United States District Court, D. New Jersey
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.
matter comes before the Court on Defendant Mondelez
International Inc.'s (“Mondelez”) appeal of
Magistrate Judge Mark Falk's January 29 Opinion and Order
granting Plaintiff Tiho Marinac (“Marinac”) leave
to file a second amended complaint. ECF No. 107. The Court
decides the matter on the papers without need for oral
argument. L. Civ. R. 78.1(b). For the reasons set forth
below, the Magistrate's decision is
underlying facts and procedural history of this matter were
laid out in the Magistrate's Opinion, familiarity with
which is assumed. ECF No. 102 (“Opinion”).
relevant here, Marinac alleges Mondelez discharged him on the
basis of age, in violation of the New Jersey Law Against
Discrimination (“NJLAD”). On July 16, 2015, the
Magistrate issued a scheduling order setting October 30,
2015, as the deadline to amend pleadings and add new parties.
ECF No. 12. That deadline expired without action from
Marinac. Over three years later, he sought leave to file a
second amended complaint. ECF No. 70. Specifically, Marinac
intended to: (1) add Mondelez International Holdings, LLC and
Mondelez Global LLC as defendants; (2) add age discrimination
claims under both New York State Human Rights Law
(“NYSHRL”) and New York City Human Rights Law
(“NYCHRL”); and (3) amplify the allegations to
include pertinent facts learned through discovery. The
Magistrate granted Marinac's motion to amend the
complaint. Mondelez now appeals, claiming the
Magistrate's decision was contrary to law and should be
reversed. Def.'s Br. 7-27, ECF No. 107-1.
contends the Magistrate applied the wrong legal standard and
should have analyzed whether Marinac made the requisite
“good cause” showing under Rule 16 because he
sought leave to amend after the scheduling order's filing
deadline. Id. at 8-13. And even if Rule 15 was the
correct standard, Mondelez argues Marinac's motion should
have been denied. Id. at 13-27.
to amend a complaint are considered nondispositive. See
Cont'l Cas. Co. v. Dominick D'Andrea, Inc., 150
F.3d 245, 251 (3d Cir. 1998). A district court reviewing a
magistrate's resolution of nondispositive matters
“must consider timely objections and modify or set
aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or
contrary to law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a).
finding is clearly erroneous only if the court reviewing
“the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm
conviction that a mistake has been committed.”
United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 333 U.S.
364, 395 (1948). A ruling is contrary to law if the
magistrate misapplied or misinterpreted applicable law.
Gunter v. Ridgewood Energy Corp., 32 F.Supp.2d 162,
164 (D.N.J. 1998). The Court reviews findings of fact for
clear error and legal conclusions de novo.
Haines v. Liggett Grp. Inc., 975 F.2d 81, 91 (3d
Court has reviewed the Opinion, considered the parties'
arguments, and finds no errors of fact or law.
Magistrate identified two standards in reviewing motions to
amend pleadings. When presented with a motion to amend the
complaint after a responsive pleading has been served,
“[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so
requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Thus, absent undue
delay, bad faith, dilatory motive on the part of the moving
party, undue prejudice to the non-moving party, or futility,
leave to amend “should, as the rules require, by
‘freely given.'” Foman v. Davis, 371
U.S. 178, 182 (1962). But when seeking leave to amend past a
court's scheduling order deadline, the movant must show
“good cause” for the untimely motion before a
court considers amendments under Rule 15(a). Fed.R.Civ.P.
16(b)(4) (providing that a scheduling order “may be
modified only for good cause and with the judge's
Third Circuit has made clear that there is to be a
‘liberal use of Rule 15 to amend complaints so as to
state additional causes of action.”' Leased
Optical Dep'ts-Montgomery Ward, Inc. v. Opti-Center,
Inc., 120 F.R.D. 476, 479 (D.N.J. 1988) (quoting
Boileau v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 730 F.2d 929, 938
(3d Cir. 1984) (per curiam)). This policy “ensures that
a particular claim will be decided on the merits rather than
on technicalities.” Dole v. Arco Chem. Co.,
921 F.2d 484, 487 (3d Cir. 1990); see also W. Run Student
Hous. Assocs., LLC v. Huntington Nat'l Bank, 712
F.3d 165, 171 (3d Cir. 2013) (“[A]llowing amendments to
correct errors in the pleadings clearly is desirable and
furthers one of the basic objectives of the federal rules-the
determination of cases on their merits.”). In age
discrimination cases like here, courts have found the same
federal framework governs NJLAD, NYSHRL, and NYCHRL claims.
See Skoorka v. Kean Univ., Civ. No. 16-3842, 2018 WL
3122331, at *14 n.8 (D.N.J. June 26, 2018); Devlin v.
Transp. Commc'ns Int'l Union, Nos. 95 Civ. 0742,
95 Civ. 10838, 2002 WL 413919, at *10 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 14,
2002) (citations omitted).
despite multiple re-scheduled conferences, ECF Nos. 13, 16,
19, 21, 25-27, 32-35, 38; eight settlement conferences with
the court, ECF Nos. 21(a), 23(a), 27(a), 35(a), 36(a), 51(a),
52(a), 69(a); a 90-day litigation stay during referral to
mediation, ECF No. 29; and multiple changes in counsel,
including two motions to withdraw by counsel for Plaintiff,
ECF Nos. 39, 54, the parties remain embroiled in the early
stages of discovery, see Op. at 5. No. doubt,
“this case never really got started.”
Id. Under such circumstances, the Third Circuit has
sanctioned the use of the more liberal Rule 15 standard.
Mullin v. Balicki, 875 F.3d 140, 149-55 (3d Cir.
2017) (finding amendment possible under Rule 15 when
plaintiff sought leave to amend outside a scheduling order
deadline); Boileau, 730 F.2d at 938-39 (finding, in
the absence of undue prejudice to the defendant, the court
erred in denying the plaintiff leave to amend under Rule 15
ten years after the complaint was filed); Heyl
& Patterson Int'l, Inc. v. F.D. Rich Hous. of V.I.,
Inc., 663 F.2d 419, 425-27 (3d Cir. 1981) (finding no
abuse of discretion in allowing amendment under Rule 15 when
trial had already begun, “[s]ince the trial judge did
not find that the Government's action rose to the ...