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Graciani v. Providence Health & Services

United States District Court, D. Alaska

July 19, 2019

DEBRA RENA GRACIANI, Plaintiff,
v.
PROVIDENCE HEALTH & SERVICES, KELLI RINAS, JAMES EFIRD, BRENDA FRANZ, and JAMES BLANKENSHIP, Defendants.

          ORDER RE MOTIONS TO AMEND COMPLAINT

          SHARON L. GLEASON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court at Docket 61 is Plaintiff Debra Rena Graciani's Motion to Amend Complaint. Defendants Providence Health & Services (“Providence”), Kelli Rinas, James Efird, Brenda Franz, and James Blankenship's (“individual Defendants”; collectively, “Defendants”) filed a response in opposition at Docket 71.[1] Ms. Graciani filed a reply at Docket 77.

         Also before the Court at Docket 78 is Ms. Graciani's Motion to Permit Amendment of Complaint After Expiration of Deadline to Amend. Defendants filed a response in opposition at Docket 83. Ms. Graciani filed a reply at Docket 85.

         Oral argument was not requested for either of these motions and was not necessary to the Court's determinations. However, on May 6, 2019, at an oral argument on other motions then pending, the instant motion at Docket 61 was also discussed.[2]

         BACKGROUND

         On March 23, 2018, Ms. Graciani filed her Complaint in this Court, which alleges six claims.[3] Providence is the only named defendant in Claims I-IV. Claims I-III allege violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964[4]; Claim IV alleges a deprivation of equal rights under Section 1981.[5] Claim V alleges a conspiracy by the four individual Defendants to interfere with civil rights under Section 1985(3).[6] Claim VI seeks punitive damages.[7]

         On August 1, 2018, the Court issued its scheduling and planning order, which provided that motions to amend pleadings “shall be served and filed not later than 30 days after deadline for initial disclosures.”[8] The deadline for initial disclosures was August 29, 2018.[9] Therefore, the deadline to amend was September 28, 2018. No. motion to amend the Complaint was filed by that date.

         On October 9, 2018, Providence and the individual Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Claim V of Plaintiff's Complaint.[10] On October 29, 2018, Ms. Graciani filed her opposition to that motion.[11] On November 13, 2018, Defendants filed their reply.[12]

         On April 8, 2019, the Court granted Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Claim V of Plaintiff's Complaint without prejudice and with leave to amend.[13] The Court held that Claim V is subject to a two-year statute of limitations and that Ms. Graciani's allegations as to Ms. Rinas and Mr. Efird fell outside that limitations period. The Court further held that Ms. Graciani had failed to show that Ms. Franz or Mr. Blankenship's alleged actions met the elements of a Section 1985(3) claim. As to Providence, the Court held that Ms. Graciani failed to state a Section 1985(3) claim because she had pleaded that Providence was merely the principal for which the individual Defendants had acted as agents. Accordingly, the Court dismissed Claim V against all Defendants without prejudice and with leave to amend.[14]

         On April 19, 2019, Ms. Graciani filed her first motion to amend pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a).[15] The proposed amended complaint attached to that motion sought to add numerous factual allegations, presumably in an effort to address the deficiencies of Claim V. But the proposed amended complaint attached to that motion also sought to amend Claim IV, the Section 1981 claim, to add the individual Defendants and also sought to amend Claim III, a Title VII claim.[16] At oral argument on May 6, 2019, [17] the Court expressed the view that Ms. Graciani's motion to amend was untimely insofar as it sought to amend Claims III and IV, and amendment of those claims must be sought through Rule 16(b), rather than pursuant to Rule 15(a).

         Ms. Graciani did not withdraw her first motion to amend. Instead, on May 13, 2019, she filed a second motion, titled Motion to Permit Amendment of Complaint after Expiration of Deadline to Amend pursuant to Rule 16(b).[18] She attached the same proposed amended complaint that she had filed with the first motion.[19] Ms. Graciani's motion pursuant to Rule 16(b) asserts that her counsel determined that Section 1981 had a four-year statute of limitations after conducting additional legal research following the issuance of the Court's order regarding Claim V at Docket 54.[20] On May 15, 2019, Ms. Graciani filed a Notice of Filing Related Case.[21]

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b)(1) requires a district court to enter a scheduling order governing the pretrial management of a case. After the order is entered, Rule 16(b)(4) provides that “[the] schedule may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent.” “Unlike Rule 15(a)'s liberal amendment policy which focuses on the bad faith of the party seeking to interpose an amendment and the prejudice to the opposing party, Rule 16(b)'s ‘good cause' standard primarily considers the diligence of the party seeking the amendment.”[22]

         DISCUSSION

         I. Plaintiff's Motion to Amend under Rule 15(a)

         Ms. Graciani's motion at Docket 61 seeks to amend the Complaint pursuant to Rule 15(a). But the deadline for Ms. Graciani to amend under Rule 15(a) expired on September 28, 2018. Ms. Graciani's motion at Docket 61 was filed on April 19, 2019, more than six months later. Therefore, Ms. Graciani's motion to amend at Docket 61 will be denied.

         II. Plaintiff's Motion to Permit Amendment under Rule 16(b)

         To the extent that Ms. Graciani seeks to amend her Complaint to provide additional factual allegations as to her Section 1985(3) claim in accordance with the parameters of the Court's order at Docket 54, that proposed amendment was expressly permitted by the Court's order. But the proposed amendments of Claim III and Claim IV were not permitted by the Court's order at Docket 54; they are untimely and will be considered in light of Rule 16(b)'s good cause standard.

         Ms. Graciani recounts the briefing timeline as to Defendants' motion to dismiss Claim V, and she attempts to relitigate the merits of Claim V as originally pled.[23] Next, Ms. Graciani maintains that Section 1981 is subject to a four-year statute of limitations, and that her proposed Section 1981 claim against the individual Defendants falls within that statute of limitations.[24] Ms. Graciani further maintains that Defendants would not be prejudiced by the addition of the individual Defendants to her Section 1981 claim, [25] and that substantial time remains before trial.[26] As to her diligence in seeking to amend, Ms. Graciani states in her reply that “[f]ollowing the Court's Order on the Motion to Dismiss dated April 8, 2019, plaintiff was diligent in asserting an alternate theory for the individual [Defendants'] liability on April 19, 2019.”[27]

         Defendants respond that Ms. Graciani “obviously was aware of the [Section 1981] cause of action as she asserted the same against Providence. Her proposed new claim against the Individual Defendants is not founded upon any newly discovered - or even newly pled - factual allegations.” As such, ...


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