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Nate Myers v. Ms. Colleen Dolac

September 29, 2011


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


Plaintiff Nathaniel Myers ("Myers") has filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendants have violated his constitutional rights by deliberately ignoring his serious medical needs, disclosing private medical information and tampering with his legal mail. (Docket ## 1, 6, 8). Currently pending before this Court are several motions by the parties. First, Myers has filed an unopposed motion to amend his complaint. (Docket # 33). Defendants also have moved to extend the discovery deadline, and both parties have filed motions to compel. (Docket ## 41, 42, 45). I address each one in turn below.

I. Motion to Amend

On October 19, 2010, this Court entered a scheduling order setting March 1, 2011 as the deadline for filing motions to amend the pleadings or join parties. (Docket # 15). Myers filed the instant motion to amend his complaint on February 28, 2011. *fn1 (Docket # 33).

Defendants do not oppose the motion. (Docket # 41 at ¶ 11). Indeed, defendants have indicated their intent to conduct further discovery in the event that Myers is permitted to amend his complaint. ( Id .).

Myers's complaint alleges that nurse Colleen Dolac at the Erie County Holding Center ("ECHC") unconstitutionally disclosed his serious medical condition *fn2 and then denied him treatment for that medical condition. (Docket ## 6, 8). In addition, Myers alleged that defendants Timothy Howard and Robert Koch unconstitutionally tampered with his legal mail. ( Id.).

In the proposed amended complaint, Myers seeks to add defendants Michael Reardon, ECHC's grievance coordinator; John A. Anthony, ECHC's Deputy Chief; and two John Doe defendants -- Nurse Dolac's supervisor and a lieutenant at the Erie County Holding Center who Myers alleges found him guilty on disciplinary charges and compelled him to resolve a grievance in order to be released from "keeplock" status. (Docket # 33-1 at ¶¶ 5, 63). Myers also asserts a new claim that defendants failed to protect him from another inmate who bit him and thereby transmitted a communicable disease to him. ( Id . at ¶¶ 46-52). In addition, Myers asserts that defendants Reardon, Anthony and Koch denied him due process by preventing him from filing grievances. ( Id . at ¶¶ 61-65).

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. Cont'l Ill. Nat'l Bank and Trust Co. of Chi. , 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 Atl. 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 Cnty. Nat'l Bank and Trust Co. , 1990 WL 36809, *9 (N.D.N.Y. 1990) ("there is no rigid rule as to what constitutes the same series of transactions or occurrences"); City of New York v. Joseph L. Balkan, Inc. , 656 F. Supp. 536, 549 (E.D.N.Y. 1987) (requirements of Rule 20 are to be "liberally interpreted") (citations omitted).

Defendants do not oppose Myers's motion to amend. Considering counsel's represented desire to conduct further discovery if the Court permits amendment, defendants have apparently made a strategic decision to pursue some discovery before seeking dismissal or summary judgment. ( See Docket # 41). Upon review, I find that Myers's proposed amendments are sufficiently related to the current action to justify inclusion. In addition, I find that his claims are not obviously futile. *fn3

Accordingly, considering that the initial complaint satisfied the criteria of 28 U.S.C. ยงยง 1915(e) and 1915A, the lack of opposition to Myers's motion to amend, and in view of the presumption that leave to amend be "freely given," Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a), I find that the underlying facts and circumstances relied upon by Myers are a proper subject of relief, and he therefore should be afforded the opportunity to test such claims on the merits. See United States ex rel. Maritime Admin. v. ...

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