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Beggins v. CBRE Capital Markets of Texas, L.P

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

May 18, 2018




         The defendant, CBRE Capital Markets of Texas, L.P., moved for leave to file an amended answer. It filed the motion after the court's deadline for amending pleadings had passed. (Docket Entry No. 22). The plaintiff, Joseph F. Beggins, opposed the motion. (Docket Entry No. 23). Based on the pleadings, the briefing, the record, and the applicable law, the court grants CBRE's motion for leave. The reasons for this ruling are explained below.

         I. Background

         For nearly 15 years, Beggins was the chief executive officer of GEMSA Loan Services, L.P., a partnership between a CBRE subsidiary and a General Electric Capital Services, Inc. subsidiary. (Docket Entry No. 11 at ¶¶ 1, 7). The partnership between General Electric and CBRE dissolved, and Beggins agreed to oversee the transition. (Docket Entry Nos. 11 at ¶ 1, 15 at ¶ 1). In return, CBRE promised to enter into a written retention agreement with Beggins and provide him a significant retention bonus. (Docket Entry No. 11 at ¶ 1). CBRE admits that it presented Beggins with a retention agreement on July 22, 2015, and that the retention payment it paid out would take the place of any bonus Beggins typically received. (Docket Entry Nos. 11 at ¶¶ 8-9, 15 at ¶ 5). Beggins began his work overseeing the transition. (Docket Entry No. 11 at ¶¶ 10, 22).

         Beggins submitted revisions of the retention agreement before signing the document. (Docket Entry Nos. 11 at ¶¶ 12-16, 15 at ¶¶ 8-10). Beggins alleges that despite communications with CBRE showing its willingness to make revisions to the agreement, CBRE did not send him a revised agreement to sign and did not pay him when the retention period ended. (Docket Entry No. 11 at ¶¶ 20-22).

         Beggins submitted a written claim for benefits under CBRE's severance plan. (Docket Entry Nos. 11 at ¶ 1, 15 at ¶ 1). CBRE denied his claim. Id. Beggins then filed this suit seeking damages, unpaid benefits, and attorney's fees under the Texas common law and the Employment Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B) (2017). (Docket Entry No. 11 at ¶ 1).

         On February 26, 2018, CBRE moved for summary judgment based on exhaustion as an affirmative defense to Beggins's ERISA claim. (Docket Entry No. 16). Beggins responded that CBRE waived the defense by failing to include it in the answer. (Docket Entry No. 19).

         On April 26, 2018, after the amended pleadings deadline had passed, (Docket Entry No. 2 at ¶ 2), CBRE moved for leave to file a first amended answer that adds the following paragraph:

Defendant denies that all conditions precedent to a right of recovery have been satisfied and that Plaintiff failed to exhaust all administrative remedies under the plan. Plaintiff has refused to sign the release prepared by CBRE, Inc. and he failed to properly submit a claim to the administrator of the Severance Pay Policy of CBRE, Inc. through the Human Resources Service Center as provided in section II(A) of the policy.

(Docket Entry No. 22-A at ¶ 36). Beggins responded. (Docket Entry No. 23).

         II. The Legal Standard

         Two standards control when a court may grant a motion for leave to file an amended pleading. Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that courts should “freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Rule 16(b) provides that once a scheduling order has been entered, it “may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4). Rule 16(b) requires a district court to enter a scheduling order setting deadlines, including for pleading amendments. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b)(1). By limiting the time for amending pleadings, Rule 16(b) is designed to ensure that “at some point both the parties and the pleadings will be fixed.” See Id. (Advisory Committee Notes to 1983 Amendment). A district court has “broad discretion” in ruling under Rule 16 and Rule 15, “to preserve the integrity and purpose of the pretrial order” and to manage the case fairly and efficiently. Hodges v. United States, 597 F.2d 1014, 1018 (5th Cir. 1979).

         The Rule 16(b) “good cause” standard, rather than the “freely given” standard of Rule 15(a), governs a motion to amend filed after the deadline set in a scheduling order. Sullivan v. Leor Energy, LLC, 600 F.3d 542, 551 (5th Cir. 2010). The “good cause” standard requires a party “to show that the deadlines cannot reasonably be met despite the diligence of the party needing the extension.” S&W Enters., LLC v. SouthTrust Bank of Ala., NA, 315 F.3d 533, 535 (5th Cir. 2003) (internal citations omitted). Courts consider four factors in deciding if there is good cause to amend a scheduling order: “(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.” Sw. Bell Tel. Co. v. City of El Paso, 346 F.3d 541, 546 (5th Cir. 2003) (quotation marks and citations omitted).

         If the movant satisfies Rule 16(b)'s requirements, the court determines whether to grant leave to amend under the more liberal Rule 15(a)(2) standard. S&W Enters., 315 F.3d at 536. A district court reviewing a motion to amend pleadings under Rule 15(a) may consider factors such as “undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive[, ] . . . undue prejudice to the opposing ...

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