United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER [Doc. No 44]
SCHNEIDER United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the Court on plaintiff's Motion for
Leave to File Amended Complaint. [Doc. No. 44]. The Court
received defendants' response [Doc. No. 50],
plaintiff's reply [Doc. No. 52], and held oral argument
on July 24, 2017. For the reasons to be discussed,
plaintiff's motion will be GRANTED.
background facts are fairly straightforward though
potentially explosive. On April 12, 2013, plaintiff was an
inmate at Bayside State Prison. The focus of plaintiff's
complaint was that Corrections Officers (“C.O.”)
Stretch and McCabe beat him up and maced him for no reason,
resulting in serious injuries. On March 25, 2015, plaintiff
filed suit in state court naming as defendants the New Jersey
Department of Corrections, Bayside State Prison, C.O.
Stretch, C.O. McCabe and John and Jane Does. The case was
removed to federal court on May 13, 2015.
the Honorable Robert B. Kugler granted and denied in part
defendants' motion to dismiss, the Fed.R.Civ.P. 16
Scheduling Conference was held on August 31, 2016. The
resulting Scheduling Order set an October 31, 2016 date to
amend pleadings. The deadline was later extended to February
15, 2017. On March 22, 2017, plaintiff took the depositions
of C.O.'s Togno and Arrowood. These officers essentially
testified to the “party line” that plaintiff was
subdued after he assaulted C.O. McCabe. C.O. Reeves was
deposed on April 12, 2017. Her testimony confirmed part of
her written statement that plaintiff first assaulted McCabe.
After Reeves' deposition, however, she allegedly told
plaintiff's counsel off the record that her testimony was
not truthful. Reeves allegedly stated that plaintiff was set
up to be beaten by several correction officers, and that
Stretch punched McCabe in the face to make it look like
McCabe was injured by plaintiff. On May 4, 2017 [Doc. No.
42], the Court granted plaintiff leave to re-depose Reeves.
At her second deposition on May 19, 2017, Reeves did not
answer any substantive questions and asserted the Fifth
Amendment. Plaintiff filed the instant motion shortly
thereafter on June 9, 2017.
motion seeks leave to amend his complaint to add defendants
C.O.'s Manning, Togno, Arrowood, Ryan, Reeves, Gribble
and Weldon, and Internal Affairs Investigators Hepner and
Soltese. The gravamen of plaintiff's amendment is that
the C.O.s engaged in a conspiracy to attack plaintiff and
then with the aid of their supervisors and investigators,
covered up the events and conspired to accuse plaintiff of
instigating an assault warranting the use of excessive force.
Plaintiff's Brief (“PB”) at 1. Plaintiff
alleges the named C.O.'s covered up their conspiracy by
falsely claiming that plaintiff first struck C.O. McCabe
requiring that plaintiff be subdued. Plaintiff alleges
Stretch hit McCabe in the face to make it appear McCabe was
struck by plaintiff.
oppose plaintiff's motion arguing it is late, plaintiff
cannot establish good cause for his undue delay, defendants
and the new parties will be prejudiced by the amendment, and
the amendment is futile because it is barred by the statute
of limitations. Plaintiff counters that at all relevant times
he acted diligently and that he promptly moved to amend after
receiving sufficient information to name the new individual
defendants. Plaintiff also argues joinder is proper under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15 (c)(1) and 16 (b)(4), and in conformance with
N.J.R. 4:26-4. Therefore, plaintiff argues, the proposed
amendment is not barred by the statute of limitations.
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a), leave to amend pleadings “shall
be freely given when justice so requires.” Leave shall
be freely given in the absence of undue delay, bad faith or
dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure
to cure deficiencies in previous amendments, undue prejudice
or futility of the amendment. Foman v. Davis, 371
U.S. 178, 182 (1962); see also Shane v. Fauver, 213
F.3d 113, 115 (3d Cir. 2000). “[A]bsent 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.'”
Long v. Wilson, 393 F.3d 390, 400 (3d Cir.
2004)(emphasis in original) (quoting Lundy v. Adamar of
New Jersey, Inc., 34 F.3d 1173, 1196 (3d Cir. 1994)). An
amendment sought pursuant to Rule 15(a) shall be permitted
unless it would be inequitable or futile. Grayson v.
Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir.
since plaintiff's motion was filed after the Court's
February 15, 2017 deadline to amend pleadings, plaintiff must
satisfy the standard set forth in Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b)(1)(B).
This rule provides that when an act may or must be done in a
specified time the Court may, for good cause, extend the time
on motion made after the time has expired if the party failed
to act because of “excusable neglect.” In
determining whether a party has demonstrated excusable
neglect the Court must consider the following five factors:
1) whether the inadvertence reflected professional
incompetence such as ignorance of rules of procedure, 2)
whether an asserted inadvertence reflects an easily
manufactured excuse incapable of verification by the court,
3) counsel's failure to provide for a readily foreseeable
consequence, 4) a complete lack of diligence, or 5) whether
the inadvertence resulted despite counsel's substantial
good faith efforts towards compliance.
Dominic v. Hess Oil V.I. Corp., 841 F.2d 513, 517
(3d Cir. 1988). The Supreme Court has explained that the
“excusable neglect” inquiry is “at bottom
an equitable one, taking account of all relevant
circumstances surrounding the party's omission, ”
including, “the danger of prejudice to the [other
party], the length of the delay and its potential impact on
judicial proceedings, the reason for the delay, including
whether it was within the reasonable control of the movant,
and whether the movant acted in good faith.”
Pioneer Inv. Serv. Co. v. Brunswick Assoc. Ltd.
Partnership, 507 U.S. 380, 395 (1993).
Good Cause, Undue Delay and Excusable Neglect
reasons to be discussed, the Court finds there is good cause
to grant plaintiff's amendment, the amendment was not
unduly delayed, and plaintiff has established excusable
neglect for why his motion was not filed earlier. It is not
remarkable that plaintiff could not identify the names of all
the persons who participated in his alleged assault,
conspiracy and cover-up when he filed his complaint. This
sort of information is not easily retrievable. On the rare
occasions when ...