Scott Hutchison Enterprises, Inc. v. Cranberry Pipeline Corporation et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER denying 286 MOTION by Scott Hutchison Enterprises, Inc. to Amend Complaint to Assert the Claim and Remedy for Ejectment. Signed by Judge Robert C. Chambers on 12/22/2016. (cc: attys; any unrepresented parties) (mkw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR
THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF WEST VIRGINIA
SCOTT HUTCHISON ENTERPRISES, INC.,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:15-13415
CRANBERRY PIPELINE CORPORATION and
CABOT OIL & GAS CORPORATION,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Pending before the Court is Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend its Complaint to Assert the Claim
and Remedy for Ejectment (ECF No. 286). For the following reasons, the Court DENIES
To amend a pleading after the scheduling order’s deadline, the party seeking amendment
must satisfy Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2)’s standard for amending pleadings and Rule
16(b)’s good cause standard for modifying the scheduling order. Stewart v. Coyne Textile Servs.,
212 F.R.D. 494, 496 (S.D.W. Va. 2003); see also RFT Mgmt. Co., LLC v. Powell, 607 F. App'x
238, 242 (4th Cir. 2015); Stanley v. Huntington Nat’l Bank, 492 Fed. App'x 456, 461 (4th Cir.
2012); Montgomery v. City of Anne Arundel, 182 F. App'x 156, 162 (4th Cir. 2006). The Court
finds that although Plaintiff meets the Rule 15(a)(2) standard, the Plaintiff failed to make any good
cause argument to satisfy modification of the scheduling order under Rule 16(b).
Regarding Rule 15(a)(2), “a party may amend its pleading [after the time for amendments
as a matter of course] only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave. The
court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). Generally, a
court should grant leave to amend a pleading unless it would result in prejudice to the opposing
party, the motion was brought in bad faith, or permitting amendment would be futile. See
Mayfield v. Nat'l Ass'n for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc., 674 F.3d 369, 379 (4th Cir. 2012) (citation
omitted); Equal Rights Ctr. v. Niles Bolton Assocs., 602 F.3d 597, 603 (4th Cir. 2010) (citation
omitted). Defendants argue in their Response that an amendment to add ejectment would be futile
since the relief must be determined by the judge, not a jury. See Defs.’ Resp. in Opp., ECF No.
293, at 3. The Court recognizes that West Virginia has historically “accorded the right to a jury
trial in an action for ejectment.” Marthens v. B & O R.R. Co., 289 S.E.2d 706, 712 n.2 (W. Va.
1982); see also Toppins v. Oshel, 89 S.E.2d 359, 365 (W. Va. 1955) (“In an action of ejectment it
is the province of the jury to determine the weight of all the evidence.”); Davis Colliery Co. v.
Westfall, 90 S.E. 328 (W. Va. 1916). Therefore, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s amendment is not
prejudicial, is not brought in bad faith, and is not futile, and, thus, Plaintiff meets the standard of
However, Plaintiff failed to assert any argument to justify a modification of the scheduling
order to satisfy Rule 16(b). Once set, “[a] schedule may be modified only for good cause and
with the judge’s consent.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b); see also Nourison Rug Corp. v. Parvizian, 535
F.3d 295, 298 (4th Cir. 2008) (“after the deadlines provided by a scheduling order have passed,
the good cause standard must be satisfied to justify leave to amend the pleadings”). “Rule 16(b)'s
‘good cause’ standard primarily considers the diligence of the party seeking the amendment.”
Nester v. Hampton Inn Princeton, No. 13-03336, 2013 WL 5425123, at *2 (S.D.W. Va. Sept. 26,
2013) (citations omitted); see also Essential Hous. Mgmt., Inc. v. Walker, 166 F.3d 332 (4th Cir.
1998) (noting 16(b) considers diligence of party seeking amendment, not lack of bad faith or
prejudice to opposing party).
Defendants’ Response highlights the fact that Plaintiff has not established good cause to
amend its complaint, and Plaintiff never submitted an argument for good cause in its Reply.1 See
Defs.’ Resp. in Opp., ECF No. 293, at 2-3. Plaintiff has always maintained that injunctive relief
would be appropriate, but Plaintiff never moved to add ejectment to the complaint before now.
See Pl.’s Compl., ECF No. 1-2, at ¶ 24 (requesting injunctive relief). The Court’s Scheduling
Order specified that all amended pleadings were due by December 23, 2015—almost exactly one
See Scheduling Order, ECF No. 17.
Moreover, trial is currently scheduled for
February 14, 2017 and has been continued once before. Plaintiff has not submitted any assertion
that they have acted diligently to amend the complaint to add ejectment.
To the Court’s
knowledge, there has been no new evidence discovered that would cause Plaintiff only now to
consider an ejectment claim at this stage in the litigation. Plaintiff mentions the Court’s concern
over Plaintiff’s theory of damages, but that does not provide good cause for a late amendment and
does not show diligence by Plaintiff. See Pl.’s Mot. to Am., ECF No. 286, at 2. Therefore, the
Court cannot say that Plaintiff acted with diligence in seeking the amendment, so Plaintiff fails to
meet the Rule 16(b) standard.
During this litigation, Defendants have also moved to amend their answer to assert an
affirmative defense for mitigation of damages. In opposition, Plaintiff argued that Defendants did
not offer “a plausible explanation sufficient to survive scrutiny under Rule 16” to justify
amendment eight months after the scheduling order. See Pl.’s Mem. in Opp. and in Resp. to Defs.’
Mot. for Leave to Am. Answer, ECF No. 151, at 7. The Court allowed Defendants to amend the
answer because Defendants pointed to deposition testimony to justify their amendment under Rule
16(b). In this current dispute, however, Plaintiff has failed to point to any reason amounting to
good cause to amend the complaint.
The Court, thus, finds that Plaintiff failed to show good cause justifying amendment to
assert the claim of ejectment.
Plaintiff retains the claim for injunctive relief that will be
determined by the Court after a jury decides whether a trespass has occurred. Accordingly,
Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend (ECF No. 286) is DENIED.
The Court DIRECTS the Clerk to send a copy of this Order to counsel of record and any
December 22, 2016
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