Lyttle v. Farley et al
OPINION & ORDER: Plaintiff Lyttle's motion for leave to amend the complaint (DE 24 , 25 ) is GRANTED. Signed by Judge Karen K. Caldwell on 3/6/17.(SYD)cc: COR
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
SOUTHERN DIVISION AT LONDON
CIVIL ACTION NO. 6:16-114-KKC
OPINION & ORDER
ROB FARLEY, et. al.,
This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Lewis Lyttle’s Motion for Leave
to File First Amended Complaint. (DE 24, 25). Lyttle requests that the Court issue
an order granting him leave to amend his complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 15(a). For the following reasons, the Court will GRANT Lyttle’s motion.
This suit arises as a result of injuries Plaintiff Lewis Lyttle allegedly sustained
during an altercation with police in the parking lot of the Harlan Appalachian
Regional Hospital. On June 17, 2016, Lyttle filed suit naming Sergeant Rob Farley,
Trooper Jimmy Halcomb, Trooper Kevin Miller, and Trooper Josh Howard as
defendants. (DE 1). Lyttle alleges four counts in his original complaint, all pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1983: (1) that the Defendants are liable for violating his Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures and “to
be free from excessive force;” (2) that Defendant Farley “intentionally, knowingly, and
recklessly failed to instruct, supervise and control all Defendant officers in their to
duties to refrain from unlawfully and maliciously assaulting and beating plaintiff . .
. amounting to  deliberate indifference”; (3) that all Defendants acted with malicious
intent or at least deliberate indifference in failing to protect Lyttle from violence
while in police custody; and (4) that all Defendants acted in concert to perform
unlawful or tortious actions.
After the original Defendants filed their answer (DE 4), the parties conducted
a Rule 26(f) Conference, in which they, in part, agreed that Lyttle would have until
December 31, 2016, to join additional parties to the suit. (DE 7). On September 15,
2016, the Court entered a Scheduling Order (DE 8) and, after joint motion by all
parties, the Court entered an Amended Scheduling Order (DE 18). Neither
Scheduling Order set any deadlines for amending the pleadings or joining additional
Lyttle now seeks leave to amend his complaint for the first time. Lyttle wishes
to assert additional claims and to add additional defendants to the suit, as well as to
clarify his original complaint. Specifically, Lyttle seeks to add the following claims:
(1) malicious prosecution under § 1983 and state law; (2) intentional, reckless, or
negligent infliction of emotional distress under state law, (3) abuse of pre-trial
detainee under § 1983; and (4) negligence or gross negligence under state law. Lyttle
also seeks to add Kentucky State Police officers Jason Adams and Phillip Burnett,
along with “any and all unknown defendants.” Lyttle adds Defendants Adams and
Burnett to his original claim for supervisory liability under § 1983 and, though it is
not entirely clear from the proposed amended complaint, to his original conspiracy
claim, in what Lyttle describes as “aimed at the post arrest conspiracy of both Adams
and Burnett in regards to the June 15, 2016 charges . . .” (DE 28, at 9) for “pressuring
inculpatory witness statements, suppressing and concealing exculpatory and
impeachment evidence[,] and [for not coming forward with the truth of their own
misconduct].” (DE 24-3, Amended Compl. ¶ 42). The Defendants oppose Lyttle’s
motion. (DE 27).
Lyttle moves to amend his complaint under Rule 15. Because the window for
amending his complaint as a matter of course has closed, see Fed. R. Civ. P.
15(a)(1)(A)-(B), Lyttle may only amend with written consent from the Defendants or
the Court’s permission. Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). The Defendants oppose the motion,
here, so it is solely within this Court’s discretion to grant Lyttle’s motion for leave to
Rule 15(a)(2) provides that leave to amend a pleading shall be freely given
when justice so requires. Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). The granting or denial of a motion
to amend is within the sound discretion of the Court. Marks v. Shell Oil Co., 830 F.2d
68, 69 (6th Cir. 1987). A district court should consider the following factors in ruling
on a party’s motion to amend: (1) undue delay in filing the motion; (2) lack of notice
to adverse parties; (3) whether the movant is acting in bad faith, or with a dilatory
motive; (4) failure to cure deficiencies by previous amendments; (5) the possibility of
undue prejudice to adverse parties; and (6) whether the amendment is futile. Foman
v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Robinson v. Michigan Consol. Gas Co., 918 F.2d
579, 591 (6th Cir. 1990); see also Birchwood Conservancy v. Webb, 302 F.R.D. 422,
424 (E.D. Ky. 2014) (listing Foman factors).
The Defendants oppose Lyttle’s motion for two reasons, one general and one
more specific to his conspiracy claim. First, the Defendants argue that the parties
agreed that Lyttle had until December 31, 2016, by which to amend his complaint.
To allow him to amend now, the Defendants argue, would allow him to circumvent
the agreement of the parties. (DE 27, at 6-7). Instead, they argue “[w]here the Court’s
scheduling orders are silent as to these deadlines, the Plaintiff should be held to the
deadlines agreed by the attorneys.” (DE 27, at 6). While cognizant of the agreement
made between the parties, a Rule 26(f) joint report is not an order of this Court, and
where the rest of the record bears no indication that the Scheduling Order dictated
further amendments to the pleadings would be barred, the Court will not bar the
motion on that ground, or to be more specific, subject the current motion for leave to
Rule 16(a)–(b)’s “good cause” standard.
Instead, the Court understands the Defendant’s argument to suggest that by
not filing a motion by the Rule 26(f) deadline, the motion is untimely and one of undue
delay. (DE 27, at 7) (“[The deadline] gave almost five months to amend the Complaint
and nothing was done toward filing a motion for leave to amend until February 15,
2017.”); (DE 27, at 8) (“[I]f Plaintiff’s counsel had bothered to do any investigation of
the matter before he filed the lawsuit or if he had been concerned about trying to
figure out what was really going on here, he might have been able to put a coherent
complaint together from the beginning.”). With these complaints, however, the
Defendants do not suggest any cognizable prejudice short of annoyance with the way
Lyttle has prosecuted his case. Delay alone ordinarily does not justify denial of leave
to amend. See Morse v. McWhorter, 290 F.3d 795, 800 (6th Cir. 2002). Instead, “delay
will become ‘undue,’ placing an unwarranted burden on the court, or will become
‘prejudicial,’ placing an unfair burden on the opposing party.” Morse, 290 F.3d at 800
(quoting Adams v. Gould, 739 F.2d 858, 863 (3d Cir. 1984)).
The Defendants do not argue that they were prejudiced here by the delay or
that Lyttle has acted in bad faith. Nor would any such arguments be persuasive. The
record shows that Lyttle has been diligent in investigating his claims. And, if any
delay in discovery has occurred, it can be attributed to both parties in this case. (DE
28, at 7). At bottom, discovery is still in its infancy, as the parties have only exchanged
interrogatories and not yet conducted any depositions. Under the current Amended
Scheduling Order, the parties have until the end of November 2017 to complete
discovery. (DE 18). While the scope of discovery may be affected or the contours of the
case may change, amending the complaint would not place an unfair or undue burden
on the Defendants. Thus, a review of the record reveals no reason to deny the
amendment on equitable grounds.
Second, the Defendants argue that the Court should not grant the motion for
leave to amend to add the new parties because “there is absolutely no merit to the
claims made against them.” (DE 27, at 7).
Regardless of any equitable grounds for allowing a plaintiff to amend a
complaint, this Court may still deny a motion for leave to amend “when the proposed
amendment would be futile.” Kottmyer v. Maas, 436 F.3d 684, 692 (6th Cir. 2006)
(citing Yuhasz v. Brush Wellman, Inc., 341 F.3d 559, 569 (6th Cir. 2003)); Click v.
Thompson, 926 F. Supp. 2d 972, 973 (E.D. Ky. 2013) (“However, the Court may still
deny the motion if the proposed amendment does not correct the complaint’s fatal
flaws.”). However, in this case and at this juncture, the Court cannot say based on
upon the information before it that the proposed amendments are futile. The
conspiracy claim involving Adams and Burnett relates to the June 15, 2016 incident
and, when considering the facts alleged in the complaint as true, that claim is not onits-face destined to fall victim to a motion to dismiss. Nor does the claim substantially
change the theory of the case that it could be considered prejudicial to the Defendants.
See generally 6 Wright & A. Miller, Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. § 1487 (3d ed.).
Moreover, the parties have not fully briefed the issues, and the Court is
reluctant to make what would be tantamount to a dispositive ruling at this point in
the proceedings. The Court finds that the best and most appropriate course at this
juncture is to permit the Lyttle to amend, which would still allow the Defendants to
present their arguments in favor of dismissal through a motion to dismiss under Rule
12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See United States ex. rel. Griffth v. Conn,
No. 11-157, 2015 WL 8682294, at *3 (E.D. Ky. Dec. 11, 2015) (“The proper vehicle to
address an amendment that is subject to dismissal—but not clearly so—is a
standalone motion to dismiss, rather than a motion for leave to amend a complaint.”)
(emphasis in original).
This motion is not one made with little time left for discovery or one made on
the eve of trial. While the motion does seek to add new parties and new claims, the
Court does not find that any Foman factors, especially those discussed above,
necessitate denying Lyttle’s motion for leave to amend. Thus, in light of the current
posture of this case, the Court concludes that amendment is proper under the liberal
standard of Rule 15.
Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Plaintiff Lyttle’s motion for
leave to amend the complaint (DE 24, 25) is GRANTED.
Dated March 6, 2017.
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