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Our Children International v. Children International

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY


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 Islands, Inc., 663 F.2d 419, 425 (3d Cir. 1981);

and the United States Supreme Court having stated that leave to amend under Rule 15 may be denied in cases of: (1) undue delay; (2) bad faith or dilatory motive; (3) undue prejudice; or (4) futility of amendment, see Foman, 371 U.S. at 182; see also Arthur v. Maersk, Inc., 434 F.3d 196, 204-05 (3d Cir. 2006) (stating that "leave to amend must generally be granted unless equitable considerations render it otherwise unjust" and noting that although there is no "presumptive period in which a motion for leave to amend is deemed 'timely' or in which delay becomes 'undue,'" a delay of eleven months is not presumptively unreasonable); Alvin v. Suzuki, 227 F.3d 107, 121 (3d Cir. 2000) (citations omitted); Long v. Wilson, 393 F.3d 390, 400 (3d Cir. 2004) (stating "absent undue or substantial prejudice, an amendment should be allowed under Rule 15(a) unless denial can be grounded in bad faith or dilatory motive, truly undue or unexplained delay, repeated failure to cure deficiency by amendments previously allowed or futility of amendment") (internal quotations and citations omitted);

and the plaintiff opposing the proposed amended answer under Rule 15 because of undue delay and prejudice;

and, with regard to undue delay, bad faith, and prejudice, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit having stated,

the passage of time, without more, does not require that a motion to amend a [pleading] be denied; 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. The question of undue delay, as well as the question of bad faith, requires that we focus on the [movant's] motives for not amending their [pleading] to assert this claim earlier; the issue of prejudice requires that we focus on the effect on the [non-movant]

Adams v. Gould, Inc., 739 F.2d 858, 868 (3d Cir. 1984) (internal citations omitted); see also Cureton v. Nat'l Collegiate Althetic Ass'n, 252 F.3d 267, 273 (3d Cir. 2001) (stating that "the question of undue delay requires that we focus on the movant's reasons for not amending sooner") (citations omitted); Lindquist v. Buckingham Twp., Civ. Nos. 03-2431 & 03-2971, 2004 WL 1598735, at *6 (3d Cir. July 19, 2004) (affirming denial of leave to amend complaint to include equal protection claim in light of finding that the documents that the amending party alleged were withheld, and which gave rise to amended claim, were public and delay was, therefore, inexcusable);

and there is no basis to find that there has been undue or prejudicial delay;*fn4

and there being no argument that the proposed counterclaim is brought in bad faith or is futile;

and for the reasons set forth herein;

and for good cause shown,

IT IS on this 29th day of November, 2007 ORDERED that the defendants' motion for leave to file an amended Answer to assert an additional counterclaim [Docket Entry No. 11] is granted;

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, no later than December 5, 2007, the defendant shall file the Amended Answer. The plaintiff shall file its reply to the counterclaim within the time-frame set forth under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules for the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey; and

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all deadlines set forth in the Orders dated October 2, 2007 and November 9, 2007 remain unchanged.


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