Taylor v. J P Morgan Chase, Cahse Home Finance
OPINOIN AND ORDER granting 23 Motion to Amend/Correct Answer. The Court ORDERS Defendant to file its First Amended Answer and Affirmative Defenses, currently on the docket as an attachment to the instant Motion on or before 12/28/16. Signed by Magistrate Judge John E Martin on 12/20/16. (cc: Plaintiff). (nal)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
HAMMOND DIVISION AT LAFAYETTE
ANTHONY G. TAYLOR,
J P MORGAN CHASE, CHASE HOME
CAUSE NO.: 4:16-CV-52-PPS-JEM
OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Defendant’s Renewed Motion for Leave to File First
Amended Answer and Affirmative Defenses [DE 23], filed by Defendant on November 21, 2016.
Plaintiff has responded, and Defendant has replied.
Plaintiff sued Defendant in state court, alleging breach of contract and breach of the duty of
good faith and fair dealing. Plaintiff says that, after Defendant offered him a trial modification to
his mortgage payment plan under the federal Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP),
Defendant breached its agreement to convert the trial modification into a permanent modification.
Defendant removed the case to federal court and filed an answer to the complaint. Defendant
later asked for leave to file an amended answer with affirmative defenses that were not included in
Defendant’s initial answer. Plaintiff objected, and the Court denied Defendant’s motion on the
ground that allowing Defendant to plead 11 of the 15 proposed affirmative defenses would be futile.
See Villa v. City of Chicago, 924 F.2d 629, 632 (7th Cir. 1991). Defendant now has revised its
proposed affirmative defenses and again seeks leave to file an amended answer.
A party may amend a pleading with the Court’s leave, and the Court “should freely give
leave when justice so requires.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). The decision to grant or deny a motion to
amend lies within the Court’s sound discretion, but leave to amend is “inappropriate where there is
undue delay, bad faith, 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.” Villa, 924 F.2d at 632; Campbell v.
Ingersoll Milling Mach. Co., 893 F.2d 925, 927 (7th Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 844.
As with Defendant’s previous attempt to file amended affirmative defenses, Plaintiff does
not argue that the proposed amended affirmative defenses will cause prejudice or undue delay, and
he does not allege bad faith or dilatory motive by Defendant. Nor has Defendant repeatedly failed
to cure deficiencies in its affirmative defenses. So the only question, as last time, is whether the
proposed affirmative defenses are futile.
Plaintiff says that Defendant’s revised proposed affirmative defenses are once again futile.
In Plaintiff’s view, Defendant improperly seeks to “take a second bite of the apple” by rewording
the affirmative defenses from the previous motion and presenting them in a different sequence. But
the Court expressly invited Defendant to file a renewed motion attaching a proposed amended
answer that corrects the improper affirmative defenses from its first effort—see DE 22 (“the Court
DENIES Defendant’s Motion . . . with leave to re-file a renewed motion”)—and that is precisely
what Defendant has done. The new proposed affirmative defenses are “reworded,” yes, but in such
a way that they now adequately address the deficiencies that the Court had identified.
For example, Defendant previously asserted that “Plaintiff’s claims may be barred by his
failure to mitigate damages, if any,” and the Court found this affirmative defense to be, at best,
improperly conclusory. But now Defendant’s proposed failure-to-mitigate affirmative defense
elaborates by asserting that Plaintiff “failed to comply with the terms of the subject loan documents”
by “not attempt[ing] to sell the subject property or obtain a new mortgage loan.” This expanded
language constitutes an appropriately “short and plain statement” of the affirmative defense and
adequately puts Plaintiff on notice of the defense. Heller Fin., Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., 883
F.2d 1286, 1294 (7th Cir. 1989) (affirmative defense must contain “short and plain statement” of
the defense); Cottle v. Falcon Holdings Mgmt., LLC, No. 11-95, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10478, *12
(N.D. Ind. Jan. 30, 2012) (affirmative defense must “be adequately pled to put a plaintiff on notice
of the defense”); Design Basics, LLC v. Windsor Homes, Inc., No. 16-51, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
91910, *8 (N.D. Ind. July 14, 2016) (denying motion to strike affirmative defenses because the
affirmative defenses were stated “in short and plain terms” and “sufficiently put [the plaintiff] on
notice of the affirmative defense[s]”); accord Bielfeldt v. Bourazak, No. 15-1419, 2016 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 46986, *6 (C.D. Ill. Apr. 7, 2016) (“Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires for
affirmative defenses, at a minimum, fair notice of a party’s defense.”). The same is true of
Defendant’s other revised proposed affirmative defenses, all of which provide sufficient additional
detail to put Plaintiff on adequate notice.
Plaintiff also attacks proposed affirmative defenses B, D, and G on the merits. But the time
for litigating the merits of Defendant’s proposed affirmative defenses will come later. Foman v.
Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962) (litigants “ought to be afforded an opportunity to test [their]
claim[s] on the merits”); Kirsch v. Brighstar Corp., No. 12-6966, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 146641,
*21 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 10, 2014) (“the Court finds no reason to deny [defendant] the opportunity to test
his affirmative defense on the merits”). Defendant’s proposed First Amended Answer provides short
and plain statements of Defendant’s proposed affirmative defenses that adequately put Plaintiff on
notice of the defenses. That is enough, absent circumstances not present here, for justice to require
granting leave to amend.
Plaintiff also complains about the language contained in a sentence near the end of
Defendant’s proposed First Amended Answer, captioned “Reservation of Right.” There, Defendant
purports to “reserve its right to file such amended Answer(s) and/or additional Affirmative Defense
as may be appropriate upon completion of its investigation and discovery.” Plaintiff argues that a
party cannot “reserve” the right to amend an answer, as only the opposing party’s written consent
or the Court’s leave can allow a party to amend a pleading. Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2).
Plaintiff is correct that Defendant will not be permitted to file a second amended answer or
to add more affirmative defenses without either Plaintiff’s written consent or the Court’s leave. But
nothing in the sentence at issue contradicts that, so the Court sees no reason to strike the sentence
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f)(1) when the amended answer is filed.
For the reasons above, the Court GRANTS Defendant’s Renewed Motion for Leave to File
First Amended Answer and Affirmative Defenses [DE 23] and ORDERS Defendant to file its First
Amended Answer and Affirmative Defenses, currently on the docket as an attachment to the instant
Motion, on or before December 28, 2016.
SO ORDERED this 20th day of December, 2016.
s/ John E. Martin
MAGISTRATE JUDGE JOHN E. MARTIN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
All counsel of record
Plaintiff, pro se
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?