, District Judge.
Before the Court is the Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration of the Court's Order granting the Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint. The Court retains jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. For the reasons that follow, the Defendant's Motion is granted in part and denied in part. The Plaintiff is granted leave to file his amended complaint.
On March 3, 2014, Plaintiff Kyle Brown filed a complaint against American Sintered Technologies alleging discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. See Pl.'s Compl., Mar. 5, 2014, ECF No. 1. Plaintiff then filed an amended complaint on May 30, 2014, adding a third count that alleged the Defendant violated the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 955(a). See Pl.'s Am. Compl., May 30, 2014, ECF No. 12. The Plaintiff claims that, after he had surgery on December 14, 2012 to remove a tumor in his foot and his physician requested that Defendant allow him medical leave until April 15, 2013, Defendant refused to accommodate the request and instead fired him on April 2, 2013, in violation of these laws.
Defendant filed an Answer on June 13, 2014, denying many of Plaintiff's allegations and asserting affirmative defenses. See Def.'s Ans., June 13, 2014, ECF No. 13. The Parties submitted a Case Management Plan to the Court on July 10, 2014, which fixed the deadline to amend pleadings as August 11, 2014. The Court held its initial case management conference telephonically with the parties on July 17, 2014, and issued the required scheduling order that was largely commensurate with the plan established by the Parties. See Ct. Order, Jul. 17, 2014, ECF No. 20.
On November 7, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to file a second amended complaint. In the motion, Plaintiff states that during discovery he learned that the Defendant also failed to comply with requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601, and sought to file the new complaint including those claims. See Pl.'s Mot. Leave File, Nov. 7, 2014, ECF No. 26. In a moment of oversight, the Court granted the Plaintiff's motion before the Parties finished briefing the issues. Defendant then filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court's Order granting leave to file, alleging a number of procedural and substantive grounds for denying Plaintiff's request. See Def.'s Mot Reconsideration, Nov. 20, 2014, ECF No. 30. The Court now turns to those arguments.
A. Motion for Reconsideration
"The purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence." Harsco v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985). A court should grant a motion for reconsideration if the party seeking reconsideration shows: "(1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court granted the motion for summary 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).
In this case, the Defendant's motion is warranted because the Court made a clear error in granting the Plaintiff's motion for leave before the briefing schedule expired and the Parties had a chance to present their positions. Accordingly, the Court proceeds to the merits of the Defendant's arguments against granting the Plaintiff leave to file a second amended complaint.
B. Plaintiff May File Amended Complaint
The Defendant makes four arguments against the Court's granting leave for Brown to file his amended complaint. The first argument is procedural: Defendant alleges Brown's Motion for Leave to file the amended complaint did not contain a supporting brief and should therefore be deemed withdrawn in accordance with local procedural rules. The next three arguments are substantive: the Defendant alleges that leave to amend should be denied because Brown lacks good cause, the Defendant would be prejudiced, and amendment is futile. The Court addresses these arguments seriatim .
1. Plaintiff's Supporting Brief Filed Within Fourteen Days
Defendant's first argument opposing Plaintiff's filing of a second amended complaint is that the Court granted leave to file an amended complaint prior to the Plaintiff filing a brief in support of his motion. United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania Local Rule 7.5 states: "[w]ithin fourteen (14) days after the filing of any motion, the party filing the motion shall file a brief in support of the motion.... If a supporting brief is not filed within the time provided in this rule the motion shall be deemed to be withdrawn." Local Rule 7.5.
In this case, the Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint on November 7, 2014. See Pl.'s Mot. Leave File Second Am. Compl., Nov. 7, 2014, ECF No. 26. The Plaintiff also filed a brief in support of that motion on November 21, 2014, the day after Defendant filed its Motion for Reconsideration. See Pl.'s Br. Supp., Nov. 21, 2014, ECF No. 32. Plaintiff's November 21 filing of the brief in support is within the fourteen day period since filing the motion on November 7, as required by Local Rule 7.5. See Local Rule 7.5; see also FED. R. CIV. P. 6(a). Accordingly, the Defendant's argument on these grounds is unpersuasive.
2. Plaintiff Has Good Cause to Amend
The Defendant further argues that Plaintiff should be denied leave to amend his complaint on substantive grounds, because he cannot meet the requisite standards to amend pleadings under Rule 15(a) or to amend a scheduling order under Rule 16(b). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 allows a party to amend its pleading as of right within twenty-one days after serving it, or twenty-one days after a defendant serves a responsive pleading or Rule 12 motion. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). After that period has expired, "a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave." FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a)(2). Brown requires leave of Court because the Defendant does not consent to his amendment.
In this case, however, Plaintiff's motion implicates an elevated standard under Rule 16 as well as Rule 15's standard, because allowing an amended pleading would alter the Court's litigation schedule. "Rule 16 gives the district courts wide latitude to manage discovery and other pretrial matters, and to set deadlines for amending pleadings...." Eichorn v. AT&T Corp., 484 F.3d 644, 650 (3d Cir. 2007). Rule 16(b) also provides that "[a] schedule may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent." FED. R. CIV. P. 16(b)(4). This "good cause" language recurs throughout the Federal Rules, and implicates a more stringent standard than Rule 15. See, e.g., Venetec Inter., Inc. v. Nexus Med., LLC, 541 F.Supp.2d 612, 618 (D. Del. 2008) ("Unlike Rule 15(a), the good cause standard under Rule 16(b) hinges on diligence of the movant and not on prejudice to the non-moving party."). Because the Rule 16(b)(4) "good cause" standard is more stringent than Rule 15(a)'s standard to amend the pleadings, the Court first examines whether the Plaintiff presents good cause to file the amended complaint. See Race Tires Am., Inc. v. Hoosier Racing Tire Corp., 614 F.3d 57, 84 (3d Cir. 2010).
The particular circumstances constituting "good cause" to justify a modification of a scheduling order necessarily vary with each case. CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT, ARTHUR R. MILLER, ET AL., 6A FED. PRAC. & PROC. CIV. § 1522.2 (2014 3d ed.). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has indicated, however, that a movant's "due diligence" is an essential to establish good cause. Race Tires Am., 614 F.3d at 84. As one court elaborated, "[t]he good cause element requires the movant to demonstrate that, despite diligence, the proposed claims could not have been reasonably sought in a timely manner." Ventec Inter., Inc., 541 F.Supp.2d at 618.
In this case, the Plaintiff argues that he has good cause to amend his complaint to add a claim under the FMLA because, during discovery, he uncovered previously unknown facts that support this claim. In a recent deposition of Defendant's General Manager, Carrie Saline, Brown allegedly discovered that Defendant discharged him, among other reasons, because of leave protected by the FMLA in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(2).
Brown argues this new information allows him to plead a claim previously unavailable. To recover under the pertinent sections of the FMLA, a plaintiff must demonstrate that (1) the employer interfered with, restrained, or denied the plaintiff's exercise of FMLA rights; and (2) the plaintiff was prejudiced by the violation. Ragsdale v. Wolverine World Wide, Inc., 535 U.S. 81, 89 (2002); see also 29 U.S.C. § 2617; Conoshenti v. Pub. Serv. Elec. & Gas Co., 364 F.3d 135, 146-47 (3d Cir. 2004). While Brown possessed facts to support the first element of this claim from the beginning of the litigation, he argues that Saline's deposition furnished the first facts to support the prejudice element, thus presenting good cause to amend.
The Defendant alleges that Brown was aware of his FMLA rights since the events in question, and that this knowledge defeats Brown's ability to show good cause to amend his complaint now when he could have included this claim from the onset of litigation. Although Brown may have been previously aware that the Defendant failed to adequately communicate Brown's FMLA rights to him (a fact which remains disputed), an employer's violation of the technical provisions of the FMLA does not give rise to a claim without a demonstration that the plaintiff suffered prejudice. See Ragsdale, 535 U.S. at 89. Brown asserts that he only learned that Defendant considered his FMLA leave as a negative factor in eliminating his position during Saline's deposition on November 5, 2014. Brown then filed the motion for leave to file the amended complaint two days later on November 7, 2014.
Before this deposition, Brown possessed no facts to allege plausibly that he suffered prejudice as a result of FMLA violations. After the deposition, Brown possessed those facts, and filed his motion almost immediately. Accordingly, the Plaintiff asserts the late discovery of plausible facts supporting this claim and the Plaintiffs own diligence in filing their motion shortly after discovery satisfy the good cause standard. See, e.g., Cloud Farm Assocs. v. Volkswagen Group of Am. Inc., 2012 WL 3069390, *5 (D. Del. Jul. 27, 2012) (concluding that plaintiff demonstrated good cause to amend when it did not have sufficient factual information to allege the new claims until after deposing the defendants' corporate representatives). The Court agrees that Brown demonstrates good cause to amend his complaint.
3. Defendant Is Not Unduly Prejudiced by Amendment
Brown also satisfies the Rule 15(a) standard because the Defendant would not be prejudiced by the Court granting leave to amend. When construing a motion for leave to file an amended complaint, "[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires." FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a)(2); see also Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). "Among the factors that may justify denial of leave to amend are undue delay, bad faith, and futility." Arthur v. Maersk, Inc., 434 F.3d 196, 204 (3d Cir. 2006). The most dispositive factor in the inquiry, however, is whether the non-movant would be prejudiced. Arthur v. Maersk, Inc., 434 F.3d 196, 204 (3d Cir. 2006). To establish prejudice, a defendant "must show that it was unfairly disadvantaged or deprived of the opportunity to present facts or evidence which it would have offered ...