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Fu v. Chin

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

August 23, 2019

JYUE HWA FU, Plaintiff,
v.
YEH CHIN CHIN and DAVID LING, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DAVID L. HORAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This case has now been referred to the undersigned United States magistrate judge for pretrial management under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and a standing order of reference from United States District Judge David C. Godbey. See Dkt. No. 18.

         On July 18, 2019, prior to entry of this referral, Plaintiff Jyue Hwa Fu moved under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) to amend the complaint to add as a defendant Ling's Holdings, LLC - an entity alleged to be controlled by the existing individual defendants, the only one of whom to thus far appear is now proceeding pro se. See Dkt. No. 17; see also Dkt. Nos. 8, 15, & 16. The deadline to respond to this motion expired on August 8, 2019 without a response from either Defendant Yeh Chin Chin or Defendant David Ling. See N.D. Tex. L. Civ. R. 7.1(e).

         For the reasons explained below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion; DIRECTS the Clerk of Court to docket Dkt. No. 17-1 as Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint; and CAUTIONS Defendant Ling's Holdings, LLC that it must retain counsel on its behalf and that the failure to do so may result in appropriate measures, including possibly entering a default judgment against it should it fail to respond to Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint through counsel.

         Legal Standards and Analysis

         The February 15, 2019 Scheduling Order, entered pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b), provides that “[a]ny motion for leave to join additional parties must be filed [by May 16, 2019 and that a]ny motion for leave to amend pleadings under Rule 15(a) must be filed [by August 14, 2019].” Dkt. No. 14, ¶ 2.

         Plaintiff characterizes the motion for leave - which, in substance, seeks leave to join a new defendant - as a timely motion for leave to amend the pleadings under Rule 15(a).

[But a] party cannot use a motion for leave to amend the pleadings as a device to circumvent the separate deadline for moving for leave to join parties. Such a reading of a scheduling order would effectively render meaningless the deadline for leave to join parties, because an amended pleading could be used to add parties.

Grant v. Rathbun, No. 3:15-cv-4025-D, 2016 WL 1750572, at *2 (N.D. Tex. May 3, 2016). So the Court will construe Plaintiff's motion as an untimely motion for leave to join an additional party.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b)(3)(A) “provides that the court's ‘scheduling order must limit the time to join other parties.'” Nieves v. John Bean Techs. Corp., No. 3:13-cv-4059-D, 2014 WL 2587577, at *1 (N.D. Tex. June 10, 2014). And “[w]hen the deadline to seek leave to join a party has expired, the Court must first determine whether to modify the scheduling order under the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b)(4) good cause standard.” Harris v. Copart, No. 3:16-cv-2980-D, 2018 WL 3598775, at *4 (N.D. Tex. June 27, 2018) (citing S&W Enters., L.L.C. v. SouthTrust Bank of Ala., N.A., 315 F.3d 533, 536 (5th Cir. 2003)), rec. adopted, 2018 WL 3596746 (N.D. Tex. July 26, 2018).

         To meet this standard, a party must show that, despite his diligence, he could not reasonably have met the deadline in the scheduling order. See S&W Enters., 315 F.3d at 535; Squyres v. Heico Cos., L.L.C., 782 F.3d 224, 237 (5th Cir. 2015) (“To show good cause, the party seeking to modify the scheduling order has the burden of showing that the deadlines cannot reasonably be met despite the diligence of the party needing the extension.” (internal quotation marks omitted)); see also Sosa v. Airprint Sys., Inc., 133 F.3d 1417, 1418 (11th Cir. 1998) (“This good cause standard precludes modification unless the schedule cannot be met despite the diligence of the party seeking the extension.” (citations and internal quotation marks omitted)).

         The Court considers four factors in determining whether to modify a scheduling order for good cause 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 (quoting Reliance Ins. Co. v. La. Land & Exploration Co., 110 F.3d 253, 257 (5th Cir. 1997)); accord Squyres, 782 F.3d at 237.

         “The court considers the four factors holistically and ‘does not mechanically count the number of factors that favor each side.'” Nieves, 2014 WL 2587577, at *1 (citation omitted). But “[t]he absence of prejudice to the nonmovant and inadvertence of the party seeking the modification are insufficient to demonstrate ‘good cause.'” Barnes v. Sanchez, No. 3:07-cv-1184-M, 2010 WL 5027040, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Dec. 2, 2010) (footnote omitted). And, as another judge of the Court has explained, “

[w]hen a party files an untimely motion ... and does not address the good cause standard under Rule 16(b)(4), this court typically denies the motion for that reason alone.” But the court has made exceptions in cases where the movant did not address the Rule 16(b)(4) good cause standard but the ...

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