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Valencia v. Armada Skilled Home Care of NM LLC

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

November 15, 2019

GRETCHEN VALENCIA, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
ARMADA SKILLED HOME CARE OF NM, LLC, ARMADA HOME HEALTHCARE OF SOCORRO, LLC, and CHRISTOPHER TAPIA, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Opposed Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint and Memorandum in Support, (“Motion to Amend”), filed May 31, 2019. (Doc. 22). Defendant filed a response to the Motion on June 14, 2019, and Plaintiff filed a reply on June 28, 2019. (Docs. 29 and 34). Having considered the Motion, the proposed First Amended Collective and Class Action Complaint (Doc. 22-3), and the accompanying briefing, the Court grants the Motion to Amend.

         I. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed her original Collective and Class Action Complaint on November 16, 2018, in which she alleged Defendants misclassified her and similarly situated home health clinicians as exempt from overtime wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., the New Mexico Minimum Wage Act (“NMMWA”), 1978 § 50-4-20, et seq., and the New Mexico Wage Payment Act (“NMWPA”), 1978 § 50-4-1, et seq. (Doc. 1). On February 14, 2019, the Honorable Karen B. Molzen, the assigned magistrate judge, held a scheduling conference and entered a bifurcated scheduling order. (Doc. 17). The parties' deadline for discovery relating to conditional class certification under the FLSA was May 8, 2019, and Plaintiff's deadline to file a motion for conditional certification was June 5, 2019. Id.[1]

         In her Motion to Amend, Plaintiff states that upon review of discovery received from Defendants in March and May 2019, she determined that she was classified as “non-exempt” rather than “exempt” from overtime. (Doc. 22) at 2-3. Plaintiff also states that Defendants' discovery responses revealed additional categories of home health workers who Defendants impermissibly denied overtime pay. (Doc. 22) at 2-3. Therefore, Plaintiff seeks to amend her Complaint to allege that she was classified as a non-exempt employee, and that Defendants failed to pay her and other similarly situated home health workers overtime compensation required under the FLSA and New Mexico wage laws. See (Doc. 22-2) at 1, 5 (redlined copy of First Amended Collective and Class Action Complaint (“First Amended Complaint”)). Plaintiff further seeks to add as affected employees the categories of Social Workers, Certified Nursing Assistants, Certified Therapy Assistants, Home Health Aides, and Therapy Aides. See Id. at 5. Plaintiff does not seek to add any claims. See Id. at 8-20.

         In response, Defendants contend Plaintiff's Motion to Amend is untimely because Plaintiff should have been able to determine that she needed to amend her complaint much earlier. (Doc. 29) at 4. Defendants argue they are prejudiced by Plaintiff's delay because they must respond to Plaintiff's Motion for Conditional Certification which is based on the putative class described in the original complaint which Plaintiff “admits is defective.” Id. Defendants further argue Plaintiff's amendments are futile because Plaintiff “seeks to certify a class that is too broad and with whom she is not similarly situated.” Id.

         In reply, Plaintiff argues her Motion to Amend meets the liberal standard for amendment set forth in Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). (Doc. 34) at 1. Plaintiff further contends the motion is not untimely, does not prejudice Defendants, and is not futile. Id. at 2-5.

         II. Standard of Review

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2), “a party may amend its pleadings only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave, ” and “[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” As the Tenth Circuit has explained, “[r]efusing 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. West, Inc., 3 F.3d 1357, 1365-66 (10th Cir. 1993) (citations omitted). The purpose of Rule 15 is to provide litigants “the maximum opportunity for each claim to be decided on its merits rather than on procedural niceties.” Hardin v. Manitowec-Forsythe Corp., 691 F.2d 449, 456 (10th Cir. 1982).

         III. Discussion

         Defendants oppose Plaintiff's Motion to Amend on the basis that it is untimely, Defendants would be prejudiced by the amendment, and the claims asserted in the First Amended Complaint are futile. (Doc. 29) at 4-6.

         A. Undue Delay

         “Undue delay” is one of the justifications for denying a motion to amend. See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). The emphasis is on whether the delay was undue, and “[l]ateness does not of itself justify the denial of the amendment.” R.E.B., Inc. v. Ralston Purina Co., 525 F.2d 749, 751 (10th Cir. 1975). In addition, Rule 15(a) does not restrict a party's ability to amend its pleadings to a particular stage in a case. See Minter v. Prime Equip. Co., 451 F.3d 1196, 1205 (10th Cir. 2006).

         Defendants assert Plaintiff's Motion to Amend is untimely because “[f]rom a review of the Answer and the discovery responses, Plaintiff should have been able to determine amendment of the Initial Complaint was necessary long before the Motion to Amend was filed.” (Doc. 29) at 4. Plaintiff, however, states that upon receipt of Defendants' discovery responses, she promptly reviewed the documents, drafted her amendments, and sought Defendants' counsel's consent to amend. (Doc. 34) at 2. Plaintiff further notes that Defendants' counsel did not respond to her request for consent for twenty days and only responded after being asked a second time. Id. (citing e-mail correspondence at Doc. 34-1).

         Plaintiff filed the Motion to Amend within weeks of receiving Defendants' discovery responses, and prior to her deadline to file a motion for conditional certification. Moreover, no deadline was set for the parties to amend their pleadings, so Rule 16 is not implicated. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b)(4) (providing scheduling order “may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent”). Defendants argue Plaintiff could have filed her Motion to Amend earlier because, in Defendants' answer to the original complaint, they denied Plaintiff's allegation that she was classified as exempt under the FLSA. (Doc. 29) at 4. The Court disagrees that Plaintiff was required to move to amend the complaint based on this denial. Instead, the Court finds it reasonable that Plaintiff waited to review discovery from Defendants that included Plaintiff's personnel file and Defendants' employee handbook before moving to amend. See (Doc. 22) at 2). Moreover, Plaintiff's proposed amendments do not only pertain to Plaintiff's classification as ...


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