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Benson v. Wal-Mart Stores East Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maine

December 29, 2016

MARGARET BENSON, Plaintiff
v.
WAL-MART STORES EAST INC, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER ON MOTION TO AMEND AND MOTIONS FOR SANCTIONS

          John H. Rich III United States Magistrate Judge

         Eight days after the close of discovery in this case, the plaintiff filed a motion for leave to amend her complaint by adding a new count alleging unlawful retaliation in her employment with the defendant. Plaintiff's Motion to File a Second Amended Complaint (“Motion”) (ECF No. 22). Oral argument was held before me on September 19, 2016, and the parties submitted additional evidence before the oral argument and thereafter, all without objection. Both parties have requested sanctions in the body of their briefs. Because the plaintiff has not shown good cause for her most recent request to amend her complaint, I deny the Motion; I also deny the parties' cross-motions for sanctions.

         I. Applicable Legal Standards

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16 governs pre-trial scheduling. The First Circuit has explained:

A motion to amend a complaint will be treated differently depending on its timing and the context in which it is filed. . . . As a case progresses, and the issues are joined, the burden on a plaintiff seeking to amend a complaint becomes more exacting. Scheduling orders, for example, typically establish a cut-off date for amendments (as was apparently the case here). Once a scheduling order is in place, the liberal default rule is replaced by the more demanding “good cause” standard of Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b). This standard focuses on the diligence (or lack thereof) of the moving party more than it does on any prejudice to the party-opponent. Where the motion to amend is filed after the opposing party has timely moved for summary judgment, a plaintiff is required to show “substantial and convincing evidence” to justify a belated attempt to amend a complaint.

Steir v. Girl Scouts of the USA, 383 F.3d 7, 11-12 (1st Cir. 2004) (citations, internal quotation marks, and footnotes omitted).

         The First Circuit has explained that “[f]or Rule 16(b) to operate effectively, litigants cannot be permitted to treat a scheduling order as a frivolous piece of paper idly entered, which can be cavalierly disregarded without peril.” O'Connell v. Hyatt Hotels of P.R., 357 F.3d 152, 155 (1st Cir. 2004) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         In this case, the “good cause” standard applies, and it must be met with “substantial and convincing” evidence. While no motion for summary judgment has yet been filed, under this court's local rule the defendant has given notice of its intent to file one, and the plaintiff has done the same.

         II. Factual Background

         On August 30, 2016, I granted the plaintiff's motion (ECF No. 18), filed on August 16, 2016, five days after the close of discovery, to extend the discovery deadline to September 26, 2016, but only for the completion of discovery initiated before August 11, 2016, the original discovery deadline. Report of Hearing and Order (ECF No. 29) at 2. The deadline for filing amended pleadings in this case was May 26, 2016. Scheduling Order (ECF No. 6) at 2.

         On August 15, 2016, the defendant filed its notice of intent to file a motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 17), as required by this court's Local Rule 56. The plaintiff filed a similar notice on August 18, 2016. ECF No. 20.

         The existing First Amended Complaint alleges discrimination in employment on the basis of disability in violation of state law, in two counts. Plaintiff's [First] Amended Complaint (ECF No. 9) at ¶¶ 29-39.

         The plaintiff now seeks to add a count alleging retaliation for engaging in activity protected by the Maine Human Rights Act. Plaintiff's [Proposed] Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 22-1) ¶¶ 49-53. Specifically, the plaintiff seeks to add 10 paragraphs of factual allegations and five allegations in an additional count. The factual allegations approximate the facts discussed by the plaintiff as the basis for her motion.

         III. ...


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