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Escort Inc. v. Uniden America Corp.

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

September 6, 2019

ESCORT INC., Plaintiff,
v.
UNIDEN AMERICA CORPORATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          David C. Godbey United States District Judge

         This Order addresses Plaintiff Escort Inc.'s (“Escort”) motion to strike, or in the alternative dismiss, Defendant Uniden America Corporation's (“Uniden”) amended answer [49] and Uniden's motion to amend [51]. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants Uniden leave and denies Escort's motion to strike.

         I. Origins of the Motions

         In this patent infringement case, Escort filed a motion to strike Uniden's amended answer for its failure to file a motion for leave within the deadline of the Scheduling Order. Additionally, Escort urges the Court to strike Uniden's third, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, and thirteenth affirmative defenses under Rule 12(f) and dismiss Uniden's third, sixth, and thirteenth affirmative defenses and third counterclaim under Rule 12(b)(6). Uniden responds by asking for leave to allow its amended answer to remain and argues that its defenses and counterclaim meet the appropriate pleading standards.

         II. The Court Grants Uniden Leave

         In Uniden's response, Uniden asks the Court to grant leave to allow Uniden's amended answer to remain. The Court must evaluate whether Uniden showed good cause under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b) and then determine whether to grant leave under Rule 15(a)(2). The Court finds good cause exists and grants leave.

         The Scheduling Order provides that the parties must file any motions for leave to amend within 180 days of the Order. Scheduling Order ¶ 1 [24]. Otherwise, parties must show good cause pursuant to Rule 16(b). Id. In order to find good cause, the Court looks to four factors: “(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., L.L.C. v. SouthTrust Bank of Ala., N.A., 315 F.3d 533, 536 (5th Cir. 2003) (internal quotations omitted). The Court can consider the factors holistically. Johnson v. Karr, 2017 WL 2362043, at *5 (N.D. Tex. May 31, 2017) (Fitzwater, J.).

         If good cause exists, then the Court determines whether to grant leave under the more liberal standard of Rule 15(a)(2). S&W Enters., L.L.C., 315 F.3d at 536. Rule 15(a)(2) mandates that the Court grant leave “when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The Court may deny leave when a party acts with undue delay, in bad faith, or with a dilatory motive. Dussouy v. Gulf Coast Inv. Corp., 660 F.2d 594, 598 (5th Cir. 1981). But Rule 15(a)(2) creates a strong presumption in favor of granting leave to amend, and the Court must do so, “unless there is a substantial reason to deny” leave. Id.

         Here, the Court finds good cause exists and grants Uniden leave to amend to allow Uniden's amended answer to stand. Uniden filed its amended answer without filing a motion for leave to amend. See Pl. Escort Inc.'s Mot. Strike or, in the Alternative, Dismiss Def.'s Am. Answer, Affirmative Defs., & Countercl. (“Pl.'s Mot.”) 1 [49]. Because Uniden requested leave to amend after the deadline provided in the Scheduling Order, Rule 16(b) applies, and Uniden must show good cause.

         The Court finds that good cause exists. First, the Court finds Uniden asserts potentially important amendments to its answer. Uniden asserts its amended answer includes potentially dispositive defenses and counterclaims relevant to at least one of three asserted patents in dispute. Uniden America Corp.'s Br. Opp'n Escort's Mot. Strike & Opposed Mot. Amend (“Def.'s Br.”) 17 [51]. Second, the Court finds allowing Uniden's amended answer to stand will not prejudice Escort. Uniden filed its amended answer within the Rule 15(a)(2) deadline but merely failed to file a motion for leave, meaning Escort had notice of the amended answer within the 180-day deadline. See Id. Further, discovery was still ongoing, allowing Escort to conduct discovery regarding the newly asserted matters. See Id. Third, while likely not needed, a continuance could cure any potential prejudice that may arise. Uniden filed its amended answer in January 2019, and the Court has set a trial date for June 2020-nearly a year and a half away. See Uniden America Corporation's First Am. Answer, Affirmative Defs. & Countercls. Pl.'s Compl. (“Def.'s First Am. Answer”) 9-12 [43]; Scheduling Order (Patent Pt. II) ¶ 1 [64]. Even though the Court finds Uniden failed to provide any explanation for its failure to file a motion for leave, the Court finds that taken as a whole, Uniden showed good cause.

         Next, the Court finds no compelling reason to deny leave under the more liberal Rule 15(a)(2) standard. The Court finds no evidence showing Uniden acted with undue delay or in bad faith. Thus, the Court grants Uniden leave to allow Uniden's amended answer to remain.

         III. The Court Denies Escort's Motion to Strike Under Rule 12(f)

         The Court denies Escort's motion to strike Uniden's third, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, and thirteenth affirmative defenses.

         A. Rule 12(f) Motion to ...


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