United States District Court, S.D. Georgia
N.H., a minor child by her natural parents and guardians, JENNIFER HARRIS and STEPHEN HARRIS; JENNIFER HARRIS, individually; and STEPHEN HARRIS, individually; Plaintiffs,
REPUBLIC SERVICES OF GEORGIA, LIMITED PARTNERSHIP DELAWARE, a Delaware Corporation; and ARCHIE JUROYAL MONDAY; Defendants.
GODBEY WOOD, CHIEF JUDGE.
the Court are Plaintiffs Jennifer and Stephen Harris'
("Plaintiffs") Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint
(Dkt. No. 30), and Defendant Republic Services of Georgia,
Limited Partnership (Delaware)'s ("Republic")
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Dkt. No. 24) . For the
reasons stated below, Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to
Amend (Dkt. No. 30) is GRANTED and Defendant's Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings (Dkt. No. 24) is DENIED AS MOOT.
following facts are taken solely from Plaintiffs'
Complaint. Dkt. No. 1. On August 5, 2014, N.H. (the
Plaintiffs' minor child) was riding her bike in St.
Simons Island, Georgia. Id. ¶ 9. During this
time, N.H. was struck by a waste-disposal truck operated by
Archie Monday ("Monday") in the employ of Republic.
Id. N.H. suffered catastrophic injuries.
Id. ¶ 11. Plaintiffs assert Monday failed to
exercise due care operating his vehicle in a residential
neighborhood where he should have known children may have
been playing. Id. ¶ 15. Plaintiffs now bring an
action for negligence against Monday and seek to hold
Republic vicariously liable.
filed its Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings regarding
Plaintiffs' negligent hiring and retention claim on
October 18, 2016. Dkt. No. 24. Specifically, it argues that
Plaintiff could not sustain a claim for negligent supervision
and retention without asserting punitive damages.
Id. A day later, Plaintiffs moved to amend, seeking
to add a punitive damages claim to their complaint. Dkt. No.
30. The deadline for amendments concluded on May 16, 2016,
pursuant to the Court's scheduling order. Dkt. No. 10.
Plaintiffs assert, however, that they lacked the information
necessary to make such a claim until deposing Monday and his
supervisors in September 2016. Dkt. No. 45 p. 7.
Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to Amend
Court first turns to Plaintiffs' Leave to Amend, as
granting leave effectively moots Defendant's Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings. As a general rule, leave to amend
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) is given freely.
Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962);
Saewitz v. Lexington Ins. Co., 133 F.App'x 695,
699 (11th Cir. 2005) (per curiam). That said, leave to amend
is not automatic, and a trial court may deny such leave
"in the exercise of its inherent power to manage the
conduct of litigation before it." Reese v.
Herbert, 527 F.3d 1253, 1263 (11th Cir. 2008);
Hargett v. Valley Fed. Sav. Bank, 60 F.3d 754, 761
(11th Cir. 1995). However, "[u]nless there is a
substantial reason to deny leave to amend; the discretion of
the district court is not broad enough to permit
denial." Burger King Corp. v. Weaver, 169 F.3d
1310, 1319 (11th Cir. 1999).
a court has entered a scheduling order prescribing a deadline
for motions to amend pleadings, a plaintiff seeking leave to
amend his complaint after that deadline must demonstrate
"good cause." Carter v. Broward Cty.
Sheriff's Dep't Med. Dep't, 558
F.App'x. 919, 923 (11th Cir. 2014) (citing S. Grouts
& Mortars, Inc. v. 3M Co., 575 F.3d 1235, 1241 (11th
Cir. 2009)); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b) (4)
("A schedule may be modified only for good cause and
with the judge's consent."). In addition, a court
need not allow leave to amend "(1) where there has been
undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, or repeated failure
to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed; (2)
where allowing amendment would cause undue prejudice to the
opposing party; or (3) where amendment would be futile."
In re Engle Cases, 7 67 F.3d 1082, 1108-09 (11th
Cir. 2014) (quoting Bryant v. Dupree, 252 F.3d 1161,
1163 (11th Cir. 2001)).
it is undisputed that Plaintiffs filed their Motion for Leave
to Amend after the Court's deadline for amended
pleadings. Dkt. No. 10. As such, the Court must consider
whether or not Plaintiffs have established good cause for
doing so. The Plaintiffs assert they did not seek an
amendment before the deadline because they could not have
known they had a claim for punitive damages until Monday and
his supervisors were deposed on September 1, 2016. Dkt. No.
45 pp. 6-8. As such, Plaintiffs assert their failure to amend
within the Court's deadline was due to an attempt to
ensure the legitimacy of their claim through discovery.
Id. Republic, on the other hand, asserts that
Plaintiffs should have had the information needed to amend as
early as May 24, 2016, and yet did not amend until October
19, 2016. Dkt. 35 p. 7.
Court notes that the burden of establishing a punitive claim
for negligent supervision is a high one. Plaintiff must
allege "willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness,
oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the
presumption of conscious indifference to consequences."
Durben, 503 S.E.2d at 619 (internal quotation marks
omitted) (citing O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(b)). Indeed,
Plaintiff may only survive dismissal by alleging "that
an employer had actual knowledge of numerous and serious
violations on its driver's record, or at the very least,
when the employer has flouted a legal duty to check a record
showing such violations." Ortiz v. Wiwi, No.
3:ll-CV-00033, 2012 WL 4468771, at *3 (M.D. Ga. Sept. 12,
2012) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting W.
Indus. Inc. v. Poole, 634 S.E.2d 118, 121 (Ga.Ct.App.
2006)). Therefore, with the above standards in mind, the
Court must consider when Plaintiffs knew they had a plausible
claim for punitive damages regarding their negligent
supervision and retention claim.
obtained evidence of Monday's previous traffic citations
on March 24, 2016. Dkt. No. 31-5. Indeed, this documentation
contains evidence that Monday received multiple citations
while driving his work vehicle and reported those citations
to the company. Id. However, the Court notes that
Plaintiff needs to show that Republic had "actual
present good cause for their delayed amendment here.
Plaintiffs had no insight regarding whether Monday's
supervisors had actual knowledge of these violations, nor did
Plaintiffs know if Monday was reprimanded in any way, until
September 1, 2016. At deposition, Monday revealed that he had
a discussion about one of his traffic citations with a
supervisor. Dkt. No. 31-2 p. 134. Furthermore, Monday's
supervisors revealed that Monday was not reprimanded for his
actions and took no actions afterwards, possibly in violation
of corporate policies and federal regulations. Dkt. No. 31-9