United States District Court, S.D. New York
JOSEPH MAIARO, ALEX GANOT, and RAYMOND COLLAZO on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
ALARM SPECIALISTS, INC. and GARY DAVIS, Defendants.
OPINION & ORDER
NELSON S. ROMAN, District Judge.
Joseph Maiaro, Alex Ganot, and Raymond Collazo (collectively, "Plaintiffs") brought this action on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated against Alarm Specialists, Inc. and Gary Davis (collectively, "Defendants") for alleged failure to pay overtime wages and supply required notices and statements under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York law. On March 14, 2014, the Court referred the action to Magistrate Judge Lisa Margaret Smith for general pretrial purposes. Now before the Court are Defendants' objections to Judge Smith's Decision and Order dated May 21, 2014 (ECF No. 34) (the "May Order") granting Plaintiffs' motion for leave to further amend their Amended Complaint. For the following reasons, Defendants' objections to the May Order are OVERRULED and the May Order is AFFIRMED.
Plaintiffs initiated this action on December 5, 2013.) See Compl., ECF No. 1.) On December 11, 2013, nonparty Thomas Langhorn, a former employee of Defendant Alarm Specialists Inc., filed an FLSA consent-to-sue form. ( See Consent to Sue Under the FLSA, ECF No. 2.) On March 19, 2014, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint with leave of the Court. ( See Am. Compl., ECF No. 18.) On April 23, 2014, the parties appeared before Judge Smith for a status conference, during which Plaintiffs requested that the Court order Defendants to produce Mr. Langhorn's employment records and related discovery. ( See Decl. Anthony M. Rainone, Ex. A at 5-6, ECF No. 42.) Judge Smith denied Plaintiffs' request because Mr. Langhorn was not a named plaintiff, nor would Judge Smith deem him a plaintiff. ( See id. at 12.) Plaintiffs then asked the Court for leave to further amend their Amended Complaint to add Mr. Langhorn as a plaintiff, which would permit discovery of his employment records. ( See id. at 23-24.) While Judge Smith would not rule from the bench on Plaintiffs' request for leave to amend, Judge Smith set a briefing schedule for Plaintiffs to file a motion. ( See id. ) Plaintiffs filed the motion on May 9, 2014, attaching their proposed Second Amended Complaint ( see ECF Nos. 26-27), and Judge Smith granted the motion on May 21, 2014, see May Order. Plaintiffs filed the Second Amended Complaint on May 27, 2014. ( See Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 36.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
While magistrate judges' decisions on dispositive matters are reviewed de novo, nondispositive decisions may be reversed only if they are "clearly erroneous or contrary to law." 28 U.S.C. § 636; Fed.R.Civ.P. 72; see Fielding v. Tollaksen, 510 F.3d 175, 178 (2d Cir. 2007).
The Second Circuit has indicated that a motion granting leave to amend a complaint is considered nondispositive. See Fielding, 510 F.3d at 178 ("[A] district judge may refer nondispositive motions, such as a motion to amend the complaint, to a magistrate judge for decision...."). The weight of authority from courts within the Second Circuit is in accord. Bridgeport Music Inc. v. Universal Music Grp., Inc., 248 F.R.D. 408, 410 (S.D.N.Y. 2008). Clear error review is especially justified where, as here, the motion to amend was granted. Id. at 410 ("[T]he prevailing view [that motions to amend are nondispositive] should apply with greater force to a Magistrate Judge's granting a motion to amend a complaint."); cf. Wilson v. City of New York, No. 06 Civ 219(ARR)(VVP), 2008 WL 1909212, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. Apr. 30, 2008) (collecting cases and explaining that some courts in the Second Circuit have held that a denial of a motion to amend may be dispositive if it "foreclose[s] potential claims").
Defendants argue that the May Order should be considered dispositive because it "allowed the claim of a new plaintiff to relate back to the initial filing date of the Complaint, ... implicat[ing] the statute of limitations for that claim." (Defs.' Mem. Law at 2, ECF No. 43.) But even if that were a valid objection in principle, which is unclear, it is inapplicable here because the relation-back issue was neither presented to nor decided by Judge Smith on the motion for leave to amend, nor is the issue properly before this Court. Accordingly, the Court concludes that the highly deferential clear error standard applies to the May Order.
An order is "clearly erroneous" if the reviewing court is "left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." Easley v. Cromartie, 532 U.S. 234, 242 (2001). An order is contrary to law "when it fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law or rules of procedure." Thompson v. Keane, No. 95 Civ. 2442(SHS), 1996 WL 229887, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. May 6, 1996) (internal quotation marks omitted).
A party may amend a pleading at any time with leave of the court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). A court should grant leave to amend "when justice so requires." Id. In Foman v. Davis, the Supreme Court explained that leave should be "freely given" unless there is "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." 371 U.S. 178, 183 (1962).
In their motion for leave to amend, Plaintiffs proposed the following changes to their Amended Complaint: (1) to add Thomas Langhorn as a named plaintiff, and (2) to revise certain of the factual allegations, as reflected in the redline comparison submitted in connection with Defendants' briefings. ( See Decl. Douglas Weiner, Ex. B, ECF No. 45-1.) Defendants argue that Judge Smith should have denied leave to amend, or that if leave to amend was proper, should have ordered Plaintiffs to pay Defendants' attorney's fees and costs. (Defs.' Mem. Law, ECF No. 43; Defs.' Reply Mem. Law, ECF No. 41.)
I. Judge Smith's Decision to Grant Leave to Amend to Add Thomas Langhorn as a Named Plaintiff Was Not Clearly Erroneous or Contrary to Law.
Judge Smith's decision to grant leave to amend to add Mr. Langhorn as a plaintiff was not clearly erroneous or contrary to law because any delay on the part of Plaintiffs was ...