United States District Court, D. New Jersey
OPINION AND ORDER
B. CLARK, III United States Magistrate Judge
MATTER comes before the Court on a motion by
Plaintiff M.M. (“Plaintiff”) seeking leave to
file an Amended Complaint [Dkt. No. 26] and a cross-motion by
Defendant Paterson Board of Education (the
“District” or “Defendant”) to dismiss
Plaintiff's Complaint [Dkt. No. 31]. For the reasons set
forth below, Plaintiff's motion to amend [Dkt. No. 26] is
GRANTED and Defendant's cross-motion to
dismiss [Dkt. No. 31] is DENIED as moot.
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
to the Complaint, K.M. began the 2016 to 2017 school year in
eighth grade at the New Roberto Clemente School in the
Paterson Public School District. K.M. had previously received
an Individualized Education Plan (“IEP”). In
January 2017, K.M. was diagnosed with depression and other
disorders and was recommended for inpatient hospitalization,
sixty days of in-home instruction, and therapeutic placement.
M.M. instead decided to pursue medication management for K.M.
In April 2017, K.M. was transferred to another school in the
District. K.M. was absent for most of the school year and in
June 2017, the District notified M.M. that K.M. would remain
in eighth grade and would not be promoted to high school.
August 2017, M.M., asserting the denial of a Free and
Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”), filed a
request in the New Jersey Office of Special Education Policy
and Procedure seeking a due process hearing and emergent
relief regarding K.M.'s promotion to high school. In
October 2017, an administrative law judge (“ALJ”)
denied M.M.'s request for emergent relief. M.M.'s due
process hearing was assigned to a separate ALJ and was
scheduled for June 7 and 8, 2018.
November 21, 2017, Plaintiff's Complaint was filed before
this Court with an accompanying request for a preliminary
injunction seeking K.M.'s promotion to high school and
temporary home instruction. See Compl., Dkt. No. 1.
Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that the District
unlawfully denied K.M. a FAPE in violation of the Individuals
with Disabilities Act (“IDEA”) and discriminated
against him in violation of the Americans with Disabilities
Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. The Court
denied M.M.'s request for preliminary injunctive relief
and dismissed Plaintiff's IDEA claim based upon a failure
to exhaust administrative remedies.
October 2018, the parties executed a settlement agreement and
release (the “Settlement Agreement”).
See Dkt. No. 26 at Ex. A. On November 1, 2018 ALJ
Elissa Mizzone Testa entered an order approving the
parties' settlement (the “Approval Order”).
Id. In addition to a recitation of the substantive
relief to be provided as part of the parties' settlement,
the Settlement Agreement contains the following two
provisions, found in Paragraphs 10 and 11, which form the
basis of the present motion:
10.Except as otherwise set forth in paragraph 10, this
Agreement fully resolves all claims that were or could have
been asserted against [the District] in these due process
proceedings, the Superior Court of New Jersey and the United
States District Court with respect to K.M.'s and
M.M.'s rights under State and federal education law,
anti-discrimination laws, civil rights, and the like, up to
the date of the execution of this Agreement, including any
claims for money damages, and [the Plaintiff] releases [the
District] from any liability with respect thereto.
11. The Parties fully reserve their rights with respect to
any claims for reasonable attorney's fees and costs
related to this consolidated due process hearing, application
for emergent relief and related filings in the United States
District Court for the District of New Jersey and the United
States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Id.
upon the Settlement Agreement, Plaintiff filed the present
motion seeking leave to file an Amended Complaint.
Plaintiff's proposed Amended Complaint withdraws the
remaining substantive claims and asserts claims for
attorneys' fees and costs. See Dkt. No. 26 at
Ex. B. Defendant, contending that the proposed amendment is
futile and the product of bad faith, opposes Plaintiff's
motion and moves for the dismissal of the Complaint pursuant
to the Settlement Agreement. See Dkt. No. 31.
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), “a party may
amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written
consent or the court's leave” and “[t]he
court should freely give leave when justice so
requires.” The decision to grant leave to amend rests
within the sound discretion of the trial court. Zenith
Radio Corp. v. Hazeltine Research Inc., 401 U.S. 321,
330 (1970). In determining a motion for leave to amend,
Courts consider the following factors: (1) undue delay on the
part of the party seeking to amend; (2) bad faith or dilatory
motive behind the amendment; (3) repeated failure to cure
deficiencies through multiple prior amendments; (4) undue
prejudice on the opposing party; and/or (5) futility of the
amendment. See Great Western Mining & Mineral Co. v.
Fox Rothschild LLP, 615 F.3d 159, 174 (3d Cir. 2010)
(quoting Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)).
In addition, “[t]he Third Circuit has consistently
emphasized the liberal approach to pleading embodied by Rule
15.” Endo Pharma v. Mylan Techs Inc.,
2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32931, at *4 (D. Del. Mar. 11, 2013).
The Court should only deny leave when these factors
“suggest that amendment would be ‘unjust'. .
. .” Arthur v. Maersk, Inc., 434 F.3d 196, 203
(3d Cir. 2006).
contends that Plaintiff's motion should be denied because
the proposed amendment is futile and the product of bad
faith. The Court first addresses Defendant's assertion
that the proposed amendment is futile. An amendment will be
considered futile if it “is frivolous or advances a
claim or defense that is legally insufficient on its
face.” Harrison Beverage Co. v. Dribeck Imps.,
Inc.,133 F.R.D. 463, 468 (D.N.J. 1990) (citations
omitted). In determining whether an amendment is insufficient
on its face, the Court employs the same standard as in a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. In re Burlington Coat Factory
Sec. Litig.,114 F.3d 1410, 1434 (3d Cir. 1997)
(citation omitted). Under a Rule 12(b)(6) analysis, the
question is not whether the movant will ultimately prevail,
and detailed factual allegations are not necessary to survive
such a motion. Antoine v. ...