United States District Court, D. Maryland
K. Bredar, Chief Judge.
Wenzlick Pridgen sued his employer, Appen Butler Hill
("Appen"), claiming discrimination, retaliation,
and wage violations of federal and Maryland law. Pending
before this Court is Pridgen's motion for leave to amend
the complaint. Appen opposes the amendments. The motions have
been fully briefed, and no hearing is required. See
Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons set forth
below, the Court will grant in part Pridgen's motion for
leave to amend the complaint.
Factual and Procedural Background 
began working for Appen as a Senior Auditor in 2010 and
proceeded to work there for seven years. (Compl. ¶ 10,
ECF No. 2.) Pridgen is homosexual, and, "shortly after
learning" this fact, Appen began discriminating against
him, largely in the form of "refusing to pay him for all
hours worked" and "assigning him less and less
work." (Id. ¶ 11.) In 2014, Appen demoted
Pridgen to Annotator and, in 2017, terminated his employment
entirely. (Id. ¶ 36, 39.)
October 2017, Pridgen filed suit in the Circuit Court for
Baltimore County, Maryland. (Notice of Removal ¶ 1, ECF
No. 1.) Appen removed the action to this Court.
(Id.) The initial complaint contained six counts.
Pridgen alleged four Maryland law claims: discrimination
under Title 20, Md. Code Ann., State Gov't § 20-601
et seq. (Count I); violation of the Maryland Wage
and Hour Law ("MWHL"), Md. Code Ann., Lab. &
Empl. §§ 3-401 et seq. (Count II);
violation of the Maryland Wage, Payment and Collection Law
("MWPCL"), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl.
§§ 3-501 et seq. (Count III); and damages
under the common law theory of quantum meruit (Count
IV). Pridgen also alleged retaliation and wage violations
under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") (Counts
V and VI). In short, Pridgen alleged that he was not paid
properly for the work that he did for Appen.
5, 2018-and on the court-ordered deadline to amend the
pleadings-Pridgen moved for leave to amend his complaint.
(Mot. to Amend, ECF No. 28.) The proposed amended complaint
would add eight Appen employees as defendants to Counts II
through VI. (Prop. Am. Comp., ECF No. 28-3.) Appen opposed
the motion. (Def. Opp., ECF No. 29.) The proceedings were
stayed for several months; consequently, the Court turns to
the motion now.
Motion for Leave to Amend
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), the Court should
"freely give" a party leave to amend its pleadings
"when justice so requires." See Jones v. Ceres
Terminal, Inc., Civ. No. JKB-14-1889, 2014 WL 5088281,
at *2 (D. Md. Oct. 8, 2014) ("Whether to permit the
Plaintiff to file an amended complaint is a question that
falls within the Court's discretion ....").
"This directive gives effect to the federal policy in
favor of resolving cases on the merits instead of disposing
of them on technicalities." Mayfield v. Nat'1
Ass 'nfor Stock Car Auto. Racing, Inc., 674 F.3d
369, 379 (4th Cir. 2012). Consequently, "leave to amend
a complaint should be denied only when the amendment would be
prejudicial to the opposing party, there has been bad faith
on the part of the moving party, or the amendment would be
futile." Edell & Assocs., P.C. v. Law Offices of
Peter G. Angelos, 264 F.3d 424, 446 (4th Cir. 2001);
see Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)
(concluding leave should be "freely given" absent
an apparent reason "such as undue delay, bad faith or
dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure
to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue
prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the
amendment, futility of amendment, etc."). Appen opposes
Pridgen's motion for leave to amend on the grounds of
prejudice and futility.
has the burden of showing that Pridgen's delay in
amending would result in prejudice. See Class Produce
Grp., LLC v. Harleysville Worcester Ins. Co., Civ. No.
SAG-16-3431, 2018 WL 5785664, at *3 (D. Md. Nov. 5, 2018).
Appen argues that, because the delay was "inordinate and
unjustified," the amendment would prejudice Appen and
the eight Appen employees that Pridgen seeks to join. (Def.
Opp. at 13.) Mere delay is not sufficient to deny leave to
amend, but delay coupled with prejudice warrants denial.
Island Creek Coal Co. v. Lake Shore, Inc., 832 F.2d
274, 279 (4th Cir. 1987). To determine whether prejudice will
occur, a court must consider the positions of the parties and
the effect of amendment on those parties. Mary Kay Kane &
A. Benjamin Spencer, Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R.
Miller, 6 Federal Practice and Procedure § 1487
(3d ed. 2018). "This entails an inquiry into the
hardship to the moving party if leave to amend is denied, the
reasons for the moving party failing to include the material
to be added in the original pleading, and the injustice
resulting to the party opposing the motion should it be
granted." Id. Thus, whether an amendment is
prejudicial depends on the timing and nature of the
amendment. Class Produce Grp., 2018 WL 5785664, at
timing of the amendment, here, weighs against a finding of
prejudice. "[T]he further the case [has] progressed...
the more likely it is that the amendment will prejudice the
defendant." Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 427
(4th Cir. 2006); see McCall-Scovens v. Blanchard,
Civ. No. ELH-15-3433, 2016 WL 6277668, at *5 (D. Md. Oct. 27,
2016) (holding prejudice would not occur because dispositive
motions were not due for three months, trial date was not
set, and discovery was ongoing). It is true that Pridgen
moved to amend nine months after initially filing suit and he
does not attempt to explain this delay. (Reply at 12, ECF No.
38 (asserting the motion for leave to amend complied with the
scheduling order).) But, the proposed amendments come well
before trial. Cf. Newport News Holdings Corp. v. Virtual
City Vision, Inc., 650 F.3d 423, 440 (4th Cir. 2011)
(affirming finding of prejudice where plaintiff moved to
amend after discovery, at the "eleventh hour," and
introduced six new claims, previously unaddressed by counsel
and requiring additional discovery). And, discovery does not
end for nearly six months. See Warner v. Cellco
P'ship, Civ No. ELH-13-3100, 2015 WL 6956517, at *7
(D. Md. Nov. 10, 2015) (holding prejudice would not occur,
even though discovery had ended, because trial date was not
set, the proposed amendment was not complicated, and movant
would agree to reopen discovery).
the nature of the amendment weighs against a finding of
prejudice. "[P]rejudice can result where a proposed
amendment raises a new legal theory that would require the
gathering and analysis of facts not already considered by the
opposing party ... ." Johnson v. Oroweat Foods
Co., 785 F.2d 503, 510 (4th Cir. 1986). This basis for a
finding of prejudice does not apply for a few reasons. First,
the Fourth Circuit noted that the basis "essentially
applies where the amendment is offered shortly before or
during trial." Id. Second, the proposed amended
complaint does not add factual allegations, counts, or new
legal theories. See Laber, 438 F.3d at 427 ("An
amendment is not prejudicial ... if it merely adds an
additional theory of recovery to the facts already pled and
is offered before any discovery has occurred."). Pridgen
seeks to add defendants to five of the six counts. No. doubt,
the amendment would cause additional discovery, but such an
expense-during the course of discovery which is already
underway-does not amount to prejudice. See Island Creek
Coal, 832 F.2d at 279-80 (holding that the need for new
discovery and exploration of new issues after amendment was
not enough to sustain a finding of prejudice).
also argues that amendment would be futile. A court may deny
leave to amend as futile if the proposed amended complaint
would not meet the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. United States ex rel Wilson v. Kellogg Brown
& Root, Inc.,525 F.3d 370, 376 (4th Cir. 2008);
see Ross v. Cecil Cty. Dep't of Soc. Servs.,
Civ. No. WDQ-11-181, 2012 WL 346625, at *2 (D. Md. Jan. 31,
2012) (analyzing futility under Rule 12(b)). In keeping with
the federal policy of resolving cases on their merits, courts
allow plaintiffs every opportunity to cure defects in the
pleadings, even where a court doubts plaintiffs ability to
overcome these defects. Frazier v. Experian Info.
Sols., Civ. No. GLR-18-68, 2018 WL 6726311, at *8 (D.
Md. Dec. 21, 2018) (citing Ostrzenski v. Seigel, 177
F.3d 245, 252-53 (4th ...