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Tejada v. Dale

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 3, 2018

RICKY TEJADA, Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECTIONAL OFFICER DALE OF LEHIGH COUNTY PRISON and LEHIGH COUNTY, Defendants.

          OPINION PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND, ECF NO. 92-GRANTED IN PART

          Joseph F. Leeson, Jr. United States District Judge

         In this prisoner civil rights case, Plaintiff Ricky Tejada requests leave of Court to amend his complaint for the third time.[1] Because many of the allegations set forth in the latest proposed amendment merely restate claims alleged in his prior complaints, and other allegations fail to state viable claims for relief, this Court denies leave to amend for the most part. However, a few of the allegations concern events that occurred after Tejada's most recent complaint-this Court will treat these claims as supplemental pleadings and will require Defendants to respond.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD: LEAVE TO AMEND

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), a court should grant a party's motion for leave to amend “where justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). In determining if justice requires that the court allow the amendment, the court may consider “undue delay, bad faith, prejudice to the opposing party, and futility.” Blake v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 259 F.Supp.3d 249, 253 (E.D. Pa. 2017) (citing Forman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)). Delay can be classified as “‘undue' . . . when it places an unwarranted burden on the court or when the plaintiff has had previous opportunities to amend.” Id. (citing Bjorgung v. Whitetail Resort, LP, 550 F.3d 263, 266 (3d Cir. 2008)). The court must “focus on ‘the movant's reasons for not amending sooner.'” Id. (citing Cureton v. Nat'l Collegiate Athl. Ass'n, 252 F.3d 267, 273 (3d Cir. 2001)).

         An “[a]mendment is futile if a proposed amended complaint is ‘frivolous or advances a claim or defense that is legally insufficient on its face.'” Harris v. Steadman, 160 F.Supp.3d 814, 817 (E.D. Pa. 2016) (citing Thomas v. SmithKline Beecham Corp., No. 00-2948, 2002 WL 32351172, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 5, 2002)). The court must determine if “the complaint, as amended, would fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.” Id. (citing Anderson v. City of Phila., 65 Fed.Appx. 800, 801 (3d Cir. 2003)). Like when ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court must “consider only those facts alleged in the proposed amended complaint, accepting the allegations as true and drawing all logical inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Id. (citing ALA, Inc. v. CCAIR, Inc., 29 F.3d 855, 859 (3d Cir. 1994)). However, the court is not required to “accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations . . . .” Id. (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 564 (2007)).

         Rule 15(d) provides that a court may 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, ” and may require the opposing party to respond to the supplemental pleading within a specified time. A plaintiff may add new parties and claims for events that occurred after the filing of the original or operative complaint through a supplemental pleading. See Griffin v. Cnty. Sch. Bd. of Prince Edward Cnty., 377 U.S. 218, 226-27 (1964) (approving supplemental pleading alleging new incidents involving new parties because they stemmed from original causes of action); Turner v. New Jersey State Police, No. 2:08-CV-5163-KM, 2014 WL 6991892, at *3 (D.N.J. Dec. 5, 2014) (same) (citing Griffin).

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Claims in Proposed Amended Complaint against Individual Defendants[2]

         The claims in Tejada's proposed Amended Complaint fall into four categories for purposes of analyzing leave to amend: (1) those claims that have already been alleged in prior complaints; (2) those claims which have not been previously alleged, but are based on events that transpired prior to the filing of the first complaint; (3) those claims for which amendment would be futile; and (4) those claims based on events which transpired subsequent to the filing of all previous complaints. This Court denies Tejada the opportunity to amend for a third time with respect to those claims that fall in to categories one, two, and three. However, this Court construes those claims that fall into category four as a supplemental pleading and will require Defendants to respond.

         (1) Category One: Tejada's proposed amended Counts I, III, V, IX, and X are unduly delayed because Tejada has alleged each of these claims in prior Complaints.

         The proposed amended Counts I, III, V, IX and X[3] are all unduly delayed. The current operative complaint, filed on December 11, 2014, contains allegations to the same effect as those outlined above. See generally Compl. of December 11, 2014 ¶¶ 31-59, ECF No. 17. The only difference between the complaint of December 2014 and these proposed amended claims is the splitting of those previously alleged claims into more discrete units. Compare id., with Proposed Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 71-187, ECF No. 92. Tejada admits this and states that “Plaintiff's third amendment (docket No. 92) did not seek to add a new claim or insert a new theory into the case, as the proposed amended complaint . . . simply clarifies or amplifies the claim or theory in the original complaint (retaliation) by the additional facts . . . .” Pl.'s Obj. and Response ¶ D, ECF No. 139.

         Because these claims have already been alleged in some form in a previous complaint filed almost four years ago, these proposed amendments are unduly delayed. See Bjorgung, 550 F.3d 263, 266-67 (denying leave to amend where plaintiff waited “three and one half years before seeking leave to amend” and the facts that surrounded the amendment were known to plaintiff for that entire period); Cureton v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 252 F.3d 267, 273 (3d Cir. 2001) (denying leave to amend where plaintiff waited three years to amend and “the factual information on which the proposed amendment relied was known almost two-and-a-half years before plaintiffs sought leave to amend”). Therefore, this Court denies the proposed amendment to add the Counts listed above as unduly delayed.

         (2) Category Two: Tejada's proposed amended Counts XIII and XV are unduly delayed because Tejada could have raised these claims when he filed his first complaint.

         Although the claims against the individual defendants for “atypical and significantly hard confinement condition, ” Count XIII, and “hate crime and/or racial discrimination, ” Count XV, were not raised in the current operative complaint, the underlying events occurred prior to the filing of the very first complaint. See Proposed Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 39, 163. The events that Tejada cites as the basis for his confinement claim occurred on August 8, 2013, when Tejada arrived at Lehigh County Prison. Id. ¶ 39. This event predates Tejada's first complaint, which he filed on September 8, 2014. Additionally, the events underlying his claims of discrimination and a “hate crime” occurred on August 16, 2013. Id. ¶ 24. Again, this event predates Tejada's first complaint.

         As such, Tejada had multiple opportunities to amend his complaint to include these claims and has failed to do so at each juncture. Furthermore, he has not provided any reason for his failure to bring these claims in any of his previous amendments over the last four years. Therefore, the Court denies Tejada's proposed amendment to add the above claims as unduly delayed.

         (3) Category Three: Amendment to add Tejada's proposed Count VII is futile because Tejada fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         In Count VII of his proposed Amended Complaint, Tejada claims liability for the newly-named officers under an Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment theory. See Id. ΒΆΒΆ 109-116. The officers named in this count are those that were either down the hall during the alleged use of force ...


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