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Balderas v. Valdez

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

February 15, 2018

ISABEL BALDERAS, Plaintiff,
v.
LUPE VALDEZ, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SIDNEY A. FITZWATER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendants in this removed case move for leave to amend their answer and separately move to stay the parties' deadlines for responding to the currently pending motions for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the court grants the motion for leave to amend and denies without prejudice as moot defendants' motion to stay.

         I

         Plaintiff Isabel Balderas (“Balderas”) filed this lawsuit in state court on August 10, 2016, alleging claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., against Dallas County and Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez. Defendants, who were represented at that time by Tammy J. Ardolf, Esquire (“Ardolf”), filed their state court original answer on September 8, 2016, and, on September 15, 2016, removed the case to federal court. On October 5, 2016 the parties filed, and this court granted, an agreed motion to substitute the late Dolena T. Westergard, Esquire (“Westergard”) as defendants' counsel.

         On October 24, 2016 the court entered a scheduling order (“Scheduling Order”), setting February 1, 2017 as the deadline for amending pleadings and setting May 31, 2017 as the discovery deadline. Westergard died on July 26, 2017. On August 14, 2017 defendants filed an agreed motion to substitute Ardolf (defendants' original counsel) as their lead counsel. The court granted the motion on August 15, 2017. On September 13, 2017 the court also granted the parties' joint motion to extend pretrial deadlines, and extended the discovery deadline until January 31, 2018.

         On January 22, 2018-nine days before the discovery deadline-defendants filed a motion for leave to file their first amended answer. They contend that, while drafting defendants' motion for summary judgment, Ardolf became aware that Westergard had never amended the original answer. Defendants move for leave to amend on the ground that they wish to remove several non-relevant defenses and add the affirmative defense of undue hardship. Balderas opposes the motion.

         On January 29, 2018 defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, and on January 31, 2018 Balderas filed a motion for summary judgment. On February 13, 2018 defendants filed an opposed motion to stay the parties' deadlines for responding to the motions for summary judgment until the court decides defendants' motion for leave to file a first amended answer.

         II

         A

         When, as here, the deadline for seeking leave to amend pleadings has expired, a court considering a motion to amend must first determine whether to modify the scheduling order under the Rule 16(b)(4) good cause standard. See, e.g., S & W Enters., L.L.C. v. SouthTrust Bank of Ala., N.A., 315 F.3d 533, 536 (5th Cir. 2003); Valcho v. Dall. Cnty. Hosp. Dist., 658 F.Supp.2d 802, 814 (N.D. Tex. 2009) (Fitzwater, C.J.). To meet this standard, the moving parties must show that, despite their diligence, they could not reasonably have met the scheduling order deadline. See S & W Enters., 315 F.3d at 535. If the movants satisfy the requirements of Rule 16(b)(4), the court must then determine whether to grant leave to amend under the more liberal standard of Rule 15(a)(2), which provides that “[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Rule 15(a)92); see S & W Enters., 315 F.3d at 536; Am. Tourmaline Fields v. Int'l Paper Co., 1998 WL 874825, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Dec. 7, 1998) (Fitzwater, J.).

         The court assesses four factors when deciding whether to grant an untimely motion for leave to amend under Rule 16(b)(4): “(1) the explanation for the failure to timely move for leave to amend; (2) the importance of the amendment; (3) potential prejudice in allowing the amendment; and (4) the availability of a continuance to cure such prejudice.” S & W Enters., 315 F.3d at 536 (citation, internal quotation marks, and brackets omitted). The court considers the four factors holistically and “does not mechanically count the number of factors that favor each side.” EEOC v. Serv. Temps., Inc., 2009 WL 3294863, at *3 (N.D. Tex. Oct. 13, 2009) (Fitzwater, C.J.), aff'd, 679 F.3d 323 (5th Cir. 2012).

         B

         Defendants do not address the Rule 16(b)(4) good cause standard in their motion for leave to file their first amended answer, although they do discuss the four factors in their reply brief. “When a party files an untimely motion for leave to amend and does not address the good cause standard under Rule 16(b)(4), this court typically denies the motion for that reason alone.” Wachovia Bank, Nat'l Ass'n v. Schlegel, 2010 WL 2671316, at *3 (N.D. Tex. June 30, 2010) (Fitzwater, C.J.) (citing Serv. Temps, 2009 WL 3294863, at *1). But the court has made exceptions in cases where the movant does not address the Rule 16(b)(4) good cause standard, but the grounds on which it relies to establish good cause are relatively clear. See, e.g., Nieves v. John Bean Techs. Corp., 2014 WL 2587577, at *2 (N.D. Tex. June 10, 2014) (Fitzwater, C.J.) (“Nieves neither identifies the correct standard nor cites Rule 16(b)(4) in her brief, but the grounds on which she relies enable the court to apply the pertinent four-factor ...


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