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Adams v. Southwest Airlines

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

December 4, 2019

SHAKENA ADAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTHWEST AIRLINES, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE FIRST AMENDED ANSWER AND AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES

          DAVID L. HORAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Shakena Adams's pro se discrimination and retaliation action against her former employer, Defendant Southwest Airlines Co., has 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 Senior United States District Judge A. Joe Fish.

         The deadline set by the June 6, 2019 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b) scheduling order to amend pleadings was June 21, 2019. See Dkt. No. 23, ¶ 3. Well past that deadline, Southwest now moves for leave to file its First Amended Answer and Affirmative Defenses. See Dkt. No. 31. As ordered by the Court, see Dkt. No. 32, Adams filed a response opposing the motion, see Dkt. No. 33, and Southwest filed a reply in support, see Dkt. No. 34. The Court GRANTS the motion for leave for these reasons.

         Legal Standards

         Where the deadline to seek leave to amend the pleadings has expired, the Court must first determine whether to modify the scheduling order under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b)(4)'s good cause standard. See S&W Enters., L.L.C. v. SouthTrust Bank of Ala., N.A., 315 F.3d 533, 536 (5th Cir. 2003).

         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 Id. 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)).

         And 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.

         While “[t]he court considers the four factors holistically and ‘does not mechanically count the number of factors that favor each side, '” Harrison v. Wells Fargo Bank, No. 3:13-cv-4682-D, 2016 WL 3612124, at *2 (N.D. Tex. July 6, 2016) (quoting EEOC v. Serv. Temps, Inc., No. 3:08-cv-1552-D, 2009 WL 3294863, at *3 (N.D. Tex. Oct. 13, 2009)), “[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, where a party must establish Rule 16(b)(4) good cause to seek leave to amend a pleading, his “lack of diligence in timely amending his pleadings is paramount.” Id. at *2 (citing Palomino v. Miller, No. 3:06-cv-932-M, 2007 WL 1650417, at *2 (N.D. Tex. June 7, 2007) (“Plaintiff's lack of diligence in timely amending his complaint undercuts the importance of the amendment.” (citing, in turn, Baylor Univ. Med. Ctr. v. Epoch Group, L.C., No. 3:03-cv-2392-G, 2005 WL 2124126, at *8 (N.D. Tex. Sept. 1, 2005) (weighing the first factor against a party who claimed its motion for leave to amend “was untimely because [it] had no reason to believe its third-party complaint needed amendment until [a third-party defendant] filed its motion to dismiss after the scheduling order deadline expired”)))).

         Only if a movant satisfies Rule 16(b)(4)'s requirements will the Court determine whether to grant leave to amend under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2)'s more liberal standard, which provides that “[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2); see S&W Enters., 315 F.3d at 536; see also Petty v. Great West Cas. Co., 783 Fed.Appx. 414, 414-15 (5th Cir. 2019) (per curiam); cf. Lefall v. Dallas Indep. Sch. Dist., 28 F.3d 521, 524 (5th Cir. 1994) (“recogniz[ing]” that, in addition to futility, untimeliness is a “valid reason” that is substantial enough to deny leave to amend (citation omitted)).

         Analysis

         Southwest failed to include as an affirmative defense in its answer either limitations or failure to exhaust administrative remedies. See Dkt. No. 14 at 4. It now seeks leave to add both. See generally Dkt. No. 31.

         To begin, however, because Adams filed this case pro se and was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court examined her claims as amended by her verified responses to a screening questionnaire prior to ordering service. See generally Adams v. Southwest Airlines, No. 3:18-cv-3394-G-BN, 2019 WL 1386183 (N.D. Tex. Mar. 5, 2019), rec. accepted, 2019 WL 1380157 (N.D. Tex. Mar. 27, 2019). After doing so, the Court dismissed with prejudice all claims but “Adams's claims, under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981, that her former employer retaliated against her after she complained of racial discrimination.” Adams, 2019 WL 1380157, at *1.

         The Court's initial examination of Adams's claims quotes extensively from her ...


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