United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY L. BROOKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
original Case Management Order ("CMO") in this case
imposed a deadline of January 16, 2019, for the parties to
seek "[l]eave to amend pleadings and/or to add or
substitute parties." See Doc. 24, § 6. On
January 9, Defendant KMT Group ("KMT") filed a
motion, agreed to by all parties, asking this Court "to
amend the CMO by changing the date by which the parties must
amend pleadings and/or to add or substitute parties from
January 16, 2019 to March 15, 2019." See Doc.
30, p. 2. The Court granted that motion two days later in a
docket text order, stating: "Leave to amend pleadings
and/or to add or substitute parties shall be sought no later
than March 15, 2019." See Doc. 31.
March 15, KMT filed its First Amended Answer, Cross-Claims,
Counter-Claims, and Third-Party Claims (Doc. 35). That same
day, Plaintiff Oak Creek Investment Properties, Inc.
("Oak Creek") filed its First Amended Complaint
(Doc. 36). Neither of these parties sought leave to file
those pleadings before placing them on the docket.
days later, Defendant American Electrical Power Services
Corporation ("AEP") and Defendant CLEAResult
Consulting ("CLEAResult") each filed a Motion to
Strike Oak Creek's First Amended Complaint on the grounds
that Oak Creek did not comply with Fed.R.Civ.P.
15(a)(2)'s requirement that it obtain the opposing
parties' written consent or the Court's leave to do
so. See Docs. 37, 39. Oak Creek responded to both
Motions the next day, arguing that it had been under the
impression that the parties all consented in advance to
amendment of pleadings through their agreed motion on January
9 to extend the pleading amendment deadline. See
Docs. 41, 42. Oak Creek embedded within those responses a
Motion for Leave to amend its original Complaint. See
Id. After being instructed by the Clerk of the Court to
file its responses and Motion in separate documents, Oak
Creek did so on March 26. See Docs. 47, 48, 49.
Today, AEP filed a response in opposition to Oak Creek's
Motion for Leave, on the grounds that it was filed after the
March 15 deadline to seek such leave. See Doc. 50.
No other parties have yet responded to Oak Creek's Motion
on March 26, CLEAResult also filed a Motion to Strike
KMT's First Amended Answer, Cross-Claims, Counter-Claims,
and Third-Party Claims, on essentially the same grounds as
supported the two previous Motions to Strike Oak Creek's
First Amended Complaint. See Doc. 45. KMT has not
yet responded to that Motion. Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(3),
required responses to Oak Creek's and KMT's March 15
amended pleadings would be due by tomorrow, March 29.
docket has spiraled quite out of control on this set of
issues, and it appears likely to become an even less
manageable situation in the near future absent Court
intervention. Although some of the aforementioned motions are
not yet ripe, the Court is going to go ahead and issue some
preliminary rulings on the matter, in the hopes of restoring
order and clarity to this situation.
some observations about the legal standard are appropriate.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2) instructs the Court to "freely
give leave [to amend pleadings] when justice so
requires." This means that "absent a good reason
for denial-such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive,
repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments
previously allowed, undue prejudice to the non-moving party,
or futility of the amendment-leave to amend should be
granted." Brown v. Wallace, 957 F.2d 564,
565-66 (8th Cir. 1992) (quoting Thompson-El v.
Jones, 876 F.2d 66, 67 (8th Cir. 1989)). However,
"Rule 16(b)'s good-cause standard governs when a
party seeks leave to amend a pleading outside of the time
period established by a scheduling order, not the more
liberal standard of Rule 15(a)." Hartis v. Chi.
Title Ins. Co., 694 F.3d 935, 948 (8th Cir. 2012)
(quoting Sherman v. Winco Fireworks, Inc., 532 F.3d
709, 716 (8th Cir. 2008)). "The primary measure of Rule
16's 'good cause' standard is the moving
party's diligence in attempting to meet the case
management order's requirements." Bradford v.
DANA Corp., 249 F.3d 807, 809 (8th Cir. 2001). "The
existence or degree of prejudice to the party opposing the
modification' and other factors may also affect the
decision." Id. (internal alterations omitted)
(quoting Johnson v. Mammoth Recreations, Inc., 975
F.2d 604, 609 (9th Cir. 1992)).
respect to Oak Creek, it is plain from the briefing and
attachments that Oak Creek believed it had obtained all
parties' consent to amend its pleadings, but that in fact
at least some other parties had not so consented. If Oak
Creek's belief had been correct, then its March 15 filing
of its First Amended Complaint would have been timely and
compliant with this Court's scheduling orders. Upon
learning that it might not have actually obtained all
parties' consent, Oak Creek moved the very next day for
leave to amend. The Court finds good cause to excuse the
untimeliness of Oak Creek's Motion for Leave to Amend. To
the extent there are other good reasons to deny Oak Creek
leave to amend, then objecting parties should formally assert
those reasons through timely filed motions. In the meantime,
Oak Creek's Amended Complaint (Doc. 36) is not operative
and needs no present response.
KMT's amended pleading, the Court notes that just moments
ago a belated Motion for Leave (Doc. 52) was filed, which the
Court has not yet had time to digest. Assuming good cause can
be found, the Court would rule in a manner consistent with
the rulings above regarding Oak Creek's amended pleading.
The bottom line here (in this instance) is that the Court is
not going to strike claims or deny leave to amend if the sole
reason for doing so is that such party attempted in good
faith but failed, in a hyper-technical sense, to comply with
the scheduling order. While its Motion for Leave ripens,
KMT's First Amended Answer, Cross-Claims, Counter-Claims,
and Third-Party Claims (Doc. 35) is not operative and needs
no present response.