Cook v. J.L. Clark Trucking, Inc. et al
Order granting 20 MOTION to Amend Complaint. Plaintiff is ordered by 2/29/2012 to file his Amended Complaint. Signed by Chief Judge William H. Steele on 2/22/12. (tgw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
J. L. CLARK TRUCKING, INC., et al.,
CIVIL ACTION 11-0489-WS-M
This matter comes before the Court on plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint
(doc. 20). According to the Motion (which was filed prior to the applicable Scheduling Order
deadline for motions to amend pleadings), plaintiff, Morrel Cook, seeks to amend his Complaint
to include a claim for the tort of outrage and intentional infliction of emotional distress under
Alabama law.1 In a cursory Objection (doc. 22), defendants oppose the Motion for Leave to
Amend Complaint for the stated reasons that “Plaintiff has pled facts in the original Complaint
which could have supported a claim for outrage and that Plaintiff’s request is untimely.” (Id.)
Plaintiff’s request to amend his Complaint is governed by Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, which provides in pertinent part that “[t]he court should freely give leave when
justice so requires.” Rule 15(a)(2), Fed.R.Civ.P. Courts have recognized that Rule 15(a)
“severely restricts” a district court’s discretion to deny leave to amend. Sibley v. Lando, 437
F.3d 1067, 1073 (11th Cir. 2005). As a general proposition, “[u]nless a substantial reason exists
As pleaded in the proposed First Amended Complaint (doc. 20, Exh. 1), this new
cause of action would be predicated on factual allegations such as the following: (i) defendant
James L. Clark effectively compelled employees to endorse checks for overdue compensation
back to defendant J.L. Clark Trucking after a Department of Labor wage and hour investigation
found that employees were owed back pay for unpaid overtime hours; (ii) when Cook refused to
endorse the check back over to Clark Trucking, James Clark screamed at him to leave the
premises; and (iii) when plaintiff again refused to endorse the check back to the company several
days later, Clark fired him for “stirring up trouble.”
to deny leave to amend, the discretion of the District Court is not broad enough to permit denial.”
Florida Evergreen Foliage v. E.I. DuPont De Nemours and Co., 470 F.3d 1036, 1041 (11th Cir.
2006) (citation omitted); see also Burger King Corp. v. Weaver, 169 F.3d 1310, 1319 (11th Cir.
1999) (similar). That said, leave to amend can properly be denied under circumstances of
“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 amendment.” Equity Lifestyle Properties, Inc. v.
Florida Mowing and Landscape Service, Inc., 556 F.3d 1232, 1241 (11th Cir. 2009) (citation
omitted); see also Andrx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Elan Corp., PLC, 421 F.3d 1227 (11th Cir.
2005) (“Leave may be denied because of undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of
the movants, 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
amendment.”) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
Defendants have not identified any of the traditional considerations that may justify
denial of a motion for leave to amend the pleadings as being operative in this case. Instead,
defendants’ sole asserted ground for opposing Cook’s Motion is that the facts on which the
proposed new cause of action are based were known to Cook when he filed his original
Complaint, such that (in defendants’ view) the amended pleading is untimely. This objection
lacks merit. The Motion for Leave to Amend is not untimely. After all, the Rule 16(b)
Scheduling Order provides that “[a]ny motion for leave to amend the pleadings … must be filed
on or before February 17, 2012.” (Doc. 14, ¶ 5.) Plaintiff filed his Rule 15 Motion on February
13, 2012, four days before the applicable Scheduling Order deadline. Nor does any provision in
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandate that a plaintiff seek to amend his or her complaint
at the earliest possible moment. For better or worse, Rule 15 does not create a “speak now or
forever hold your peace” regime for amending pleadings. Without more, the mere fact that a
plaintiff failed to plead a claim as soon as the underlying facts became known to him neither
renders a subsequent Rule 15 motion untimely nor justifies denial of same. See, e.g.,
Loggerhead Turtle v. County Council of Volusia County, Fla., 148 F.3d 1231, 1256-57 (11th Cir.
1998) (where plaintiffs filed motion for leave to amend prior to scheduling order deadline, “[a]t
most, their failure to request leave to file an amended complaint in late July instead of October
supports a finding of ‘delay,’ not ‘undue delay’ or ‘dilatory’ action”); Floyd v. Eastern Airlines,
Inc., 872 F.2d 1462, 1490 (11th Cir. 1989) (“The mere passage of time, without anything more, is
an insufficient reason to deny leave to amend.”); Dussouy v. Gulf Coast Inv. Corp., 660 F.2d
594, 598 (5th Cir. 1981) (“mere passage of time need not result in refusal of leave to amend; on
the contrary, it is only undue delay that forecloses amendment”).
There is no evidence in the record, and no reason to believe, that defendants have
incurred prejudice by Cook’s delay in seeking leave to add an outrage cause of action.
Defendants have not suggested that such a claim is futile, that they lack sufficient opportunity to
explore this claim via discovery, or that inclusion of such a claim in the pleadings at this time is
in bad faith or would work any unfairness or prejudice on them. Rather, by all appearances,
Cook’s proposed amendment is proper and lies well within the permissible boundaries of Rule
15. Plaintiff indicates that the parties have not yet engaged in any meaningful discovery in this
case. Moreover, the dispositive motions deadline is nearly five months away, and the proposed
outrage claim is not obviously frivolous on its face. In this posture, there is no justifiable basis
for disallowing the amendment.
For all of the foregoing reasons, the Motion to Amend (doc. 20) is granted pursuant to
Rule 15(a)(2), Fed.R.Civ.P. Pursuant to Section II.A.6. of this District Court’s Administrative
Procedure for Filing, Signing and Verifying Documents by Electronic Means, plaintiff is
ordered, on or before February 29, 2012, to file his Amended Complaint as a freestanding
document in substantially the form appended to the Motion as an exhibit.
DONE and ORDERED this 22nd day of February, 2012.
s/ WILLIAM H. STEELE
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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