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Jiggetts v. Cipullo

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 5, 2018




         The plaintiff, Stephen Jiggetts, has asserted common law claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and slander against the defendants, Daniel Cipullo, individually and in his official capacity as the Director of the Criminal Division of the Superior Court of the District (“Superior Court”), and the District of Columbia, arising out of an event that occurred on November 6, 2014. See generally Third Amended Complaint and Jury Demand (“3d Am. Compl.”). Currently before the Court is the Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Fourth Amended Complaint (“Pl.'s Mot.”). Upon careful consideration of the parties' submissions, [1] the Court concludes for the following reasons that it must grant in part and deny in part the plaintiff's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant Cipullo is the supervisor of Tenisha Jiggetts, the plaintiff's wife, who is an Attorney-Advisor for the Criminal Division, 3d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 9-10, and the plaintiff is a retired police officer for the Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”), id. ¶ 51. On November 6, 2014, the plaintiff and defendant Cipullo encountered each other on the sidewalk between the Superior Court and MPD headquarters after the plaintiff's wife had told the plaintiff that defendant Cipullo had obstructed her ability to leave her office. See id. ¶¶ 16, 18. The plaintiff alleges that defendant Cipullo thereafter made false statements to an MPD official, claiming that the plaintiff threatened him during the encounter. See id. ¶¶ 17, 20-21. The plaintiff was not arrested on the day that defendant Cipullo initially made his complaint, see id. ¶ 24, but, after defendant Cipullo allegedly further pursued the matter, see id. ¶¶ 38-39, the plaintiff was arrested and detained for approximately ten hours on November 21, 2014, see id. ¶¶ 39-42, after being charged with felony threatening to kidnap or injure a person in violation of D.C. Code § 22-1810 (2012), id. ¶ 42. The charge was subsequently dismissed with prejudice on September 18, 2015. Id. ¶ 56.

         The plaintiff initiated this action on November 3, 2015, see Complaint at 1, and on November 6, 2017, the plaintiff filed his motion for leave to file a fourth amended complaint, see Pl.'s Mot. at 1. The plaintiff's Proposed Fourth Amended Complaint adds facts that the plaintiff contends were revealed through discovery, as well as two new claims: (1) a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim, alleging violations under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments; and, in the alternative, (2) a Bivens action, alleging violations under the same three constitutional amendments. See Proposed 4th Am. Compl. ¶¶ 138-76. Discovery closed on December 18, 2017, see Order (Nov. 17, 2017), ECF No. 47, and the Court held a hearing on the plaintiff's motion on December 21, 2017.


         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), the Court “should freely give leave” to a party to amend its pleading “when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). While the Court has sole discretion to grant or deny leave to amend, “[l]eave to amend a [pleading] should be freely given in the absence of undue delay, bad faith, undue prejudice to the opposing party, repeated failure to cure deficiencies, or futility.” Richardson v. United States, 193 F.3d 545, 548-49 (D.C. Cir. 1999) (citing Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)); see also James Madison Ltd. ex rel. Hecht v. Ludwig, 82 F.3d 1085, 1099 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (“Courts may deny a motion to amend a complaint as futile . . . if the proposed claim would not survive a motion to dismiss.”). “The burden is on the defendant[s] to show that leave to file an amended complaint should be denied.” Afram v. United Food & Commercial Workers Unions & Participating Emp'rs Health & Welfare Fund, 958 F.Supp.2d 275, 278 (D.D.C. 2013).

         III. ANALYSIS

         The defendants oppose the plaintiff's motion for leave to again amend his complaint on the grounds that (1) the plaintiff failed to earlier cure deficiencies in his complaint, (2) undue delay and prejudice, and (3) futility. See Defs.' Opp'n at 1.[2]

         A. The Plaintiff's Failure to Earlier Cure Deficiencies Argument

         In their written opposition, the defendants argue that the Court should deny the plaintiff's motion for leave to amend because he does not explain “why he failed to include the [proposed] amendments . . . in his previously filed Complaints.” Defs.' Opp'n at 4. The defendants note that at the status conference held on August 31, 2017, the Court ordered the plaintiff to file his third amended complaint on or before September 22, 2017, see id. at 5; see also Order (Aug. 31, 2017), ECF No. 40, which the plaintiff did, but “[i]n that Complaint, [the p]laintiff brought no new claims, ” even though “there was nothing that prevented [him] from bringing his proposed new claims, ” Defs.' Opp'n at 5. According to the defendants, “by his own admission, [the p]laintiff relies on facts known to him or that should have been known to him when he sought to cure the original [Complaint] and Second Amended Complaint[].” Id. The plaintiff argues in response that, as of the date he filed his reply on November 28, 2017, the “[d]efendants ha[d] not responded to most of th[e] discovery” the plaintiff had submitted to them, but that recent discovery has revealed the actions that defendant Cipullo took “under the authority of his position with the [ ] Superior Court, ” which prompted the plaintiff's request to pursue the proposed constitutional claims. See Pl.'s Reply at 4; see also id. at 6 (“[D]iscovery is ongoing, and [the plaintiff] seeks leave to amend the complaint to conform to information learned in discovery so that the case may be tried on its merits.”).

         At the motion hearing, the plaintiff clarified that the deposition of MPD Commander William J. Fitzgerald, which was taken on October 17, 2017, see Pl.'s Reply, Exhibit (“Ex.”) 1 (Transcript of Commander William J. Fitzgerald (“Fitzgerald Dep.”)), revealed how defendant Cipullo allegedly used the color of his office to have the plaintiff arrested and charged, and the plaintiff promptly filed his motion for leave less than three weeks later, see Pl.'s Mot. at 1. The defendants argued in response that Commander Fitzgerald's deposition did not reveal any new facts, but was based upon documents that the plaintiff already had in his possession, because Commander Fitzgerald did not have an independent recollection of the relevant events. The defendants, however, did not submit those documents to the Court to support their assertion that the plaintiff's proposed Fourth Amended Complaint “relies on facts known to him or that should have been known to him when he sought to cure the original [Complaint] and Second Amended Complaint[].” Defs.' Opp'n at 5. Therefore, the Court is unable to evaluate their assertion that the plaintiff already knew the facts forming the basis for his constitutional claims, and thus, the defendants have failed to meet their burden “to show that leave to file an amended complaint should be denied” on this basis. See Afram, 958 F.Supp.2d at 278. Moreover, even if the plaintiff already knew or should have known about the relevant facts that purportedly support his constitutional claims, the defendants are unable to show any undue prejudice resulting from the filing of another amended complaint. See infra Part III.B.

         B. The Undue Delay and Undue Prejudice to the Defendants Argument

         The defendants claim that they will be “unfair[ly] disadvantage[d]” and “blindside[d]” if the Court grants the plaintiff's motion because they will “have to expend additional efforts and resources” to address the proposed Fourth Amended Complaint and they “seek closure” in this case, which “has been pending for just over two years.” Defs.' Opp'n at 6. The defendants fail to cite any legal authority to support their proposition that the plaintiff's motion should be denied on these bases. The plaintiff argues in response to the defendants' position that “[m]oving to amend the complaint before the close of discovery does not constitute undue delay[, and u]nder Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(b), a party may amend the complaint to conform to the evidence at trial or even after trial.” Pl.'s Reply at 6 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(b)). Moreover, the plaintiff claims that his amendments will not “delay this case in any way, ” Pl.'s Mem. at 2, and at the hearing on the motion for leave to amend, the plaintiff's counsel stated that he would not seek additional discovery if he is permitted to assert the plaintiff's new claims. Moreover, the defendants do not contend that additional discovery will be necessary either.

         Courts liberally assess whether Rule 15 motions should be granted, only denying them on the basis of undue delay when the plaintiffs waited many years before seeking amendments, after discovery had already concluded or summary judgment had already been granted. See, e.g., Williamsburg Wax Museum, Inc. v. Historic Figures, Inc., 810 F.2d 243, 247 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (affirming the district court's denial of leave to amend given that six years had passed since the plaintiff had raised the issue underlying his proposed claim and summary judgment had already been granted); Becker v. District of Columbia, 258 F.R.D. 182, 184-85 (D.D.C. 2009) (denying leave to amend because of a five-year delay and discovery had already closed); cf. Barkley v. U.S. Marshals Serv. ex rel. Hylton, 766 F.3d 25, 39 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (reversing the district court's denial of leave to amend, even though “[t]he district court ha[d] endured a multitude of motions and amendments to the pleadings in th[e] case over the course of more than a decade, ” in part because “[t]he plaintiffs already in the case had raised substantially the same [ ] claims, no summary judgment motion had been granted, and no discovery had taken place as to [certain] claims”). Therefore, a two-year delay between the plaintiff's initiation of this suit and his motion for leave to amend does not constitute undue delay, especially given that discovery was still ongoing as of the date the plaintiff filed his motion.

         As for the defendants' argument regarding their need to “expend additional efforts and resources” if the plaintiff's motion is granted, see Defs.' Opp'n at 6, Judge Friedman recently rejected a similar argument in a case that had been pending for over four years, noting:

“Undue prejudice is not mere harm to the non-movant but a denial of the opportunity to present facts or evidence which would have been offered had the amendment been timely.” Does I through III v. District of Columbia, 815 F.Supp.2d 208, 215 (D.D.C. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). “[A]n amendment is not automatically deemed prejudicial if it causes the non-movant to expend additional resources. Any amendment will require some expenditure of resources on the part of the non-moving party. ‘Inconvenience or additional cost to a defendant is not necessarily undue prejudice.'” United States ex rel. Westrick v. Second Chance Body Armor, Inc., 301 F.R.D. 5, 9 (D.D.C. 2013) (quoting City of Moundridge v. Exxon Mobil Corp., 250 F.R.D. 1, 6-7 (D.D.C. 2008)). Indeed, “if [a] court were to employ a policy of denying [ ] leave to amend in every situation where an amended [pleading] may result in additional discovery or expense, then [the] court would fail to abide by the legal standard of granting leave ‘freely . . . when justice so requires.'” Hisler v. Gallaudet Univ., 206 F.R.D. 11, 14 (D.D.C. 2002) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2)).

United States v. All Assets Held at Bank Julius, 229 F.Supp.3d 62, 69 (D.D.C. 2017) (alterations in original) (holding that the United States would not suffer an undue burden if the Court were to grant the defendant's motion to amend his answer because “[t]he voluminous amount of material already adduced in discovery on th[e] issue [underlying the proposed amendment] . . . is strong evidence that additional discovery [as a result of the amendment] w[ould] not be nearly as burdensome as the United States suggests”). And, given that the plaintiff is not seeking to extend discovery and the defendants do not contend that they will need additional discovery if the plaintiff is permitted to assert his new claims,, the defendants cannot show that they will be unduly prejudiced on that basis.

         At the hearing on the motion to amend, the defendants' counsel stated that they would also suffer undue prejudice because the plaintiffs' proposed claims are futile, but that is a separate ground for denying the plaintiffs' motion, not a type of undue prejudice. See Richardson, 193 F.3d at 548-49 (stating that leave to amend “should be freely given in the absence of . . . undue prejudice to the opposing party . . ., or futility” (emphasis added)).

         Therefore, the Court concludes that the defendants have not shown that they will suffer undue prejudice if the plaintiff is permitted to again amend his complaint.

         C. ...

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