United States District Court, E.D. New York
January 13, 2004.
CITY OF NEW YORK, et al., Plaintiffs, -against- B.L. JENNINGS, INC., et al., Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JACK WEINSTEIN, Senior District Judge
JUDGMENT & ORDER
Plaintiff the City of New York moves (1) to lift the stay of these
proceedings; and (2) for leave to file a second amended complaint. The
motion is granted for the reasons stated below.
I. Procedural History
The City brought this action against defendant manufacturers and
importers of handguns and other firearms in June 2000, An amended
complaint was filed in September 2000, The complaint asserted a claim of
public nuisance alleging that the policies and practices of defendants in
manufacturing, marketing, distributing, and selling guns results in
substantially increased levels of gun use, crime, deaths, and injuries in
New York City. Between the filing of the amended complaint and September
2001, defendants filed answers and the parties served discovery requests
and commenced the exchange of documents.
Due to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and Corporation
Counsels' inability to enter their offices, the case was stayed in
December 2001. See Order of Dee. 21, 2001, City of New York v. B.L.
Jennings, Inc. 00 CV 3641 (E.D.N.Y. 2001). The stay was continued in May
2002 and again in August 2003, See Transcript of May 2, 2002, at 21-26,
City of New v. B.L. Jennings, Inc. 00 CV 3641 (E.D.N.Y. 2002); Order of
Aug. 8, 2003, City of New v. B.L. Jennings, Inc. 00 CV 3641 (E.D.N.Y.
The basis for continuing the stay was the pendency of two separate
appeals, one by the Attorney General of the State of New York in People of
the State of New York v. Sturm, Ruger & Co., Index No, 402586/00
(N.Y.Sup.Ct. Aug. 10, 2001) ("Sturm, Ruger"). and the other by the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in NAACP v.
Acusport, Inc., 271 F. Supp.2d 435 (E.D.N.Y. 2003) ("NAACP"). The core
allegations in the City's suit were likely to be materially affected by
the then-pending appeals in these two cases. Both appeals appear to have
now been largely disposed of.
II. Lifting the Stay
A district court has the inherent power "to control the disposition of
the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for
counsel, and for litigants," Landis v. North American Co., 299 U.S. 248,
254 (1936). The decision to grant or lift a stay is within the broad
discretion of the court. See Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 706 (1997).
There is no reason for continuing to stay these proceedings. The City,
by virtue of its motion to lift the slay, indicates it is no longer
prevented by the events of September 11, 2001 from continuing with this
case. The reason this court continued the stay the appeal of
issues in the Sturm, Ruger and NAACP cases which might materially affect
the City's public nuisance claim is no longer compelling.
III. Amending the Complaint
The relevant portion of Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure reads: "A party may amend the party's pleading once as a matter
of course at any time before a responsive
pleading is served. . . . Otherwise a party may amend the party's pleading
only by leave of court or by written consent of the adverse party; and
leave shall be freely given when justice so requires." In exercising
their discretion to grant leave to amend, courts "should be guided by the
underlying purpose of allowing amendment to facilitate a decision on the
merits." 3 Moore's Federal Practice § 15.14; see also Foman v.
Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962) ("If the underlying facts or
circumstances relied upon by a plaintiff may be a proper subject of
relief, he ought to be afforded an opportunity to lest his claim on the
Courts may deny a motion to amend on the basis of undue delay, bad
faith or dilatory motive, undue prejudice to the opposing party, or
futility of the amendment. Id. "The Rule in this Circuit has been to
allow a party to amend its pleadings in the absence of a showing by the
non-movant of prejudice or bad faith." Block v. First Blood Associates,
988 F.2d 344, 350 (2d Cir. 1992) (citing State Teachers Retirement Bd.
v. Fluor Corp., 654 F.2d 843, 856 (2d Cir. 1981)), In determining whether
prejudice is undue, the court considers whether the amendment "would; (i)
require the opponent to expend significant additional resources to
conduct discovery and prepare for trial; (ii) significantly delay the
resolution of the dispute; or (iii) prevent the plaintiff from bringing a
timely action in another jurisdiction," Block, 9SS F.2d at 350 (emphasis
added), "Mere delay  absent a showing of bad faith or undue prejudice,
does not provide a basis for a district court to deny the right to
amend." State Teachers Retirement Bd., 654 F.2d at 851; see also Middle
Atlantic Utilities Co, v. S.M.W. Development Corp., 392 F.2d 380, 384 (2d
Cir. 1968) (a three and one-half year delay between filing the complaint
and a motion to amend, without prejudice or bad faith, was, standing
alone, an inadequate basis to refuse leave to amend).
The City's proposed second amended complaint has the effect of (1)
against those defendants that were not also defendants in the NAACP
case; (2) extending claims against the gun distributors who were also
defendants in the NAACP case; (3) advancing factual allegations grounded
in the more specific information made available since the September 2000
filing of the first amended complaint; and (4) dismissing the causes of
action premised on negligence and the request for monetary damages. The
second amended complaint appears to be based purely on an equitable claim
for abatement of a public nuisance.
Defendants would not suffer undue prejudice as a result of the proposed
amendments. Because of the stay, discovery has been minimal. No
additional resources, beyond those already contemplated by the original
complaint, are required to proceed. The distributor defendants, although
newly added as parties to this action, are at no disadvantage. The
amended complaint has the effect of conforming the allegations and claims
to those advanced in the NAACP case; defendants, who were all parties to
the NAACP case, are intimately familiar with the facts and issues
involved and have already engaged in substantial discovery on them.
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