Staake v. Barrela et al
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION as to 72 by Magistrate Judge William P. Lynch. Objections to PFRD due by 4/25/2017. Add 3 days to the deadline if service is by mailing it to the person's last known address (or means described in Fed. R. Civ. P. 5(b)(2)(D) and (F)); if service is by electronic means, no additional days are added. (Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(d); Fed. R. Crim. P. 45(c).) (ph)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO
FNU BARRELA, et al.,
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION (“PFRD”)
This PFRD addresses pro se plaintiff Mark Staake’s Motion for Leave to File an
Amended, Supplemental Complaint. (Doc. 72.) Defendants filed a response (Doc. 75), and
Staake filed three documents in reply (Docs. 76, 77, 78), which I construe together. Defendants
also filed a surreply. (Doc. 82.) I recommend the Court grant-in-part and deny-in-part Staake’s
The Court’s Memorandum Opinion and Order (“MOO”) dismissed without prejudice
Staake’s claims against Aramarck, Inc., and “All Providers Concerned in this Matter” raised
under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and New Mexico
state law. (See Doc. 14 at 3.) Defendants later mailed Staake his medical records from the Doña
Ana County Detention Center and the Martinez report. (See Doc. 52 at 6; Doc. 58 at 25.) Staake
reviewed this information and now seeks to add six allegedly culpable medical providers as
defendants: “FNP Roslyn Walden,” “NP Eduardo Beruman,” “RN Isaac Lucero,” “Deisy
Natividad,” “Lindsey Huckett,” and “MD. Manual Vaquera.” (Doc. 72 at 3.) Staake notes that he
did not know the names of these providers when he filed his original complaint, which is why he
used the phrase “All Providers Concerned in this Matter” in the case caption. (Id. at 1; see also
Doc. 1 at 3 (“Plaintiff is unaware of full and/or correct names of the defendants throughout this
complaint. The Plaintiff prays this Court will permit this complaint to proceed and he will advise
the Court of proper names as he discovers such.”).)
Staake’s proposed amended complaint, in addition to naming six new defendants, is more
detailed and includes pinpoint citations to the Martinez report. For example, compare his
description of his initial medical screening in the original complaint—“Plaintiff arrived at
DACCF on January 19, 2013, during the intake process plaintiff advised the nurse
practicioner/medical department of the main meds plaintiff has been taking the last eight years
prior to arriving at DACCF” [sic] (Doc. 1 at 6)—with his description of the same events in his
proposed amended complaint—“I arrived at DACCF on January 19th 2013. I came from a prison
in Vermont. When I got to DACCF I had a current prescription of Elavil 100 MG. (See M.R.
Pages 0135 through 0138). There was a discharge summary sent as well. (Se[e] M.R. P.
0135)[.]” (Doc. 72 at 8). The specificity in the proposed amended complaint weighs in favor of
granting leave to amend because it gives the Court more precise allegations, which in turn should
yield a more precise adjudication of the claims.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) instructs courts to “freely give leave [to amend]
when justice so requires.” FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a)(2). This standard is “especially true” when the
plaintiff “is proceeding pro se.” Murray v. Archambo, 132 F.3d 609, 612 (10th Cir. 1998).
“Refusing leave to amend is generally only justified upon a showing of undue delay, undue
prejudice to the opposing party, bad faith or dilatory motive, failure to cure deficiencies by
amendments previously allowed, or futility of amendment.” Frank v. U.S. W., Inc., 3 F.3d 1357,
1365 (10th Cir. 1993).
Regarding futility of amendment, a proposed amendment is futile if the additional claims
would be subject to dismissal under any circumstance, including failure to withstand a motion to
dismiss or motion for summary judgment. Bauchman for Bauchman v. W. High Sch., 132 F.3d
542, 562 (10th Cir. 1997) (“A court properly may deny a motion for leave to amend as futile
when the proposed amended complaint would be subject to dismissal for any reason . . . .”).
The futility should be apparent. See TV Commc’ns Network, Inc. v. Turner Network Television,
Inc., 964 F.2d 1022, 1028 (10th Cir. 1992) (noting the liberal Rule 15(a) standard “does not
apply where an amendment obviously would be futile”).
To avoid dismissal, a plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face” to “nudge [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). When apparent grounds to deny leave are
absent, however, the plaintiff “ought to be afforded an opportunity to test his claim on the
merits.” Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).
Defendants’ response cites two reasons to deny Staake’s motion to amend: undue delay
and futility of amendment. (See Doc. 75 at 4-13.)
Addressing undue delay, Defendants argue that two circumstances reveal that Staake “has
been unduly dilatory in seeking this amendment”: first, “[h]e has had the full set of his Doña
A[n]a medical records since mid-September,” and second, “[h]e has known since the Court’s
[MOO] of March 4, 2016, that he needed to identify the unknown medical provides to pursue
any claims against them.” (Doc. 75 at 13.) Defendants add that this delay “prejudiced” them
because Staake waited until after they “filed an extensive Martinez Report” to seek leave to
Defendants’ one paragraph prejudice claim is overstated and underdeveloped. (See Doc.
75 at 13.) Staake notified them and the Court in his original complaint that he anticipated adding
additional defendants, so it seems reasonable for them to assume that he would use their
disclosures to modify his original complaint. (See Doc. 1 at 3.) Defendants’ case authority is also
unavailing. They cite without explanation an unpublished Tenth Circuit case finding no abuse of
discretion in the district court’s denial of leave to amend. (See Doc. 75 at 13 (citing Sipp v.
Unumprovident Corp., 107 F. App’x 867, 877 (10th Cir. 2004) (unpublished).) Sipp, however, is
distinguishable: the Tenth Circuit noted that the plaintiff had “the facts needed to support [his]
claims . . . at the time that the original complaint was filed” and recognized the district court’s
concern that granting leave to amend “would inevitably require reopening discovery and
essentially starting this case anew.” Id. (quotation omitted). Here, Defendants do not argue that
Staake had the necessary facts to name the additional defendants when he filed suit or that
permitting Staake leave to amend would require additional discovery. In addition, Sipp involved
traditional discovery and was a case about whether the plaintiff was disabled and entitled to
insurance benefits—a much different circumstance than a prisoner civil rights case involving the
alternative discovery procedure of a Martinez report. (See id. at 869.) Defendants have failed to
explain why Sipp is analogous to this case or otherwise demonstrate prejudice.
Defendants’ second argument to deny Staake’s motion—that his claims against the new
defendants are futile (see Doc. 75 at 5-12)—is likewise unpersuasive because Staake’s factual
allegations are sufficiently detailed. The only exception is his claims against defendant Isaac
Lucero, who Staake does not mention, at all, in the fact sections of his proposed amended
complaint. (See Doc. 72 at 8-15.) Given the absence of factual allegations, Staake’s motion to
amend as to Lucero should be denied because the claims are futile. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at
570 (“[A] plaintiff’s obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more
than labels and conclusions.”) (internal quotations and citation omitted, alteration in original).
The claims against the other five defendants, however, should be permitted to proceed because
they are supported by specific factual allegations and do not appear “obviously” futile. See TV
Commc’ns Network, Inc., 964 F.2d at 1028.
I recommend the Court grant-in-part Staake’s motion—and grant leave to amend as to
defendants Roslyn Walden, Eduardo Berumen, Deisy Natividad, Lindesy Huckett, and Dr.
Manuel Vaquera1—and deny-in-part Staake’s motion—and deny leave to amend as to Isaac
THE PARTIES ARE NOTIFIED THAT WITHIN 14 DAYS OF SERVICE of a copy of
these Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition they may file written objections with
the Clerk of the District Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). A party must file any
objections with the Clerk of the District Court within the fourteen-day period if that party
wants to have appellate review of the Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition.
If no objections are filed, no appellate review will be allowed.
William P. Lynch
United States Magistrate Judge
Staake misspelled the names of three defendants—Berumen, Huckett, and Dr. Vaquera—in the
case caption of his proposed amended complaint. (Compare Doc. 76 at 3 (proposed amended complaint
listing “NP Eduardo Beruman,” “Lindsey Huckett,” and “MD. Manual Vaquera”) with Doc. 58-1 at 51
(medical note entered by “Berumen NP, Eduardo”) and Doc. 58-2 at 163-165 (medical notes entered by
“Huckett[,] Lindesy”) and Doc. 58-1 at 64 (medical note entered by “Vaquera MD, Manuel”).)
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