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Ostler v. Harris

United States District Court, D. Utah

September 9, 2019

CALVIN DONALD OSTLER, individually and as personal representative of the Estate of Lisa Marie Ostler, KIM OSTLER, and the minor children of Lisa Marie Ostler, C.K., E.L.K., and L.M.O., through their adoptive parents and next friends, CALVIN DONALD OSTLER and KIM OSTLER, Plaintiffs,
v.
HOLLY PATRICE HARRIS, ZACHARY PAUL FREDERICKSON, TODD ALLAN BOOTH, TODD RANDALL WILCOX, M.D., RONALD PAUL SEEWER, JR., BRENT LEE TUCKER, JAMES M. WINDER, PAM LOFGREEN, RICHARD BELL, JOHN DOE, whose true name is unknown, and SALT LAKE COUNTY, a political subdivision of the State of Utah, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE A SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

          HON. BRUCE S. JENKINS UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         Before the court is Plaintiffs[1] Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 165). Defendants filed an objection. After the Motion was fully briefed and oral argument was heard on August 9, 2019, with Ross Anderson and Walter Mason appearing for Plaintiff and Jacque Ramos appearing for Defendants, the court took the matter under advisement. Having considered the written and oral arguments as well as the relevant law, the court hereby DENIES the Motion to the extent it attempts to reinstate previously dismissed plaintiffs and defendants. The court, however, GRANTS leave for Plaintiff (the Estate) to file the proposed amendments as they relate to its Monell claim against Salt Lake County.

         BACKGROUND

         On April 26, 2019, the court dismissed without prejudice certain plaintiffs and defendants from this action. See Mem. Op. Order, ECF No. 139. It affirmed that decision and clarified its reasoning for doing so on June 7, 2019. See Am. Mem. Op. Order, ECF No. 163. Through their Motion and Proposed Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff seeks to reinstate (1) decedent Lisa Ostler's parents and children (the Heirs) as plaintiffs, and (2) Chief Deputy Pam Lofgreen and Responsible Health Authority Richard Bell (the Supervisors) as defendants in their individual capacities. Plaintiff asserts that the proposed amendments relating to the Heirs and Supervisors clarify the claims and resolve pleading deficiencies previously identified by the court.

         DISCUSSION

         The .court "should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). However, the court may deny leave in its discretion if there is "undue delay, undue prejudice to the opposing party, ... or futility of amendment." Bylin v. Billings, 568 F.3d 1224, 1229 (10th Cir. 2009). Defendants raise these three reasons for the court to deny leave to amend.

         I. Undue Delay

         In the Tenth Circuit, when a court examines "undue delay," emphasis is on the adjective-undue. Minter v. Prime Equip. Co., 451 F.3d 1196, 1205 (10th Cir. 2006). To this end, courts focus "primarily on the reasons for delay." Id. at 1206. Here, although Defendants argue the Motion could have and should have been filed sooner, Plaintiff counters that Defendants and their belated disclosures are the reason for delay, so it is not undue.

         The court finds Plaintiffs Motion is timely as it was filed two weeks after the court's amended order dismissing the Heirs and one month after Plaintiff received Defendants' belated disclosures. It is concerning that Defendants' documents still trickle in, even on the morning of oral argument when discovery had closed more than two months prior. Defendants claim they have attempted full compliance with discovery requests despite several setbacks, but it is clear these best efforts have fallen short. For example, Defendants acknowledged at oral argument that they have not fully complied with the court's discovery order entered nearly six months ago. See Order on Pis.' Mot. Compel, ECF No. 77. Once Plaintiff received belated disclosures, it acted quickly and accordingly to file this Motion, without undue delay.

         II. Undue Prejudice

         Like undue delay, courts examine whether any prejudice from granting leave would be "undue" to the defendants, meaning the amendments would "unfairly" affect their ability to prepare a defense. Minter, 451 F.3d at 1208. This occurs when a plaintiff raises "an entirely new and different claim" or "significant new factual issues." Id. Here, Defendants argue Plaintiff raises a new claim and new factual issues that cannot be addressed now that discovery is closed. Yet in Plaintiffs view, there are no new claims or new factual issues.

         The court finds Plaintiff raises a new claim as to the Heirs, but it is not so new that Defendants were not on notice of it. As well, Plaintiff added about forty-three pages of new factual allegations as to the Supervisors, but this is not-or should not be-new information to Defendants. The information was at all times known to Defendants or could have been known through reasonably diligent research into the claims against them. Because Defendants have been on notice of the claims and factual issues from the beginning, there is no undue prejudice by amendment.

         III. Futility of Amendment

         An amendment to a claim is futile if the claim would not survive a motion to dismiss. See Bradley v. Val-Mejias, 379 F.3d 892, 901 (10th Cir. 2004). The court, therefore, analyzes a motion to amend through a motion-to-dismiss lens: It takes all "well-pleaded facts" as true but need not consider "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements," "mere conclusory statements," and "legal conclusion[s] couched as fact." Ashcroft v. Igbal,556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). Further, although all reasonable inferences are drawn in the plaintiffs favor, ultimately the proposed complaint must contain "enough ...


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