United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND,
ECF NO. 92-GRANTED IN PART
F. Leeson, Jr. United States District Judge
prisoner civil rights case, Plaintiff Ricky Tejada requests
leave of Court to amend his complaint for the third
time. 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.
LEGAL STANDARD: LEAVE TO AMEND
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)).
“[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)).
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).
Claims in Proposed Amended Complaint against Individual
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
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.
proposed amended Counts I, III, V, IX and X 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. ¶¶ 109-116. The officers named in this
count are those that were either down the hall during the
alleged use of force ...