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Deakin v. Magellan Health, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

October 16, 2019

MAUREEN DEAKIN, AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, Plaintiffs,
v.
MAGELLAN HEALTH, INC., MAGELLAN HEALTHCARE, INC., MAGELLAN HEALTH SERVICES OF NEW MEXICO, INC., MERIT BEHAVIORAL CARE CORPORATION, & MAGELLAN HSRC, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND COMPLAINT TO ADD PARTY AND CLAIMS

         THIS 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, therefore, GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         This 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.[1](See Doc. 114-1.)

         These 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.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Amendment is Proper and Not Untimely or Unduly Prejudicial.

         Under 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.

         A. Plaintiff's Motion is Timely.

         In the 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.[2]

         Defendants 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.

         Additionally, 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”).

         The 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.

         B. Defendants Will Suffer No. Undue Prejudice if Amendment is Allowed.

         The 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 ...


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