United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S
MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND COMPLAINT TO ADD PARTY AND
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for
Leave to Amend Complaint to Add Party and Claims
(“Motion”) (Doc. 114). Having
reviewed the parties' briefing and the applicable law,
the Court finds that the Motion is well-taken and is,
a class action wherein Plaintiff asserts that she, and other
employees like her, were misclassified by Defendants as
exempt employees and thus not paid overtime wages for hours
worked in excess of forty per week in violation of the Fair
Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). (Doc. 113 at 1.)
This action, like many of those before it, combines the FLSA
claims with similar claims under analogous state laws.
Plaintiff Maureen Deakin (“Plaintiff”) has made a
claim under New Mexico state law and proposed newly named
Plaintiffs, Rachel Clerge, Cheryl Johnson, Lesly Mitchell,
May Wojcik, and Dale Kessler (“Proposed Newly Named
Plaintiffs”), seek to add claims under Massachusetts,
Maryland, Missouri, New York, and Pennsylvania state laws,
respectively.(See Doc. 114-1.)
Plaintiffs, while newly proposed as named
plaintiffs, are not “new” to this litigation in
the strictest sense of the word. FLSA class actions are
opt-in, as opposed to opt-out, actions. Compare 29
U.S.C. § 216(b), and Hoffmann-LaRoche, Inc. v.
Sperling, 493 U.S. 165, 170 (1989), with Fed.
R. Civ. P. 23. The Proposed Newly Named Plaintiffs have each
affirmatively opted-in and are thus already part of this
litigation as members of the FLSA class. (See Docs.
94, 87, 69, 76, 81.) The issue, then, is whether the Court
should grant leave to amend to allow these Plaintiffs to
bring state claims on behalf of themselves and their
state-specific classes and, if so, whether those claims would
relate back to the filing of the original complaint.
Amendment is Proper and Not Untimely or Unduly
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, courts are instructed
to “freely give leave when justice so requires.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The Supreme Court has admonished that
“this mandate is to be heeded.” Foman v.
Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). Determining whether to
grant leave to amend a pleading is an exercise in the
Court's discretion. State Distributor's, Inc. v.
Glenmore Distilleries, Co., 738 F.2d 405, 416 (10th Cir.
1984). “Refusing leave to amend is generally only
justified upon a showing of undue delay, bad faith or
dilatory motive, failure to cure deficiencies by amendments
previously allowed, or undue prejudice to the opposing party,
or futility of amendment, etc.” Castleglen, Inc.,
et al. v. Resolution Trust Corp., 984 F.2d 1571, 1585
(10th Cir. 1993) (citing Foman, 371 U.S. at 182);
see also 3 Moore's Federal Practice - Civil
§ 15.15 (2019). Here, Defendants aver that
Plaintiff's Motion should be denied as untimely and
unduly prejudicial. The Court addresses each of those
arguments in turn.
Plaintiff's Motion is Timely.
Tenth Circuit, untimeliness alone has been held a sufficient
reason to deny leave to amend. Frank v. U.S. West,
Inc., 3 F.3d 1357, 1365-66 (10th Cir. 1993). Here,
Plaintiff filed the instant motion on May 2, 2019, well
before the June 11, 2019, amendment deadline set by the Court
based on the parties' recommendation in their Joint
Status Report. (See Docs. 104 at 2, 107 at 1.) While
this case is aged, with the original complaint having been
filed over two years ago, procedurally it is still in its
nascency, and discovery has not yet begun.
argue that because Plaintiff's counsel purportedly made
on-the-record assertions that he would seek to amend and
would file leave to amend prior to the deadline, the instant
motion is untimely. (Doc. 116 at 9.) They contend that
because the Magistrate Judge instructed that any known
amendments should be filed “promptly, ” (Doc. 106
at 1), there has been “undue delay” in the filing
of the motion amend. But in a Joint Status Report from
February 2019, the parties reported that Plaintiff planned to
amend the Complaint “to add several state wage law
class action allegations.” (Doc. 104 at 4.) Moreover,
Defendants did not object to the proposed deadline to amend.
While Plaintiff's counsel's vague and sometimes
inconsistent assertions about Plaintiff's intended
amendments may have been confusing, the Court does not find
that they were made in bad faith; instead, they were the
result of Plaintiff's counsel's personal
circumstances, which he candidly explained to the Court.
(See Doc. 117-1.) In any case, Plaintiff's
desire to amend to add newly named plaintiffs and state law
claims from other states within the agreed to deadline should
be no surprise to Defendants. Indeed, it strikes the Court
that Defendants' argument on this point undermines their
prejudice arguments, addressed below, in that Defendants have
clearly known that amendment was forthcoming for months.
Defendants have not pointed to a single case, Tenth Circuit
or otherwise, where a motion for leave to amend filed
before the amendment deadline was held to be
untimely. The lone case cited by Defendants on this specific
point is a district court case from the Northern District of
West Virginia where the Court was considering a motion for
leave to file a fourth amended complaint after the
deadline to amend had passed. See Westfall v. Kendle
Int'l, CPU, LLC, No. 1:05-CV-00118, 2007 WL 486606,
at * 5 (N.D. W.Va. Feb. 15, 2007). That is not the case here.
Here, Plaintiff filed for leave to amend well in advance of
the amendment deadline. The Court sees no merit in
Defendants' argument that a motion to amend filed before
the deadline to do so is nevertheless untimely. See
Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC v. Boland, No. 08-cv-00566,
2008 WL 4059856, at *2 (D. Colo. Aug. 29, 2008) (finding no
evidence of undue delay, prejudice or bad faith where a
plaintiff moved to amend within the deadline set forth by the
Court's scheduling order); Hull v. Viega, Inc.,
No. 12-2086, 2014 WL 896621, at *8 (D. Kan. Mar. 6, 2014)
(permitting amendment where the case was still in its early
procedural stages despite having been pending for over a year
because plaintiffs were “still technically within the
window of time to amend”).
Court assumes that the Magistrate Judge took her previous
statements into account when determining the amendment
deadline and, being fully advised, set that deadline for June
11, 2019. Defendants point to nothing in the record that
demonstrates otherwise and, indeed, concede that the
Magistrate Judge set the June 11, 2019 deadline during the
same telephonic conference where she advised that known
amendments should be filed “promptly, ”
indicating that the Court made an informed decision. (Doc.
116 at 3.) The Court agrees with other courts that the
amendment deadline would be rendered meaningless if a motion
to amend filed before the deadline was held untimely. See
Cont'l Cars, Inc. v. Mazda Motor of Am., Inc., No.
C11-5266 BHS, 2012 U.S. Dist. Lexis 102875, at *4 (W.D. Wash.
July 24, 2012). Accordingly, the Court finds that there was
no undue delay by Plaintiff, and the motion was timely filed.
Defendants Will Suffer No. Undue Prejudice if Amendment is
most important “factor in deciding a motion to amend
the pleadings, is whether the amendment would prejudice the
nonmoving party.” Minter v. Prime Equipment
Co., 451 F.3d 1196, 1207 (10th Cir. 2006). Prejudice is
typically found where amendment would unfairly affect a
defendant's preparation of its defense. Id. at
1208. “Most often, this occurs when the amended claims
arise out of a subject matter different from what was set
forth in the complaint and raise significant new factual
issues.” Id. Prejudice can also be
demonstrated where a party “was unfairly disadvantaged
or deprived of the opportunity to present facts or evidence
which it would have offered had the . . . amendment been
timely.” Heyl & Patterson Int'l, Inc. v.
F.D. Rich Hous., Inc., 66 ...