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Sheila Griffin v. Brighton Dental Group

March 8, 2011


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


Pro se plaintiff Sheila Griffin ("Griffin") has filed a complaint in the above-captioned matter alleging that defendants discriminated against her in her employment on the basis of her race, sex and disability in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112 et seq. (the "ADA"). (Docket # 1). Defendants have filed a counterclaim for defamation against Griffin. (Docket # 5). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties have consented to have a United States magistrate judge conduct all further proceedings in this case, including the entry of final judgment. (Docket # 14).

Currently pending before this Court is a motion by Griffin to amend to her complaint to add several defendants and causes of action. (Docket # 19). Griffin also has filed a motion to appoint counsel. (Docket # 25). For the reasons set forth below, I grant in part and deny in part Griffin's motion to amend her complaint and deny her motion to appoint counsel.


Griffin's initial complaint named Brighton Dental Group and Y.C. Mruthyunjaya ("Mruthyunjaya") as defendants. (Docket # 1). The factual allegations of her original complaint assert that Mruthyunjaya physically assaulted her in July 2007 and that another employee of Brighton Dental Group, Neelam Bajaj, slapped her in the face. (Id.). Griffin also claimed that she was verbally and emotionally harassed. (Id.). Griffin's causes of action included discrimination claims under Title VII and the ADA on the basis of her race, color, sex and disability. (Id.). Mruthyunjaya's counterclaim for defamation against Griffin alleges that Griffin's claim that he struck her is false and has damaged his personal and professional reputation. (Docket # 5).

On July 6, 2010, Griffin filed a motion to join additional defendants to the case, but did not include a proposed amended complaint identifying whom she wished to add or the claims she wished to allege against them. (Docket # 17). Instead, Griffin merely added the names of four individuals, Dr. Ajay Dass ("Dass"), Vinod K. Bajaj ("V. Bajaj"), Neelam Bajaj ("N. Bajaj") and Dr. Mahendra S. Vora ("Vora") to the caption of the case. (Id.). On July 26, 2010, this Court denied Griffin's motion without prejudice to renewal by August 23, 2010, on the condition that Griffin accompany her motion with a proposed amended complaint. (Docket # 18).

Griffin complied with this Court's order and, on August 23, 2010, filed the instant motion. (Docket # 19). Griffin seeks to add the same four parties she previously named: Dass, V. Bajaj, N. Bajaj and Vora. (Id.). Griffin's proposed amended complaint asserts claims for, inter alia, hostile work environment, employment termination, personal injury and unlawful imprisonment. (Id.). In her supporting affidavit, Griffin states that her Title VII and ADA claims are based on the fact that she "could not speak back (female)" and was "not treated same as other[s]." (Id. at 10).

Griffin's proposed amended complaint amplifies her factual allegations. She now alleges that Mruthyunjaya assaulted her in July 2008 (not 2007) and that she informed Dass about the assault, following which she called the police and sought medical treatment. (Docket # 19 at 7, ¶ 1). She further alleges that in February 2008, N. Bajaj slapped her in the face and that she complained to Dass, who did nothing about it. (Id. at 4). Griffin also alleges that Mruthyunjaya and V. Bajaj verbally threatened and attacked her when she mispronounced their names. (Id. at ¶ 2). Griffin claims that she was treated differently from other employees with respect to conditions of her employment, including raises and evaluations. (Id. at ¶¶ 3, 6). Griffin also has asserted claims against Dass, Mruthyunjaya and N. Bajaj for false statements and perjury in connection with Workers' Compensation Board proceedings and proceedings in Brighton Town Court. (Id. at ¶¶ 8-9). Finally, Griffin claims that Vora unlawfully terminated her from employment following her employment with Brighton Dental Group. (Id. at ¶ 7).

Mruthyunjaya has submitted an affidavit in opposition to Griffin's motion. (Docket # 21). Specifically, Mruthyunjaya objects to the inclusion of Dass on the basis that Griffin did not name Dass in her complaint before the New York State Division of Human Rights and that he is a partner of Brighton Dental Group and is therefore already potentially liable by virtue of her action against the partnership. (Id. at ¶¶ 4-7). In addition, Mruthyunjaya construes Griffin's proposed amended complaint to assert against Dass only a claim for perjury, which "is not actionable in this Court." (Id. at ¶ 10). Further, Mruthyunjaya objects to the inclusion of V.

Bajaj as a defendant on the basis that V. Bajaj is not an employee of Brighton Dental Group and that Griffin has stated only a claim of non-employment related harassment, over which this Court lacks jurisdiction. (Id. at ¶¶ 11-15). Mruthyunjaya opposes the inclusion of N. Bajaj as a defendant, arguing that Griffin's only claim against N. Bajaj is barred by the statute of limitations. (Id. at ¶¶ 16-20). Finally, defendant contends that Vora is not employed by or affiliated with Brighton Dental Group and that any claim against Vora must be asserted in a separate complaint. (Id. at ¶¶ 21-25).


I. Motion to Amend the Complaint

Under Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, once the time for amending a pleading as of right has expired, a party may request leave of the court to amend, which "[t]he court should freely give . . . 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 afforded the opportunity 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 ...

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