Warkentine v. Salina Public Schools Unified School District No. 305
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER granting 34 Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint. Signed by Magistrate Judge Kenneth G. Gale on 7/2/2012. (df)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF KANSAS
SALINA PUBLIC SCHOOLS
UNIFIED SCHOOL DIST. No. 305, )
Case No. 11-4022-JAR/KGG
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT
Before the Court is Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint (Doc.
34). Plaintiff seeks to amend her Complaint to add a claim for breach of contract
premised upon an alleged breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing in
Defendant’s conduct during the contractually-provided grievance process.
Plaintiff alleges that the facts supporting this claim were discovered during the
present litigation. Defendant opposes the motion, arguing that the proposed
amendment fails to state a plausible claim and is, thus, futile. (Doc. 36.) The
Court finds that the proposed amendment survives Defendant’s challenge and is
not futile. As such, Plaintiff’s motion should be GRANTED.
The proposed amendment requires leave of the Court, which should be
freely given when “justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P.15(a)(2). Notably, Defendant
does not oppose the proposed amendment based on a claim that Plaintiff has been
dilatory in making the claim, or upon unfair prejudice. Defendant’s opposition is
limited to an argument that the new claim is futile because it fails to state a claim.
The Court may deny a motion to amend upon that basis if the claim would fail to
withstand a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Stewart v. Board of
Com’rs for Shawnee County, Kansas, 216 F.R.D. 662, 664 (D. Kan. 2003). To
survive such a challenge, the amendment must “state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
Plaintiff’s primary claims in this case concern an interpretation of her
teaching contract which allegedly resulted in depriving her of expected retirement
benefits. Plaintiff’s proposed amendment focuses upon the grievance process and
“advisory arbitration” provided in the negotiated agreement, which she engaged in
an unsuccessful attempt to challenge the interpretation. She claims that the
negotiated agreement is a contract subject to the implied covenant of good faith
and fair dealing. She claims that Defendant breached this contractual duty when
administration personnel falsely told the board and the arbitrator that interpreting
the agreement as urged by Plaintiff would make 238 additional employees eligible
for benefits, thus making this interpretation cost-prohibitive.
Defendant’s first argument that the proposed amendment is futile is based on
a claim that the arbitration and grievance processes were “quasi-judicial in nature,”
thus making Defendant immune to actions based on statements made during the
proceedings. See Schulze v. Bd. of Education, 221 Kan. 351, 353 (1977)(school
board hearing evidence and issuing sanctions to teacher is quasi-judicial and thus
subject to immunity). However, unlike a disciplinary action a school board hearing
a grievance concerning a contract dispute is not quasi-judicial. Schmidt v. Bd. of
Education, 24 Kan. App.2d 643 (1997). Additionally, Defendant has not cited any
authority supportive of a claim that a school board is immune from a claim that it
breached its contractual promise to provide grievance or arbitration. Based on the
proposed amendment, the Court does not find that the amendment is futile based
on judicial immunity.
Defendant’s second argument is based on a claim that the duty of good faith
and fair dealing does not extend to post-performance attempts to resolve a claim of
alleged breach. Defendant acknowledges that the doctrine addresses a duty to
avoid intentionally preventing the other party from receiving the “fruits of the
contract.” Bank of America v. Narula, 46 Kan. App. 2d 142 (2011). However,
Defendant cites cases from other jurisdictions rejecting the doctrines application as
to post-performance matters.
The flaw in Defendant’s argument is that Plaintiff’s claim concerns the
performance of the contract itself. The grievance and arbitration process is a
benefit provided in the contract. Thus, Plaintiff’s right to that benefit is not postperformance, but is part of the contract. The Court finds Defendant’s arguments in
this regard unpersuasive.
The Court finds that the proposed amendment states a plausible claim. The
motion to amend is GRANTED. Plaintiff shall file her Second Amendment
Complaint on or before July 16, 2012.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated this 2nd day of July, 2012, at Wichita, Kansas.
S/ KENNETH G. GALE
Kenneth G. Gale
U.S. Magistrate Judge
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