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Okoro v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 28, 2016



J. Mark Coulson United States Magistrate Judge.

This case has been referred to me for all proceedings by the consent of the parties and pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Local Rule 301. (ECF Nos. 12, 13, 14.) Presently pending before the Court is Plaintiffs Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint. (ECF No. 18.) The matter has been fully briefed (ECF Nos. 22, 24), and no hearing is necessary, Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the following reasons, Plaintiffs motion is DENIED.

I. Procedural History

This case was filed by Plaintiff, Chukuemeka Okoro, on September 24, 2015 against Defendant, Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC ("Ocwen") and removed to this Court on November 4, 2015 on the basis of diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Compl., ECF No. 2; Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1.) Mr. Okoro's complaint asserted counts for (1) breach of contract, (2) specific performance, and (3) negligent misrepresentation, all relating to Ocwen's failure to finalize and record a deed in lieu of foreclosure on a piece of real property. The property at issue was subject to a loan, on which Mr. Okoro, the mortgagor, had ceased making loan payments and for which Ocwen was then the mortgagee. On December 11, 2015, then-presiding Judge Bredar entered a tentative scheduling order that imposed a deadline of January 13, 2016 for requests to modify the scheduling order, and further stated that "[thereafter, the schedule will not be changed except for good cause." (ECF No. 10-1.) On January 14, 2016, this case was referred to me for all proceedings, and by letter order, I stated to the parties that absent any indication that they would like to amend the dates set forth therein, the tentative scheduling order entered by Judge Bredar would govern the case. (ECF No. 15.) The parties did not indicate any desire to modify the tentative scheduling order. Included in the scheduling order was a deadline of February 16, 2016 for moving for joinder of additional parties and amendment of pleadings. No such motions were filed by the deadline. On March 31, 2016, Mr. Okoro filed the instant motion, seeking to amend his complaint to add a fraud count.

II. Legal Standard

A motion for leave to amend pleadings that is filed subsequent to the deadline for moving to amend pleadings will only be granted when it satisfies both the "good cause" standard of Rule 16(b)(4) for modifying scheduling orders and the "when justice so requires" standard of Rule 15(a)(2) for granting leave to amend pleadings. Nourison Rug Corp. v. Parvizian, 535 F.3d 295 (4th Cir. 2008) ("Therefore, after the deadlines provided by a scheduling order have passed, the good cause standard must be satisfied to justify leave to amend the pleadings.").

Under Rule 16(b)(4), good cause exists where the moving party has "diligently made efforts to meet court imposed deadlines." Tawwaab v. Virginia Linen Service, Inc., 729 F.Supp.2d 757, 768 (D. Md. 2010). The Rule 16(b)(4) good cause inquiry focuses more on the timeliness of the motion and the reasons for its tardy submission than the substance of the proposed amendment. Rassoull v. Maximus, Inc., 209 F.R.D. 372, 373-74 (D. Md. 2002). The primary consideration is the diligence of the movant. Id. at 374. Relevant factors include the "danger of prejudice to the non-moving party, the length of the delay and its potential impact on judicial proceedings, the reason for the delay, and whether the defendant acted in good faith." Tawwaab, 729 F.Supp.2d at 768-69. Good cause may exist "where at least some of the evidence needed for a plaintiff to prove his or her claim did not come to light until after the amendment deadline." Id. at 768 (citing In re Lone Star Indus., Inc. Concrete R.R. Cross Ties Litig., 19 F.3d 1429, 1994 WL 118475, at *11 (4th Cir. Apr. 7, 1994) (unpublished opinion)). Should the Rule 16 standard be met, the focus shifts to Rule 15. In that regard, Rule 15(a)(2) instructs that leave to amend a complaint should be freely given "when justice so requires, " and a motion to amend should be denied "only when it would be prejudicial, there has been bad faith, or amendment would be futile." Young v. Giant Food Stores, LLC, 108 F.Supp. 3d 301 (D. Md. 2015).

III. Analysis

Because Mr. Okoro has not established that good cause exists to modify the scheduling order or that "justice so requires" the Court to grant him leave to amend his Complaint, his motion must be denied.

A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b)(4)

Mr. Okoro initially argued only that the Court should grant his motion for leave to amend his complaint pursuant to Rule 15(a) because Ocwen "has conducted itself dishonestly and maliciously toward [him] and is continuing its egregious conduct, causing serious harm to [him], as further alleged in the proposed amended complaint." (Pl.'s Mot ¶¶ 3-4.) Mr. Okoro offered no explanation, however, for his delay in seeking to amend his complaint that could constitute "good cause" to modify the deadline in the scheduling order. After this deficiency was pointed out by Ocwen, Mr. Okoro attempted to justify his delay, explaining that Ocwen "started reporting [him] as delinquent in the mortgage payments in March 2016, despite the fact that [Ocwen] no longer services nor is the mortgagee of the loan." (Pl.'s Reply ¶ 1.) To further account for his delay Mr. Okoro alleged that Ocwen had withheld certain discovery and engaged in other "evasive" discovery behaviors. {Id.)

In order to determine whether Mr. Okoro's explanation concerning Ocwen's alleged March 2016 reporting of Mr. Okoro as delinquent on his mortgage payments adequately accounts for Mr. Okoro's delay, the Court will first evaluate the relationship between the alleged reporting and the purpose of Mr. Okoro's amendment - to add a claim for fraud to his complaint. To state a claim for fraud under Maryland law, a plaintiff must allege:

(1) the defendant made a false representation to the plaintiff,
(2) the falsity of the representation was either known to the defendant or the representation was made with ...

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