HANDLE v. BRENNAN et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION filed. Signed by Magistrate Judge Tonianne J. Bongiovanni on 8/11/2017. (km)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
MEGAN J. BRENNAN and UNITED
STATES POSTAL SERVICE,
Civil Action No. 15-8071 (BRM)
This matter comes before the Court upon Defendants Megan J. Brennan and United
States Postal Service’s (“Defendants”) motion to file an amended answer (Docket Entry No. 18)
to Plaintiff Victoria Handle’s (“Plaintiff”), complaint. Plaintiff opposes Defendants’ motion
(Docket Entry No. 37). The Court has fully reviewed and considered all arguments made in
support of, and in opposition to, Defendants’ motion. The Court considers Defendants’ motion
without oral argument pursuant to L.Civ.R. 78.1(b). For the reasons set forth more fully below,
Defendants’ motion to file an amended answer is GRANTED.
Background and Procedural History
This case arises out of Plaintiff’s employment with the Postal Service (Pl.’s Compl. at
¶1). Plaintiff alleges that she was repeatedly the victim of sex and age discrimination during her
employment with the United States Postal Service. (See Pl.’s Compl.). Plaintiff also asserts a
claim alleging illegal disclosure of confidential medical information in violation of the
Americans with Disabilities and Rehabilitation Act. (Id. at 10). In addition, Plaintiff asserts that
she was retaliated against on numerous occasions due to her filing of complaints and affidavits
with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (Id. at 12).
On November 13, 2015, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Megan J. Brennan and United
States Postal Service alleging sex discrimination, age discrimination, illegal disclosure of
confidential medical information in violation of the Americans with Disabilities and
Rehabilitation Act, and retaliation. (Docket Entry No. 1). On June 8, 2016, the Court entered
default against Defendants, and Defendants filed an answer to Plaintiff’s complaint while in
default on July 27, 2016. (Docket Entry No. 8). The Court vacated the entry of default at
Defendants’ request on December 20, 2016 and entered a new scheduling order. (Docket Entry
No. 15). The scheduling order states that any motion to amend the pleadings must be filed by
March 10, 2017. (Docket Entry No. 14).
On March 10, 2017, Defendants filed the instant motion to amend their answer to the
complaint. (Docket Entry No. 18).
A. Defendants’ Motion to Amend the Answer
Defendants seek to amend their answer to “(1) assert seventeen additional defenses, all of
which were identified in defendants’ discovery responses of January 17, 2017; (2) include an
introductory clause, prior to the assertion of the defenses stating that ‘[s] eparately and
affirmatively, defendants allege that:’; and (3) insert a sentence, after the paragraph by paragraph
response, stating that ‘[d] efendants deny each and every factual allegation contained in the
Complaint except as expressly admitted or qualified herein’”. (Defs.’ Br. in Supp. of Mot. at 2).
Defendants argue that the amendment of the answer is in accordance with the present
schedule that the Court set out on December 20, 2016, requiring that any motion to amend be
filed by March 10, 2017 and made returnable April 3, 2017. (Id. at 10). Furthermore, Defendants
state that “the seventeen defenses defendants seek to add were identified in defendants’
responses to interrogatories, provided to plaintiff of January 17, 2017.” (Id.). Defendants
responded to Plaintiff’s Interrogatory 21- where they were asked to set forth all defenses that
they planned to assert- with the seventeen defenses they would like to include now in their
amended answer. (Id. at 5). Additionally, Defendants also argue that Plaintiff will not be
prejudiced because sufficient notice of the defenses was given to Plaintiff after new counsel
entered. (Id. at 10). Moreover, Defendants note that “more than sufficient time exists for the
parties to explore all asserted defenses in fact discovery and the defenses, which are not novel,
are of the kind that one should expect in an employment discrimination case of this type, as are
the two additional sentences or partial sentences defendants seek to add.” (Id.).
Finally, Defendants argue that they have not delayed the case, exhibited bad faith or
dilatory motives since the Court lifted the entry of default and issued a new scheduling order on
December 20, 2016. (Id.) Defendants state that their motion to amend the answer is meant to
reconcile the original answer’s defenses with the defenses from the Defendants’ interrogatory
responses. (Id. at 10-11).
B. Plaintiff’s Opposition
Plaintiff argues that Defendants’ motion to amend their answer would be unduly
prejudicial to Plaintiff. (Pl.’s Br. in Opp. of Mot. at 1). Plaintiff states that “Defendants intend to
bootstrap their motion for judgment on the pleadings to their proposed amended answer” (Id. at
2). Plaintiff further argues that Defendants could have raised these defenses in their original
answer because the factual basis has not changed between the filing of the complaint on
November 13, 2015 and when Defendants moved to file an amended answer on March 8, 2017.
(Id.). Plaintiff states that “it is entirely inexplicable and inexcusable that these defenses were not
raised earlier.” (Id.).
In addition, Plaintiff argues that Defendants filed their original answer to the complaint
four months late, so they had enough time before filing their answer to consider any defenses
they felt were appropriate to assert. (Id.). Furthermore, Plaintiff notes that the case has been in
litigation for more than eighteen months and has progressed on the basis of the claims in
Plaintiff’s complaint and Defendants’ original answer. (Id.). Plaintiff argues that it is improper
and unduly prejudicial for Defendants to seek to introduce new defenses that they have been
fully aware of since the start of the litigation. (Id.).
C. Defendants’ Reply
First, Defendants note that after Plaintiff obtained an extension for the filing of any
opposition to the motion to amend to April 3, 2017, Plaintiff’s response in opposition was not
filed until May 25, 20171 (Defs.’ Reply Br. at 2). Defendants articulated the standard of review
for a motion to amend when undue prejudice and delay is alleged: “[t] o establish prejudice, the
non-moving party must make a showing that allowing the amended pleading would (1) require
the non-moving party to expend significant additional resources to conduct discovery and
prepare for trial, (2) significantly delay the resolution of the dispute, or (3) prevent a party from
bringing a timely action in another jurisdiction.” (Id. at 4). Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s
claims of prejudice are unsupported because Plaintiff fails to show that the amendment would
require significant additional resources to conduct discovery and prepare for trial, delay the
resolution, or somehow prejudice Plaintiff in any other way. (Id. at 5).
Defendants assert that sufficient notice was given to Plaintiff of the additional defenses.
(Id.). Defendants note that these defenses are typical in an employment discrimination case
similar to the one at hand. (Id.). Defendants’ position is that the parties will have sufficient time
The Court received a letter explaining the late filing of the opposition from Plaintiff on June 30, 2017 and will
consider Plaintiff’s opposition.
to explore the defenses assuming that the Court grants a reasonable extension for fact discovery.2
(Id.). Additionally, Defendants argue that Plaintiff asserts a delay in raising the defenses, but
does not show that the delay caused actual prejudice. (Id. at 6). Defendants also argue that the
delay is not as significant as Plaintiff suggests, and that the motion to amend was filed fourteen
months after the complaint, and seven and one half months after the filing of the initial answer.
(Id. at 6-7). Moreover, Plaintiff was given notice of the additional defenses before Defendants
filed the motion to amend due to Defendants’ responses to Plaintiff’s interrogatories on January
17, 2017, seven weeks before the motion was filed. (Id.).
Defendants also argue that Plaintiff would not be prejudiced by the amendment to the
answer due to a relationship between the pending motion for judgment on the pleadings to the
motion to amend. (Id. at 8). Defendants state that “plaintiff had notice, since at least the time of
defendants’ answer, that defendants would pursue arguments/defenses connected to plaintiff’s
failure to properly exhaust administrative remedies.” (Id. at 9).
Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.15(a)(2), leave to amend the pleadings is generally granted
freely. See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Alvin v. Suzuki, 227 F.3d 107, 121 (3d
Cir. 2000). Nevertheless, the Court may deny a motion to amend where there is “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 the amendment.” (Id.) However, where there is an absence of
undue delay, bad faith, prejudice or futility3, a motion for leave to amend a pleading should be
Since the filing of this motion, fact discovery has already been extended to September 30, 2017. [Docket Entry No.
Plaintiff does not allege the amendment is futile.
liberally granted. Long v. Wilson, 393 F.3d 390, 400 (3d Cir. 2004). In deciding whether to grant
leave to amend, “prejudice to the non-moving party is the touchstone for the denial of the
amendment.” Bechtel v. Robinson, 886 F.2d 644, 652 (3d Cir. 1989) (quoting Cornell & Co.,
Inc. v. Occupational Health and Safety Review Comm’n, 573 F.2d 820, 823 (3d Cir. 1978)).
Defendants’ original Answer included the following Separate Defenses:
First Separate Defense
The Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because plaintiff failed to properly exhaust
Second Separate Defense
The Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because plaintiff failed to
properly exhaust administrative remedies.
(Docket Entry No. 8 at 3).
In the proposed Amended Answer, the Defendants seek to add the following seventeen defenses:
Third Separate Defense
Plaintiff has failed to properly exhaust her administrative remedies/comply with applicable time
Fourth Separate Defense
Plaintiff was not subjected to any form of prohibited discrimination or retaliation.
Fifth Separate Defense
Legitimate and non-discriminatory reasons supported all of defendants’ decisions/actions
relative to plaintiff.
Sixth Separate Defense
Defendants did not unlawfully disclose confidential medical information of plaintiff.
Seventh Separate Defense
Plaintiff is unable to meet her burden of establishing pretext.
Eighth Separate Defense
Plaintiff was not subjected to a hostile work environment.
Ninth Separate Defense
Plaintiff cannot establish her claims.
Tenth Separate Defense
Plaintiff’s lawsuit fails to state a claim.
Eleventh Separate Defense
Subject matter jurisdiction is lacking as to some or all of plaintiff’s claims.
Twelfth Separate Defense
None of the treatment afforded plaintiff constitutes prohibited discrimination.
Thirteenth Separate Defense
Plaintiff is not entitled to punitive or compensatory damages.
Fourteenth Separate Defense
Some or all of plaintiff’s claims are moot.
Fifteenth Separate Defense
Some or all of plaintiff’s claims are barred because they did not amount to an adverse
Sixteenth Separate Defense
Plaintiff is not entitled to an award of attorney’s fees and costs.
Seventeenth Separate Defense
Plaintiff failed to mitigate her damages.
Eighteenth Separate Defense
Plaintiff suffered no compensable damages.
Nineteenth Separate Defense
Some or all of plaintiff’s claims are barred by the statute of limitations.
(Docket Entry No. 18-3 at 6-8.)
Plaintiff alleges that it would be prejudiced if the Defendants were permitted to add the
additional defenses and cites to cases in which courts have found that answers should be stricken
due to undue delay and the necessity of additional discovery. Oy Tilgmann, AB v. Sport Pub.
International, Inc., 110 F.R.D. 68, 70 (E.D. Pa. 1986) and Regent Nat’l Bank v. Dealers Auto.
Planning, No. 96-7930. 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20122, *13-14 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 14, 1998).
But Plaintiff fails to demonstrate that the delay in seeking to amend was undue or how
specifically she is prejudiced by the addition of the defenses.
To establish prejudice, the non-moving party must make a showing that allowing the
amended pleading would (1) require the non-moving party to expend significant additional
resources to conduct discovery and prepare for trial, (2) significantly delay the resolution of the
dispute, or (3) prevent a party from bringing a timely action in another jurisdiction. See Long,
393 F.3d at 400. Delay alone, however, does not justify denying a motion to amend. See
Cureton v. Nat’l Collegiate Athletic Ass’n, 252 F.3d 267, 273 (3d Cir. 2001). Rather, it is only
where delay becomes “‘undue,’ placing an unwarranted burden on the court, or . . . ‘prejudicial,’
placing an unfair burden on the opposing party” that denial of a motion to amend is appropriate.
Adams v. Gould Inc., 739 F.2d 858, 868 (3d Cir. 1984). Plaintiff cannot simply claim prejudice
without a showing to support the assertions being made.
Assuming, however, that Plaintiff’s contention is that the proposed defenses would
require more time and discovery, the Court is hard pressed to determine so. It is more likely that
the discovery necessary to address the allegations in the Complaint (sex discrimination; age
discrimination; illegal disclosure of confidential medical information; retaliation) as well as the
original Defenses raised in Defendants Answer (failure to exhaust administrative remedies)
would overlap with discovery that would be necessary to address the additional defenses
proposed by the Defendants. The Court finds that permitting Defendants to add the additional
defenses, given their nature, would not result in additional expense or delay. Plaintiff has failed
to demonstrate otherwise.
The Court finds that there was no undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive by
Defendants. Defendants filed their motion to amend on March 10, 2017 in accordance with the
Court’s scheduling order from December 20, 2016. There is no evidence that Defendants
proceeded in bad faith or with a dilatory motive or that Plaintiff would be prejudiced by the
Defendants’ proposed amended answer.
For the reasons set forth above, Defendants’ Motion to Amend is GRANTED. An
appropriate Order follows.
Dated: August 11, 2017
s/ Tonianne J. Bongiovanni
HONORABLE TONIANNE J. BONGIOVANNI
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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