Jackson v. The Board of Commissioners of the Housing Authority of The City of Prichard et al
Order granting 19 MOTION for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint. Amended Complaint due by 7/10/2017. The Motions to Dismiss (Docs. 8-10) are moot. Signed by District Judge William H. Steele on 7/6/2017. (tgw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS OF
THE HOUSING AUTHORITY OF THE
CITY OF PRICHARD, et al.,
CIVIL ACTION 17-0149-WS-M
This matter comes before the Court on Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss or to Require
Plaintiff to Allege § 1983 Claims with Particularity (doc. 8), Motion to Dismiss Title VII Claims
Against Individually Named Defendants (doc. 9) and Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Title VII and
Section 1981 Claims (doc. 10), as well as on Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to File Second
Amended Complaint (doc. 19). The Motions have been briefed and are now ripe.
Plaintiff, Donald Jackson, brought this action alleging employment discrimination,
retaliation and possibly other civil rights violations against a host of defendants, including the
Board of Commissioners of the Housing Authority of the City of Prichard, the Housing
Authority itself, and four individual defendants affiliated with the Housing Authority. On May
30, 2017, defendants, all of whom are represented by the same counsel, filed a trio of Motions to
Dismiss, seeking dismissal of various aspects of the First Amended Complaint. In one Motion,
defendants argue that Jackson’s § 1983 claim should be dismissed as insufficiently pleaded. In
another, they move for dismissal of Jackson’s Title VII claims against the individual defendants.
And in the third, defendants request dismissal of Jackson’s Title VII claims as time-barred and
dismissal of his § 1981 claims on the ground that the statute is unavailable to remedy his
allegations of gender discrimination.
During the ensuing briefing process on the Motions to Dismiss, Jackson filed a Motion
for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint (doc. 19). In that Motion, Jackson did not
enumerate specifically what modifications he sought to make in his new amended pleading, but
indicated that “[t]he proposed Second Amended Complaint merely pleads facts that cure the
facial deficiencies … identified by Defendants’ motion to Dismiss.” (Id. at 4.) A side-by-side
comparison of the First Amended Complaint (doc. 5) and the proposed Second Amended
Complaint (doc. 19-1) reveals wholesale alterations, in both substance and formatting, between
the two documents. It appears that Jackson is seeking to delete certain claims, modify other
claims, and furnish an expanded factual predicate for other claims, all as a means of addressing
the objections raised in defendants’ Motions to Dismiss.
In response to the Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint, defendants filed
an Opposition (doc. 22) centered on one particular aspect of the proposed amendment. Jackson’s
First Amended Complaint alleged that “plaintiff was forced to leave defendant’s employ on
February 12, 2016 by defendant’s letter of termination.” (Doc. 5, ¶ 11.) That factual allegation
looms large in defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Title VII and Section 1981 Claims (doc.
10), in which they argue that Jackson’s Title VII claims are time-barred because he failed to file
an EEOC charge within 180 days after the termination of his employment. (Doc. 10, at 3-7.) In
the proposed Second Amended Complaint, however, Jackson repeatedly identifies his
termination date as September 12, 2016, not February 12, 2016. (See doc. 19-1, ¶¶ 4, 72.) It
appears that the February 12 date coincides with defendants’ issuance to Jackson of a letter of
termination, whereas September 12 is the date on which the defendant Board of Commissioners
announced its decision on Jackson’s appeal, upholding the termination of his employment. (See
doc. 5, at Exhs. B & C.) This designation of a different termination date may or may not be
legally correct, and may or may not affect the Title VII timeliness analysis.1
Jackson’s Motion for Leave to Amend is governed by Rule 15, which provides that, as a
general proposition, “[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Rule
15(a)(2), Fed.R.Civ.P. “The thrust of Rule 15(a) is to allow parties to have their claims heard on
the merits, and accordingly, district courts should liberally grant leave to amend when the
Indeed, defendants’ Motion to Dismiss recognized the possibility that Jackson
might contend that his actual termination date was September 12, 2016, and argued that the Title
VII claim was untimely either way. (See doc. 10, at 7 (“Even assuming, arguendo, that the Court
finds that Mr. Jackson’s date of termination was ‘9-12-2016’ … his Title VII claims were not
filed within the 180 day limitations period, are time-barred, and due to be dismissed.”).)
underlying facts or circumstances relied upon by a plaintif may be a proper subject of relief.” In
re Engle Cases, 767 F.3d 1082, 1108 (11th Cir. 2014) (citation and internal quotation marks
omitted). In light of the relaxed Rule 15(a) standard, “[d]istrict courts have limited discretion in
denying leave to amend, and should grant a motion to amend unless there are substantial reasons
to deny it.” Bowers v. U.S. Parole Com’n, Warden, 760 F.3d 1177, 1185 (11th Cir. 2014)
(citation and internal marks omitted). The substantial reasons that may justify denial of a motion
to amend include undue delay, bad faith, undue prejudice, and futility.2
Defendants contend that Jackson’s Rule 15(a)(2) Motion should be denied for three
reasons, all relating to the inclusion of a September 12, 2016 termination date in the proposed
Second Amended Complaint, as contrasted with the February 12, 2016 date specified in the First
Amended Complaint. First, defendants posit that Jackson “should be bound by his earlier
admission in a pleading” that his employment was terminated on February 12, not September 12.
(Doc. 22, at 5.) It is, of course, correct that “[t]he general rule [is] that a party is bound by the
admissions in his pleadings.” Cooper v. Meridian Yachts, Ltd., 575 F.3d 1151, 1177 (11th Cir.
2009) (citation omitted). But nothing in that general rule would forbid a plaintiff from
modifying well-pleaded factual allegations in a complaint via amendment pursuant to Rule 15.
Defendants cite no authority supporting the proposition that once a plaintiff pleads a fact in his
complaint, he is deemed irrevocably to have admitted that fact for all time and is powerless to
amend that factual allegation pursuant to Rule 15(a)(2).
Second, defendants assert that Jackson’s attempt to change the termination date from
February 12, 2016 to September 12, 2016 demonstrates “bad faith” that justifies denial of the
amendment. In defendants’ words, “[b]ecause Plaintiff is attempting to amend the complaint, to
essentially revise factual allegations in a manner which appears to be untrue, the Court should
deny the amendment on bad faith grounds.” (Doc. 22, at 8.) However, Jackson’s proposed
See, e.g., Mann v. Palmer, 713 F.3d 1306, 1316 (11th Cir. 2013) (“Although leave
to amend shall be freely given when justice so requires, a motion to amend may be denied on
numerous grounds such as undue delay, undue prejudice to the defendants, and futility of the
amendment.”) (citation omitted); Andrx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Elan Corp., PLC, 421 F.3d
1227, 1236 (11th Cir. 2005) (“Leave may be denied because 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.”) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
amendment does not appear to be the product of bad faith, and the proposed Second Amended
Complaint does not appear to set forth knowing misrepresentations of the facts. The issue of
Jackson’s termination date is more of a legal question than a factual question in the
circumstances presented here. Here is why: Everyone agrees that Jackson received a letter on or
about February 12, 2016 telling him that his employment had been terminated, effective
immediately. (Doc. 5-1, Exh. C.) Everyone agrees that Jackson pursued internal appeal
remedies before the Board of Commissioners of the Prichard Housing Authority, and that the
Board sent Jackson a letter on September 12, 2016 informing him of its decision to uphold the
termination. (Doc. 5-1, Exh. B.) Whether, given those undisputed facts, the 180-day Title VII
clock commenced running with the February 12 letter or the September 12 letter is ultimately a
legal question. Jackson may or may not be correct in his legal theory that the 180-day limitations
period commenced with the September 12 letter, rather than February 12 letter. But the Court
cannot and does not find in these circumstances that Jackson’s espousal of that theory in his
proposed Second Amended Complaint is intentionally misleading or otherwise indicative of bad
faith. Rather, Jackson is adjusting his legal theories in light of defendants’ arguments presented
in their Motions to Dismiss. This is permissible under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
See, e.g., Sherrod v. McHugh, --- F. Supp.3d ----, 2017 WL 1316915, *1 (D.D.C. Apr. 7, 2017)
(“parties may move to amend to ‘clarify and amplify’ the allegations in their complaint in light
of facts learned during discovery and arguments made by the opposition”) (emphasis added).
Third, defendants complain that they would incur undue prejudice if the amendment were
allowed “[b]ecause the Second Amended Complaint seeks to raise significant new facts – a new
termination date.” (Doc. 22, at 9.) This argument is undermined by defendants’ discussion of
the legal implications of a possible September 12 termination date in a court filing that predates
the proposed Second Amended Complaint by more than two weeks. Indeed, defendants
acknowledged in one of their Motions to Dismiss that there is or may be uncertainty as to
whether the February 12, 2016 date or the September 12, 2016 date is operative for limitations
purposes, but that Jackson’s EEOC Charge was untimely “whether the date of termination
(February 12, 2016) or the date of denial of the appeal (September 12, 2016) is used.” (Doc. 10,
at 7 n.4.) Defendants cannot credibly claim undue prejudice when plaintiff seeks to amend his
pleading to assert a legal theory that defendants expressly acknowledged and directly addressed
in a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion preceding the amendment. Their filings demonstrate that defendants
have always known of the possibility that Jackson would argue that the 180-day limitations
period began running on September 12, 2016 rather than February 12, 2016. The proposed
Second Amended Complaint makes Jackson’s election of that theory explicit. It does not
unfairly surprise defendants. It does not place defendants at a strategic disadvantage. And it
certainly does not work any injustice on them.
For all of the foregoing reasons, plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to File Second Amended
Complaint (doc. 19) is granted pursuant to Rule 15(a)(2), Fed.R.Civ.P. In accordance with
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 July 10, 2017, to
file as a freestanding pleading his Second Amended Complaint, in substantially the same form as
the proposed amended pleading appended to his Motion as an exhibit. Upon such filing, the
Second Amended Complaint will become the operative pleading in this matter, and Jackson’s
First Amended Complaint (doc. 5) will be superseded and will be of no further force or effect.3
In the wake of this amendment to the pleadings, it appears that Jackson has addressed
multiple issues raised by defendants in their three pending Motions to Dismiss. Whether those
modifications to Jackson’s pleading are adequate to neutralize defendants’ previously raised
arguments for dismissal, or whether they may have opened the door for defendants to raise other
or different arguments for dismissal, cannot be readily determined from the existing briefs,
which were directed at the First Amended Complaint, not the Second Amended Complaint.
Thus, it is not entirely clear whether defendants wish to continue to assert all arguments found in
their original Motions to Dismiss, whether they wish to tweak or supplement those arguments,
whether they wish to abandon those arguments, and so on. Rather than speculating as to
movants’ intentions or attempting to synchronize the arguments presented in the parties’ existing
See generally Lowery v. Alabama Power Co., 483 F.3d 1184, 1219 (11th Cir.
2007) (“Under both Alabama and federal law, an amended complaint supersedes the initial
complaint and becomes the operative pleading in the case.”); Pintando v. Miami-Dade Housing
Agency, 501 F.3d 1241, 1243 (11th Cir. 2007) (“As a general matter, an amended pleading
supersedes the former pleading; the original pleading is abandoned by the amendment, and is no
longer a part of the pleader’s averments against his adversary.”) (citations and internal marks
omitted); Thomas v. Home Depot USA, Inc., 661 Fed.Appx. 575, 577 (11th Cir. Sept. 8, 2016)
(“Generally speaking, an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint: averments
against one’s adversaries dropped from the original complaint no longer count.”).
briefs concerning the pending Motions to Dismiss with a complaint that may have been amended
in material respects in the interim, a far more efficient approach is to deem defendants’ Motions
moot and set new deadlines for responsive pleadings or Rule 12(b) motions relating to the
Second Amended Complaint. Accordingly, defendants’ Motions to Dismiss (docs. 8, 9, 10) are
moot because they relate to a pleading that has been superseded. Defendants’ answer or Rule
12(b) motion in response to the Second Amended Complaint is due on or before July 20, 2017.
Should defendants wish to renew their Motions to Dismiss, they should file a single omnibus
Rule 12(b) motion that (in addition to any new or different grounds for relief sought) reproduces
in full any arguments that they intend to reassert from their prior Rule 12(b) Motions, so that the
briefing on the renewed motion is self-contained, without merely adopting by reference the
contents of previous briefs relating to now-moot motions.
DONE and ORDERED this 6th day of July, 2017.
s/ WILLIAM H. STEELE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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