Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Battle v. Burwell

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

April 5, 2017

JEFFERY BATTLE, Plaintiff,
v.
SYLVIA MATTHEWS BURWELL, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge

         Two and a half years, two supplements and two amended complaints after Plaintiff Jeffery Battle filed his original Complaint, and following the dismissal of all claims except his retaliation claim, he has filed a Motion for Leave to File Third Amended Complaint to reinstate and attempt to properly allege the five counts in his Second Amended Complaint. ECF No. 65. Because Battle already repeatedly failed to cure his pleading deficiencies in his prior amendments, and these amendments have caused unnecessary delay, and are futile, I will deny his motion.

         Background

         Battle originally filed suit, pro se, against his employer, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's National Institutes of Health (the “Agency”), on July 15, 2014, setting forth the grounds for his claims of discrimination and retaliation in a 209-page, rambling Complaint. ECF Nos. 1, 1-1, 1-2. Not satisfied with his initial Complaint, he then filed a 20- page Supplement, accompanied by 97 pages of exhibits, approximately one month later, and then a 5-page Supplement approximately one month after that. ECF Nos. 5, 5-1 - 5-10, 8. Battle then retained counsel and sought three extensions of time to file an Amended Complaint, ECF Nos. 10, 12, 15, ultimately filing a 40-page Amended Complaint on March 27, 2015, ECF No. 17. Although that complaint appeared to pare down the pleadings considerably, its relative brevity was illusory, because it actually “re-alleged and incorporated by reference” in each of its ten counts “the information in Plaintiff's original complaint.” Am. Compl. ¶¶ 45, 51, 57, 62, 65, 68, 71, 74, 77, 81. Thus, if anything, it expanded Plaintiff's filings.

         I issued a Case Management Order on August 3, 2015, setting forth the procedures governing the management of this case. ECF No. 23. In accordance with that Order, the Agency identified deficiencies it perceived in the Amended Complaint and sought leave to file a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment in its favor. ECF No. 24. Following a pre-motion conference call, I ordered Battle “to file a second amended complaint by October 5, 2015 that complies with Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 and eliminates the argument and surplussage present in the Amended Complaint.” ECF No. 26. I granted the Agency leave to file a motion to dismiss after Battle amended his pleadings if it regarded the Second Amended Complaint as deficient. Id. I also issued a Letter Order to provide guidance for Battle in drafting a Second Amended Complaint that complied with Fed.R.Civ.P. 8. ECF No. 27. Battle then sought an extension of time to file the Second Amended Complaint, ECF No. 28, which I granted, extending the deadline to October 19, 2015. ECF No. 29.

         The Second Amended Complaint that Battle filed on October 19 did not comply with this Court's Local Rules, and the Clerk's Office marked it “filed in error.” ECF No. 30. On October 29, 2015, Battle properly filed his Second Amended Complaint, having amended it so extensively that it was “a different document” and he did not include a red-lined version. ECF Nos. 32, 32-1. The Second Amended Complaint was only nineteen pages and included only five counts (race discrimination, gender discrimination, retaliation and harassment for engaging in protected activities, hostile work environment, and disability discrimination), but again its brevity was illusory, as each count again “re-alleged and incorporated by reference” all of “the information in Plaintiff's original complaint.” Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 31, 37, 43, 48, 51.

         Still believing that Battle's pleadings were deficient, the Agency filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 42. Following briefing, ECF Nos. 42-2, 47, 49, I issued a comprehensive Memorandum Opinion and Order, dismissing all but one count because Battle failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to some of his claims and failed to state a claim for race or gender discrimination, hostile work environment, or “[d]iscrimination based on disability” in the remaining allegations. Sept. 19, 2016 Mem. Op. & Order 1-2, ECF No. 51. To the extent that his retaliation claim was based on his termination, I dismissed it as well. Id. The remainder of his retaliation claim, Count Three, was all that survived the motion. Id.

         The Agency filed an Answer with regard to the retaliation claim, ECF No. 54, and I issued a Scheduling Order, ECF No. 58, and held a Rule 16 conference to discuss the Scheduling Order on December 19, 2016, ECF No. 60. Discovery has commenced, and the expert disclosure deadlines have passed. Scheduling Order 2.

         The Scheduling Order set a January 23, 2017 deadline for amending the pleadings. Id. On that date, Battle filed a Third Amended Complaint without a motion for leave to amend (in violation of this Court's Local Rules), and the Clerk's Office marked it “filed in error.” ECF No. 63. The next day, Battle filed a Motion for Leave to File a Third Amended Complaint, along with a proposed amended complaint, but again failed to attach a redlined version as the Local Rules require; again, the Clerk's Office marked it “filed in error.” ECF Nos. 64, 64-1. Finally, on February 3, 2017, eleven days after the deadline set in the Scheduling Order, Battle filed a Motion for Leave to File a Third Amended Complaint, along with a proposed amended complaint and a redlined version.[1] ECF Nos. 65, 65-1, 65-2. That motion was struck for failure to comply with the Case Management Order's requirement that parties file a pre-motion conference request in letter format before filing a substantive motion. ECF No. 67. Accordingly, Battle's repeated filings in violation of this court's Case Management Order and the Local Rules of this Court resulted in his Third Amended Complaint being stricken. By the time Battle managed to file an appropriate motion, the deadline for amendment of pleadings in the Scheduling Order had passed.

         Following a conference call with regard to the motion, I accepted the motion as filed and permitted the parties to brief it in letter format, which they have done. ECF Nos. 68, 69, 70. The motion now is ripe, and a hearing is not necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6.

         In his proposed Third Amended Complaint, true to form, Battle “incorporates the allegations in his Second Amended Complaint by reference, ” Third Am. Comp. 1; as noted, the Second Amended Complaint in turn incorporated the original Complaint. Like the Second Amended Complaint, this latest iteration includes counts for racial discrimination, gender discrimination, retaliation and harassment for engaging in protected activities, hostile work environment, and disability discrimination, even though I already have dismissed all but the retaliation claim from the Second Amended Complaint. And, despite the guidance I provided with regard to complying with Rule 8 in drafting a complaint, in amending one paragraph of the Third Amended Complaint, Battle catalogs “Defendant's discriminatory conduct” in a thirty-six line sentence. Id. ¶ 5. This one paragraph continues for three pages and hardly can be considered a “short and plain statement.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

         Standard of Review

         Whether to grant a motion for leave to amend is within this Court's discretion. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). Rule 15(a)(2) typically provides the standard for whether to grant a motion for leave to amend that a plaintiff files more than twenty-one days after defendants file a responsive pleading or motion to dismiss. See id.; Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). When the plaintiff moves to amend after the deadline established in the scheduling order for doing so, however, Rule 16(b)(4) becomes the starting point in the Court's analysis. CBX Techs., Inc. v. GCC Techs., LLC, No. JKB-10-2112, 2012 WL 3038639, at *3 (D. Md. July 24, 2012). Thus, “once the scheduling order's deadline for amendment of the pleadings has passed, a moving party first must satisfy the good cause standard of Rule 16(b); if the moving party satisfies Rule 16(b), the movant then must pass the tests for amendment under [Rule] 15(a).'” Id. (quoting Odyssey Travel Ctr., Inc. v. RO Cruises, Inc., 262 F.Supp.2d 618, 631 (D. Md. 2003)); see Nourison Rug Corp. v. Parvizian, 535 F.3d 295, 298 (4th Cir. 2008).

         “‘“[G]ood cause” means that scheduling deadlines cannot be met despite a party's diligent efforts.' . . . Carelessness is not compatible with a finding of diligence and offers no reason for a grant of relief.” CBX Techs., Inc., 2012 WL 3038639, at *4 (quoting Potomac Elec. Power Co. v. Elec. Motor Supply, Inc., 190 F.R.D. 372, 375 (D. Md. 1999) (citation omitted)). The Court focuses “less . . . on the substance of the proposed amendment and more . . . [on] the timeliness of the motion to amend ‘and the reasons for its tardy submission.'” Id. (quoting Rassoull v. Maximus, Inc., 209 F.R.D. 372, 373-74 (D. Md. 2002)). This is because “[a] court's scheduling order ‘is not a frivolous piece of paper, idly entered, which can be cavalierly disregarded by counsel without peril.'” Id. (quoting Potomac Elec. Power Co., 190 F.R.D. at 376 (citation and quotation marks omitted)). Specifically, the Court considers whether the moving party acted in good faith, the length of the delay and its effects, and whether the delay will prejudice the non-moving party. Tawwaab v. Va. Linen Serv., Inc., 729 F.Supp.2d 757, 768-69 (D. Md. 2010). When “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, ” a plaintiff ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.