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Moss v. Hanrahan

September 29, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marian W. Payson United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff Dwayne Moss ("Moss") in the above-captioned matter has filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendants violated his constitutional rights by assaulting him and denying him appropriate medical care. (Docket # 1). Currently before this Court are the following four motions by Moss: (1) to amend the complaint (Docket # 63); (2) for an order compelling responses to discovery requests (Docket # 58); (3) for sanctions against defendants for failing to comply with an order by this Court to produce photographs (Docket # 65); and (4) for permission to file evidence with this Court (Docket # 73).


Motion to Amend

A. Background

Moss originally filed this action against various officers of the Southport Correctional Facility on September 18, 2006. (Docket # 1). Moss's first claim alleges that on October 11, 2003, defendants Hanrahan, Gleason and Scoble assaulted him, causing injury, in violation of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Id.). Moss's second claim alleges that defendants Northrup, Alves, Barnard and McGinnis conspired to thwart his efforts to grieve the October 11, 2003 assault and also deprived him of proper medical treatment for his injuries in retaliation for his complaints, in violation of his First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Id.).

Extended several times, the last-ordered deadline for amending the pleadings was December 15, 2008. (Docket # 57).*fn1 Defendants have not opposed Moss's motion to amend his complaint.

Moss's proposed amended complaint significantly amplifies the allegations from the first. For example, with respect to the first cause of action, Moss describes in greater detail the October 2003 assault and seeks to add four additional defendants: Augustine, John Doe, Robinson and Morse. (Docket # 63 at ¶¶ 1-37, 117). Similarly, with respect to the second cause of action, the proposed amended complaint expands its allegations of inadequate medical care and seeks to add another defendant, John "Albany" Doe. (Id. at ¶¶ 38-59, 118). Moss further augments his claims regarding defendants' efforts to thwart his filing of grievances by adding that former Inmate Grievance Supervisor Hale, a newly-proposed defendant, ignored his grievances about the alleged October 2003 assault. (Id. at ¶¶ 60-66).

The remainder of the proposed amended complaint asserts six new claims involving fifteen new defendants arising from events that allegedly occurred between 2003 and 2006. (Docket # 63). Among the new claims is one against defendant Hanrahan alleging First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment violations for threatening Moss in connection with a grievance he filed regarding the October 2003 assault. (Id. at ¶¶ 67-69, 121). The proposed amended complaint also includes claims that: in 2004, Moss was denied access to a substance abuse treatment program and was threatened after complaining of the denial (id. at ¶¶ 70-72); in 2005, he was confined to an observation room and sexually assaulted in retaliation for his interracial romantic relationship (id. at ¶¶ 73-90); and, in 2006, he was assaulted, during which a religious medal was forcibly seized from his person (id. at ¶¶ 91-111).

B. Discussion

Rule 15(a) provides that once the time for amending a pleading as of right has expired, a party may request leave of the court to amend, which shall be "freely give[n]... when justice so requires." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). If the underlying facts or circumstances relied upon by the party seeking leave to amend may be a proper subject of relief, the party should be allowed to test the claim on its merits. See United States ex rel. Maritime Admin. v. Continental Illinois Nat'l Bank and Trust Co. of Chicago, 889 F.2d 1248, 1254 (2d Cir. 1989). "In the absence of any apparent or declared 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. -- the leave sought should, as the rules require, be 'freely given.'" Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).

While the court retains discretion to grant or deny leave to amend under Rule 15(a), "[the] outright refusal to grant the leave without any justifying reason appearing for the denial is not an exercise of discretion; it is merely abuse of that discretion and inconsistent with the spirit of the Federal Rules." Id.; Ruffolo v. Oppenheimer & Co., 987 F.2d 129, 131 (2d Cir. 1993) (per curiam); Evans v. Syracuse City Sch. Dist., 704 F.2d 44, 46 (2d Cir. 1983).

If the amendment proposed by the moving party is futile, however, "it is not an abuse of discretion to deny leave to amend." Ruffolo v. Oppenheimer & Co., 987 F.2d at 131. "An amendment to a pleading is futile if the proposed claim could not withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)." Lucente v. Int'l Bus. Machines Corp., 310 F.3d 243, 258 (2d Cir. 2002). To avoid dismissal, the proposed amended claim must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

When a party seeks to amend a complaint to add more defendants, a court must also consider Rule 20(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 20(a) permits the inclusion of additional defendants if "any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or... with respect to... the same transaction, occurrence or series of transactions or occurrences." Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2)(A). Courts have interpreted the requirements of Rule 20(a) liberally so as to promote judicial economy and to allow related claims to be tried within a single proceeding. See, e.g., Barr Rubber Prods. Co. v. Sun Rubber Co., 425 F.2d 1114, 1127 (2d Cir.) (Rule 20 "specifically vests in the district court the discretionary power to make such orders as may be required to prevent delay or prejudice"), cert. denied, 400 U.S. 878 (1970); Liegey v. Ellen Figg, Inc., 2003 WL 21361724, *3 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) ("requirements of Rule 20(a) should be interpreted liberally"); Kovian v. Fulton County Nat'l Bank and Trust Co., 1990 WL 36809, *9 (N.D.N.Y. ...

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