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Estate of Guziewicz v. Magnotta

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 25, 2017


          CAPUTO, J.



         This civil action was initiated by the filing of a pro se complaint against the defendant, Re nee P. Magnotta ("Magnotta"), on September 8, 2014. (Doc. 1). The two named plaintiffs in the complaint are (a) the Estate of Raymond J. Guziewicz (the "Estate") and (b) his son, Steven J. Guziewicz, appearing both individually and in his role as administrator for the Estate. Steven Guziewicz has asserted federal civil rights claims under U.S.C. §1983 and state law tort claims for malicious prosecution and abuse of process on behalf of the decedent, Raymond J. Guziewicz. On his own behalf, Steven Guziewicz has asserted a single state law tort claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress which was dismissed by the court on September 20, 2016. (Doc. 47).

         Before the court is the plaintiffs' motion to amend the complaint (Doc. 30). Attached to the motion is the proposed amended complaint. (Doc. 30-1). In the proposed amended complaint, the plaintiffs seek to add Jerome Smith as a defendant. The amended complaint alleges that Mr. Smith was defendant Magnotta's immediate supervisor. The motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition. (Docs. 26, 27).

         I. BACKGROUND

         According to the complaint, on January 27, 2012, arrest warrants were issued for Raymond J. Guziewicz ("Raymond") and Steven J. Guziewicz ("Steven") at the request of Magnotta, an agent of the Office of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania assigned to the Bureau of Narcotics Investigation. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 5, 10). Magnotta is sued in her individual capacity. (Id. ¶6). On January 31, 2012, Raymond was arrested by the Scranton City Police Department on the authority of the arrest warrant. He was charged with fifty-two felonies and twenty-six misdemeanors under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code and Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act. Raymond was incarcerated for four days until he posted bail on February 3, 2012. On September 6, 2012, all of the charges against Raymond were dismissed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania because his arrest lacked probable cause. (Id. ¶18).

         Steven spent eighteen months in prison and was sentenced to time served on December 18, 2013, after pleading guilty to one felony count of acquiring a controlled substance. (Id. ¶22). Steven alleged that he was forced to plead guilty after three potential alibi witnesses had died before Steven's trial date of September 23, 2013. (Id.). In addition, it is alleged that Magnotta had a pattern of arresting Raymond and Steven since 2005 in order to extract guilty pleas from Steven notwithstanding a lack of probable cause to support the charges against Raymond. (Id. ¶¶ 23-24).

         Steven is the administrator of Raymond's estate and brings this action in both his individual capacity and in his role as administrator of the estate.

         The plaintiffs move to amend the complaint on the basis that the proposed defendant, Jerome Smith, was Magnotta's immediate supervisor at or near the events giving rise to the action and he knew or should have known of Magnotta's propensity for filing criminal charges which were not supported by probable cause.

         Also, before us for disposition is the plaintiffs' motion to stay proceedings (Doc. 37) and motion to clarify (Doc. 49). For the reasons stated herein we will grant the motion to amend, and deny, as moot, the motions to stay proceedings and to clarify.

         II. Legal Standards:

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) sets out the standard for granting leave to amend a complaint when, as is the case here, a responsive pleading has been served: "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). The Rule clearly states that "[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires." IcL Nonetheless, the policy favoring liberal amendments is not "unbounded." Dole v. Arco Chem. Co.. 921 F.2d 484, 487 (3d Cir. 1990). The decision whether to grant or to deny a motion for leave to amend rests within the sound discretion of the district court. Foman v. Davis. 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Waterfront Renaissance Assoc. v. Philadelphia.701 F.Supp.2d 633, 639 (E.D. Pa. 2010). A district court may deny leave to amend a complaint where "it is apparent from the record that (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." Lake v. Arnold. 232 F.3d 360, 373 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Foman. 371 U.S. at 182). The mere passage of time does not require that a motion to amend a complaint be denied on grounds of delay. Adams v. Gould. Inc.. 739 F.2d 858, 868 (3d Cir. 1984). In fact, delay alone is an insufficient ground to deny leave to amend. Cornell & Co.. Inc. v. Occupational Safety & Health Review Comm'n.. 573 F.2d 820, 823 (3d Cir. 1978). However, "at some point, the delay will become 'undue, ' placing an unwarranted burden on the court, or will become 'prejudicial, ' placing an unfair burden on the opposing party." Adams. 739 F.2d at 868. Delay may become undue when a movant has had previous opportunities to amend a complaint. See Lorenz v. CSX Corp.. 1 F.3d 1406, 1414 (3d Cir. 1993) (three-year lapse between filing of complaint and proposed amendment was "unreasonable" delay where plaintiff had "numerous opportunities" to amend); see also Rolo v. City Investing Co. Liquidating Tr.. 155 F.3d 644, 654-55 (3d Cir. 1998) (rejecting proposed second amended complaint where plaintiffs were repleading facts that could have been pled earlier). Here, we find no undue delay on the part of Steven.

         III. Discussion:

         A. Motion to ...

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