CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:02-CV-2351-G
May 22, 2003
Before the court is the motion of the plaintiff Linda F. Cuccia ("Cuccia") for leave to file an amended complaint. For the reasons discussed below, the motion is granted.
In September of 1991, Cuccia began working for the defendant Fulbright Jaworski, L.L.P., ("Fulbright") as a legal secretary. Original Complaint at 1-2. On June 28, 2002, Fulbright terminated Cuccia's employment. Id. at 2. Cuccia was 63 years of age at the time of her termination. Id. at 1. Alleging violations of federal law prohibiting discrimination in employment, as well as numerous violations of state law, id. at 2-7, Cuccia filed suit in this court on October 25, 2002. She now seeks to amend her original complaint.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) provides that "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." FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a); see also Forman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962) ("[L]eave to amend `shall be freely given when justice so requires.'"). Whether a motion to amend should be granted is within the discretion of the district court. Id. at 182. When exercising its discretion, the court may consider such factors 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 the amendment, etc. . . ." Overseas Inns S.A.P.A. v. United States, 911 F.2d 1146, 1150-51 (5th Cir. 1990) (quoting Foman, 371 U.S. at 182). A motion for leave should not be denied "unless there is a substantial reason to do so." Leffall v. Dallas Independent School District, 28 F.3d 521, 524 (5th Cir. 1994).
Cuccia's proposed amended complaint seeks to add age discrimination and harassment claims as well as a disability harassment claim. Compare Original Complaint at 2-3, 4, with Exhibit A ("proposed amended complaint") at 2-3, 4, attached to Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Amended Original Complaint ("Motion"). Cuccia also seeks to drop her invasion of privacy claim and to further clarify the bases of her breach of contract claim. Compare Original Complaint at 5, 7, with proposed amended complaint at 2-6. Fulbright opposes Cuccia's motion and asserts that the proposed claims are futile and Cuccia unduly delayed seeking leave to amended her original complaint. Defendant's Response to Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Amended Original Complaint ("Response") at 2.
In the context of a motion for leave to amend a complaint, the Fifth Circuit defines futility "to mean that the amended complaint would fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted." Stripling v. Jordan Production Company, LLC, 234 F.3d 863, 873 (5th Cir. 2000). To determine whether the proposed amended complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, the court applies the well-settled legal sufficiency standard under the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Id. Under that standard, dismissal is appropriate only if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff could prove no set of facts in support of its claims that would entitle it to relief. Id.; see also Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); Leffall, 28 F.3d at 524; Kaiser Aluminum Chemical Sales, Inc. v. Avondale Shipyards, Inc., 677 F.2d 1045, 1050 (5th Cir. 1982) (citing WRIGHT MILLER, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil § 1357 at 598 (1969), for the proposition that "the motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is viewed with disfavor and is rarely granted"), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1105 (1983). In determining whether dismissal should be granted, the court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Id; see also Capital Parks, Inc. v. Southeastern Advertising and Sales System, Inc., 30 F.3d 627, 629 (5th Cir. 1994); Norman v. Apache Corporation, 19 F.3d 1017, 1021 (5th Cir. 1994); Chrissy F. by Medley v. Mississippi Department of Public Welfare, 925 F.2d 844, 846 (5th Cir. 1991). Here, after carefully reviewing Cuccia's proposed amended complaint in a light most favorable to her, this court cannot say with certainty that Cuccia could not prove any set of facts that would entitle her to relief. Therefore, Cuccia proposed claims are not futile.
2. Undue Delay?
What constitutes undue delay in seeking leave to amend a complaint is necessarily case specific. This court finds guidance in the general principle that "[l]iberality in pleading does not bestow on a litigant the privilege of neglecting her case for a long period of time." Daves v. Payless Cashways, Inc., 661 F.2d 1022, 1025 (5th Cir. 1981). Here, however, the court finds no evidence of neglect. Indeed, this case is still in its early stages. Trial is set for the four-week docket beginning January 5, 2004, dispositive motions are not due until August 22, 2003, discovery does not close until October 31, 2003, and pretrial materials are due December 26, 2003. Order Establishing Schedule and Certain Pretrial Requirements ("Scheduling Order") (filed February 4, 2003) at 2-7. Moreover, all motions requesting amendments of pleading were to be filed no later than May 2, 2003. Scheduling Order at 2. Cuccia filed this motion for leave to amend her complaint on April 29, 2003. Therefore, the court finds that Cuccia did not unduly delay seeking leave to amend her complaint.
For the reason discussed above, Cuccia's motion for leave to file an amended complaint is GRANTED.