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Our Children International v. Children International

November 29, 2007

OUR CHILDREN INTERNATIONAL PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHILDREN INTERNATIONAL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Patty Shwartz United States Magistrate Judge

OPINION & ORDER

This matter having come before the Court by way of the defendant's motion for leave to file an Amended Answer to add a counterclaim under N.J.S.A. 45:17A-18, et seq.; and the Court having considered the parties' submissions and the record of proceedings;*fn1 and it appearing the motion was filed after the deadline set forth in the Pretrial Scheduling Orders; and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16 providing that a court shall enter scheduling orders to allow for "judicial control over a case and to schedule dates for completion by the parties of the principal pretrial steps," Harrison Beverage Co. v. Dribeck Importers, Inc., 133 F.R.D. 463, 469 (D.N.J. 1990) (quotations omitted); see also Newton v. A.C. & S., Inc., 918 F.2d 1121, 1126 (3d Cir. 1990) (stating that the purpose of Rule 16 is to provide for judicial control over a case, streamline proceedings, maximize the efficiency of the court system, and actively manage the timetable of case preparation to expedite the speedy and efficient disposition of cases); and the Court having entered Pretrial Scheduling Orders in this case that provided, among other things, that "[a]ny motion to amend pleadings or join parties must be filed no later than October 20, 2007," Orders, dated July 27, 2007 & October 2, 2007 at ¶ 10 (emphasis in the originals);

and the Court having set such a deadline so that the parties could evaluate the pleadings after having exchanged some discovery but well in advance of the fact discovery deadline so that there would be ample time to conduct discovery regarding any new claims or defenses that may be added or new parties that may be joined;

and Rule 16 further providing that the party seeking modification of a pretrial scheduling order must show "good cause", Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b), and that a court may exercise its discretion to modify a Rule 16 scheduling order upon "a showing of good cause if it cannot reasonably be met despite the diligence of the party seeking the extension," Fed. R. Civ. P. 16, Advisory Committee's Note, on Subdivision (b); Harrison Beverage Co., 133 F.R.D. at 469 (stating modification of scheduling orders is discretionary);

and it further appearing that allowing extensions in the absence of "good cause" would "deprive trial judges of the ability to effectively manage the cases on their overcrowded dockets" and severely impair the utility of scheduling orders, Koplove v. Ford Motor Co., 795 F.2d 15, 18 (3d Cir. 1986); and the Court finding that the defendant has provided good cause to amend the pretrial scheduling orders to extend the deadline to file a motion to amend the pleadings;*fn2

and the Court now considering whether the defendant should be granted leave to file its proposed amended Answer to add a counterclaim;

and Rule 13(f) providing:

When a pleader fails to set up a counterclaim through oversight, inadvertence, or excusable neglect, or when justice requires, the pleader may by leave of court set up the counterclaim by amendment.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 13(f);

and the standard for granting leave to amend an Answer to add a Counterclaim under Rule 13(f) being generally the same as the standard for permitting amendments to a Complaint under Rule 15, see Jordan v. CCH, Inc., Civ. No. 01-0053, 2002 WL 32348349, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 5, 2002) (denying leave to file counterclaim pursuant to Rule 13(f) under Rule 15(a) analysis because of prejudice to opposing party); Nathanson v. Aetna Cas. and Sur. Co., Civ. No. 01-3377, 2001 WL 1392165, at *1 n.2 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 7, 2001) (noting "[a]lthough the wording of Rule 13(f) differs from Rule 15(a), this variation has not led to significantly different standards for granting leave to amend."); Fidelity Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n v. Felicetti, 149 F.R.D. 83, 85 (E.D. Pa. 1993) (applying Rule 15(a) standard to motions to file counterclaim under Rule 13(f)); cf. Health Corp. of Am. Inc. v. New Jersey Dental Ass'n, 77 F.R.D. 488, 491 (D.N.J. 1978) (holding Rule 13(f) "affords more discretion to the court [than Rule 15(a)] after the grace period for filing amended pleadings has expired.");*fn3

and Rule15(a) providing:

[a] party may amend the party's pleading once as a matter of course at any time before a responsive pleading is served . . . . Otherwise a party may amend the party's pleading only by leave of court or by written consent of the adverse party; and leave shall be freely given when justice so requires, Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a);

and the federal rules allowing for liberal amendments in light of the "principle that the purpose of pleading is to facilitate a proper decision on the merits," and providing that if the underlying facts relied upon by a party might be a proper subject of relief, that party should have the opportunity to test its claims on the merits, Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962) (citations and internal quotations omitted);

and, under Rule 15, the decision to amend resting within the sound discretion of the Court, see id.; Heyl & Patterson Int'l, Inc. v. F. D. Rich Hous. of Virgin ...


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