United States District Court, D. New Jersey
HONORABLE TONIANNE J. BONGIOVANNI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE
matter comes before the Court upon Defendants Megan J.
Brennan and United States Postal Service's
(“Defendants”) motion to file an amended answer
(Docket Entry No. 18) to Plaintiff Victoria Handle's
(“Plaintiff”), complaint. Plaintiff opposes
Defendants' motion (Docket Entry No. 37). The Court has
fully reviewed and considered all arguments made in support
of, and in opposition to, Defendants' motion. The Court
considers Defendants' motion without oral argument
pursuant to L.Civ.R. 78.1(b). For the reasons set forth more
fully below, Defendants' motion to file an amended answer
Background and Procedural History
case arises out of Plaintiff's employment with the Postal
Service (Pl.'s Compl. at ¶1). Plaintiff alleges that
she was repeatedly the victim of sex and age discrimination
during her employment with the United States Postal Service.
(See Pl.'s Compl.). Plaintiff also asserts a
claim alleging illegal disclosure of confidential medical
information in violation of the Americans with Disabilities
and Rehabilitation Act. (Id. at 10). In addition,
Plaintiff asserts that she was retaliated against on numerous
occasions due to her filing of complaints and affidavits with
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (Id. at
November 13, 2015, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Megan
J. Brennan and United States Postal Service alleging sex
discrimination, age discrimination, illegal disclosure of
confidential medical information in violation of the
Americans with Disabilities and Rehabilitation Act, and
retaliation. (Docket Entry No. 1). On June 8, 2016, the Court
entered default against Defendants, and Defendants filed an
answer to Plaintiff's complaint while in default on July
27, 2016. (Docket Entry No. 8). The Court vacated the entry
of default at Defendants' request on December 20, 2016
and entered a new scheduling order. (Docket Entry No. 15).
The scheduling order states that any motion to amend the
pleadings must be filed by March 10, 2017. (Docket Entry No.
March 10, 2017, Defendants filed the instant motion to amend
their answer to the complaint. (Docket Entry No. 18).
Defendants' Motion to Amend the Answer
seek to amend their answer to “(1) assert seventeen
additional defenses, all of which were identified in
defendants' discovery responses of January 17, 2017; (2)
include an introductory clause, prior to the assertion of the
defenses stating that ‘[s] eparately and affirmatively,
defendants allege that:'; and (3) insert a sentence,
after the paragraph by paragraph response, stating that
‘[d] efendants deny each and every factual allegation
contained in the Complaint except as expressly admitted or
qualified herein'”. (Defs.' Br. in Supp. of
Mot. at 2).
argue that the amendment of the answer is in accordance with
the present schedule that the Court set out on December 20,
2016, requiring that any motion to amend be filed by March
10, 2017 and made returnable April 3, 2017. (Id. at
10). Furthermore, Defendants state that “the seventeen
defenses defendants seek to add were identified in
defendants' responses to interrogatories, provided to
plaintiff of January 17, 2017.” (Id.).
Defendants responded to Plaintiff's Interrogatory 21-
where they were asked to set forth all defenses that they
planned to assert- with the seventeen defenses they would
like to include now in their amended answer. (Id. at
5). Additionally, Defendants also argue that Plaintiff will
not be prejudiced because sufficient notice of the defenses
was given to Plaintiff after new counsel entered.
(Id. at 10). Moreover, Defendants note that
“more than sufficient time exists for the parties to
explore all asserted defenses in fact discovery and the
defenses, which are not novel, are of the kind that one
should expect in an employment discrimination case of this
type, as are the two additional sentences or partial
sentences defendants seek to add.” (Id.).
Defendants argue that they have not delayed the case,
exhibited bad faith or dilatory motives since the Court
lifted the entry of default and issued a new scheduling order
on December 20, 2016. (Id.) Defendants state that
their motion to amend the answer is meant to reconcile the
original answer's defenses with the defenses from the
Defendants' interrogatory responses. (Id. at
argues that Defendants' motion to amend their answer
would be unduly prejudicial to Plaintiff. (Pl.'s Br. in
Opp. of Mot. at 1). Plaintiff states that “Defendants
intend to bootstrap their motion for judgment on the
pleadings to their proposed amended answer”
(Id. at 2). Plaintiff further argues that Defendants
could have raised these defenses in their original answer
because the factual basis has not changed between the filing
of the complaint on November 13, 2015 and when Defendants
moved to file an amended answer on March 8, 2017.
(Id.). Plaintiff states that “it is entirely
inexplicable and inexcusable that these defenses were not
raised earlier.” (Id.).
addition, Plaintiff argues that Defendants filed their
original answer to the complaint four months late, so they
had enough time before filing their answer to consider any
defenses they felt were appropriate to assert.
(Id.). Furthermore, Plaintiff notes that the case
has been in litigation for more than eighteen months and has
progressed on the basis of the claims in Plaintiff's
complaint and Defendants' original answer.
(Id.). Plaintiff argues that it is improper and
unduly prejudicial for Defendants to seek to introduce new
defenses that they have been fully aware of since the start
of the litigation. (Id.).
Defendants note that after Plaintiff obtained an extension
for the filing of any opposition to the motion to amend to
April 3, 2017, Plaintiff's response in opposition was not
filed until May 25, 2017 (Defs.' Reply Br. at 2). Defendants
articulated the standard of review for a motion to amend when
undue prejudice and delay is alleged: “[t] o establish
prejudice, the non-moving party must make a showing that
allowing the amended pleading would (1) require the
non-moving party to expend significant additional resources
to conduct discovery and prepare for trial, (2) significantly
delay the resolution of the dispute, or (3) prevent a party
from bringing a timely action in another jurisdiction.”
(Id. at 4). Defendants argue that Plaintiff's
claims of prejudice are unsupported because Plaintiff fails
to show that the amendment would require significant
additional resources to conduct discovery and prepare for
trial, delay the resolution, or somehow prejudice Plaintiff
in any other way. (Id. at 5).
assert that sufficient notice was given to Plaintiff of the
additional defenses. (Id.). Defendants note that
these defenses are typical in an employment discrimination
case similar to the one at hand. (Id.).
Defendants' position is that the parties will have
sufficient time to explore the defenses assuming that the
Court grants a reasonable extension for fact
discovery.(Id.). Additionally, Defendants
argue that Plaintiff asserts a delay in raising the defenses,
but does not show that the delay caused actual prejudice.
(Id. at 6). Defendants also argue that the delay is
not as significant as Plaintiff suggests, and that the motion
to amend was filed fourteen months after the complaint, and
seven and one half months after the filing of the initial
answer. (Id. at 6-7). Moreover, Plaintiff was given
notice of the additional defenses before Defendants filed the
motion to amend due to Defendants' responses to
Plaintiff's interrogatories on January 17, 2017, seven
weeks before the motion was filed. (Id.).
also argue that Plaintiff would not be prejudiced by the
amendment to the answer due to a relationship between the
pending motion for judgment on the pleadings to the motion to
amend. (Id. at 8). Defendants state that
“plaintiff had notice, since at least the time of
defendants' answer, that defendants would pursue
arguments/defenses connected to plaintiff's failure to
properly exhaust administrative remedies.”
(Id. at 9).
to Fed.R.Civ.P.15(a)(2), leave to amend the pleadings is
generally granted freely. See Foman v. Davis, 371
U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Alvin v. Suzuki, 227 F.3d 107,
121 (3d Cir. 2000). Nevertheless, the Court may deny a motion
to amend where there is “undue delay, bad faith or
dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure
to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue
prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the
amendment, [or] futility of the amendment.”
(Id.) However, where there is an absence of undue
delay, bad faith, prejudice or futility, a motion for
leave to amend a pleading should be liberally granted.
Long v. Wilson, 393 F.3d 390, 400 (3d Cir. 2004). In
deciding whether to grant leave to amend, “prejudice to
the non-moving party is the touchstone for the denial of the
amendment.” Bechtel v. Robinson, 886 F.2d 644,
652 (3d Cir. 1989) (quoting Cornell & Co., Inc. v.
Occupational Health and Safety Review Comm'n, 573
F.2d 820, 823 (3d Cir. 1978)).
original Answer included the ...