Trinkle v. Niethammer et al
ORDER Granting Plaintiff's Motion to Amend 16 . Signed by District Judge Denise Page Hood. (LSau)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
DARROLL C. TRINKLE
Case No. 16-14361
HON. DENISE PAGE HOOD
HAMMER TRUCKING, INC. and
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S
MOTION TO AMEND [#16]
Plaintiff filed the instant cause of action on December 15, 2016. Following a
scheduling conference on March 20, 2017, a Scheduling Order was issued that
provided for a discovery cut-off of August 21, 2017. On August 23, 2017, the Court
entered a stipulated order extending the discovery cut-off date to October 24, 2017,
and on November 20, 2017, the Court entered a stipulated order extending the
discovery cut-off date again, this time to December 28, 2017. On November 20, 2017,
Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend Complaint. [Dkt. No. 16] Defendants have filed a
response, and a hearing on the Motion to Amend Complaint was held on January 10,
2018. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend
PLAINTIFF’S PROPOSED AMENDMENTS
Plaintiff worked as a truck driver for Defendant Hammer Trucking, Inc. In his
Complaint, he states that he worked for Defendant Hammer Trucking from August
2000 until July 31, 2013. Plaintiff sued Defendants for alleged ERISA retaliation, in
violation of 29 U.S.C. § 1140. Plaintiff’s allegations stem from the end of his
employment by Defendant Hammer Trucking. Plaintiff alleges that he was terminated
by Defendant Hammer Trucking after he withdrew $10,000 from the “Hammer
Trucking, Inc. 401(k) Profit Sharing Plan (“Plan”), an employee pension benefit plan
within the meaning of ERISA. Plaintiff alleges he withdrew the money from the Plan
on July 31, 2014, and on August 1, 2014, Defendant Robert Neithammer called him,
“scolded him for withdrawing funds from the Plan, discharged him from his
employment with Defendant Hammer Trucking, and cancelled all his fringe benefits,
including but not limited to his 401K Plan.” [Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 20]
Plaintiff seeks to amend his Complaint to correct allegations that erroneously
described relevant events as occurring in the wrong year and to flush out his ERISA
violation claim to include both retaliation and interference. Plaintiff states that the
amendments are based upon information learned during discovery exchanges,
including responses to discovery requests and depositions (including deposition
exhibits). Many of the amendments include citations to such discovery materials.
Plaintiff asserts that he is not adding new claims or parties and there is no undue delay
or unfair prejudice, nor are the amendments futile, as he is just clarifying and
correcting his original claim based on the discovery information. Plaintiff also
indicates that because medical records have come in slowly, he has agreed to let
Defendants depose him further on medical records.
APPLICABLE LAW & ANALYSIS
In a case where a responsive pleading has been filed, a party may amend its
pleading only with the written consent of the opposing party or by leave of the Court.
FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a)(2). Defendants do not concur in Plaintiff’s motion, so it is
within the Court’s discretion whether to grant Plaintiff’s motion for leave to file an
amended complaint. Pursuant to Rule 15(a)(2), “leave shall be freely given when
justice so requires.” The factors a court is to consider when determining whether to
permit a plaintiff to file an amended complaint are:
the delay in filing the motion,
the lack of notice to the other party,
bad faith by the moving party,
repeated failure to cure deficiencies by previous amendments,
undue prejudice to the opposing party, and
futility of the amendment.
Wade v. Knoxville Utilities Bd., 259 F.3d 452, 460 (6th Cir. 2001); Perkins v. Am.
Elec. Power Fuel Supply, Inc., 246 F.3d 593, 605 (6th Cir. 2001). A district court
may deny a plaintiff leave to amend his complaint when the proposed amendment
would be futile. See, e.g., Yuhasz v. Brush Wellman, Inc., 341 F.3d 559, 569 (6th Cir.
2003) (citing Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178 (1962)). An amendment is deemed futile
when it would not withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Rose v. Hartford
Underwriters Ins. Co., 203 F.3d 417, 420-21 (6th Cir. 2000).
Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s amendment should be denied because it: (a)
is futile; (b) is offered in bad faith because Plaintiff now realizes that the allegations
in the Complaint are legally and factually untenable; (c) will unfairly prejudice
Defendants; and (d) is untimely. Defendants’ arguments are not persuasive.
Defendants’ brief primarily focuses on the viability of Plaintiff’s claim, but
Defendants have not filed a dispositive motion. If Defendants had done so, the Court
could take the step of assessing whether Plaintiff’s claim in the Complaint should be
dismissed and whether the amendments would be futile. To the extent Defendant
wishes to pursue arguments that Plaintiff’s claim(s) fail because they are legally or
factually untenable, Defendant may file a dispositive motion. Until then, Defendants’
contention that the amendment would be futile “because summary judgment in favor
of Defendants should be granted” is unavailing, and the Court can assess only whether
Plaintiff’s proposed amendments would state a viable ERISA claim.
Plaintiff has not added any new claims and, it appears, only proposes amending
the Complaint to comport with the facts as they became known or more clear during
discovery. Defendants’ argument that Plaintiff changed some of the allegations and
appears to be tailoring his factual allegations to meet the requirements of filing the
lawsuit does not constitute bad faith. And, the Court finds that the amendment does
not prejudice Defendants.
Significantly, Defendants do not indicate how the
amendment would prejudice them; they simply state that allowing Plaintiff to change
his factual allegations nearly a year after filing the Complaint “unfairly prejudices”
Defendants. The Court finds that Plaintiff is not adding allegations that will require
additional discovery, so Defendants will not be required to incur additional costs or
endure prolonged discovery. The Court also notes that Plaintiff has expressed a
willingness to make himself available for further deposition.
Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend Complaint was filed rather late in the discovery
process, but it was filed during the discovery period. Other than the fact that Plaintiff
did not move the Court to amend the Complaint for an extended period of time,
Defendants have not presented the Court with argument or evidence of how it will be
prejudiced, why the delay in moving to amend was unwarranted, or how the
allegations fail to state a claim as a matter of law.
The Court concludes that, although it appears Plaintiff could have moved to
amend the Complaint earlier in the proceedings: (1) Defendants have not been harmed
by a lack of notice; (2) there is no evidence Plaintiff is acting in bad faith; (3) there
have been no previous attempts to amend; (4) Defendant will not be unduly prejudiced
by the amendment; and (5) the amendment is not futile on its face.
The Court holds that Plaintiff may file an amended complaint and order that
Plaintiff immediately file the “First Amended Complaint” attached as Exhibit A to its
Motion to Amend Complaint.
Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend Complaint [Dkt.
No. 16] and ORDERS Plaintiff to file the First Amended Complaint within seven (7)
days of the date of this Order.
IT IS ORDERED.
S/Denise Page Hood
Denise Page Hood
Chief Judge, United States District Court
Dated: February 7, 2018
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing document was served upon counsel of
record on February 7, 2018, by electronic and/or ordinary mail.
S/LaShawn R. Saulsberry
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