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H.E. v. Berry

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

August 31, 2017

H.E., by and through William and Jennifer Emerich, her adoptive parents and legal guardians as next friends, Plaintiff,
v.
FRANK BERRY, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff H.E.'s, by and through William and Jennifer Emerich, her adoptive parents and legal guardians as next friends, (“Plaintiff”) Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint [57] (“Second Amendment Motion”).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a seven-year old child who suffers from certain psychiatric and emotional illnesses. (First Amended Complaint [25] (“Am. Compl.”) ¶¶ 2, 21). On October 29, 2015, Plaintiff filed her Complaint [1] alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On May 10, 2016, after receiving leave of the Court, Plaintiff filed her Amended Complaint seeking a preliminary injunction ordering Defendants Clyde Reese (“Reese”) and Frank Berry (“Berry”), [1] in their official capacities, to approve Plaintiff's placement at an appropriate Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (“PRTF”) or Residential Treatment Center (“RTC”). (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 43, 46). Plaintiff also sought monetary damages from seven additional Defendants, [2] in their individual capacities, for “improperly categorizing [Plaintiff's] eligibility for Medicaid; failing to correct [Plaintiff's] Medicaid eligibility with knowledge of the improper categorization; and [] obstructing [Plaintiff's] access to appropriate [] services with concerted and deliberate indifference towards [Plaintiff's] health and wellbeing.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 1).

         On May 24, 2016, Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss [28] the claims against Defendants in their individual capacities and the claims for money damages.[3] On November 7, 2016, the Court granted the Motion to Dismiss in part and denied it in part [43] (“Motion to Dismiss Order”). The Court dismissed the seven Individual Capacity Defendants from the action and Plaintiff's claims for monetary damages against them. (Motion to Dismiss Order at 44). The Court did not dismiss Plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief against the Official Capacity Defendants. (Motion to Dismiss Order at 44). The Court denied, without prejudice, Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction [34]. (Motion to Dismiss Order at 44). On November 18, 2016, Plaintiff filed her Renewed Motion for Preliminary Injunction [45] (“Pl Ren. Mot.”), seeking Plaintiff's admission to one of two facilities, Jasper Mountain or Santa Maria, specializing in treatment of Plaintiff's disorder. (Pl. Ren. Mot. at 1-2). On January 16, 2017, Plaintiff was admitted to Jasper Mountain. (Second Amendment Motion at 7). On January 30, 2017, upon agreement of the parties, the Court entered an order to stay the Renewed Motion for Preliminary Injunction. (January 30, 2017, Docket Entry Staying Pl. Ren. Mot.).

         On March 23, 2017, Plaintiff filed her Second Amendment Motion, attaching her Proposed Second Amended Complaint. Plaintiff seeks to add a new claim against former Defendant, Bobby Cagle (“Cagle”).[4] Plaintiff seeks damages against Cagle for retaliatory acts he allegedly committed in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). (Second Amendment Motion at 1). The Proposed Second Amended Complaint states Plaintiff's parents, William and Jennifer Emerich, communicated with various third parties during the summer and early fall of 2014 about issues they were experiencing in obtaining Medicaid services. (Second Amendment Motion at 19). The Proposed Second Amended Complaint also alleges that, in retaliation, Cagle sought to “take custody of H.E. and terminate William and Jennifer's parental rights.” (Second Amendment Motion at 20). On April 6, 2017, Defendants filed their Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint [58] (“Response”). Defendants oppose the Second Amendment Motion on two grounds: (1) Plaintiff unduly delayed in seeking to add the claim against former Defendant Cagle and, in doing so, (2) unduly prejudiced the Defendants and Cagle. (Response at 4-8).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a plaintiff to file one amended complaint, as a matter of course, if the amended complaint is filed within 21 days of service of the original complaint or within 21 days of the defendant's filing of a responsive pleading or Rule 12 motion to dismiss. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). Amended complaints may be filed outside of these time limits only “with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave.” See Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2).

         Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “[t]he court should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). “There must be a substantial reason to deny a motion to amend.” Laurie v. Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, 256 F.3d 1266, 1274 (11th Cir. 2001). “Substantial reasons justifying a denial include ‘undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive on the part of the movant, . . . undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, [and] futility of amendment.'” Id. (citing Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)).

         B. Analysis

         Plaintiff claims it should be permitted leave to amend under Rule 15(a) to allege a claim of retaliation in violation of the ADA against former Defendant, Bobby Cagle. Defendant argues Plaintiff's new claim is (1) unduly delayed and (2) unduly prejudicial.

         1. Undue Delay and Undue Prejudice

         A district court may find undue delay when the movant knew of facts supporting a new claim long before the movant requested leave to amend, and amendment would further delay the proceedings.” Haynes v. McCalla Raymer, LLC, No. 1:11-cv-3149-TWT, 2014 WL 3908433, at *7 (N.D.Ga. Aug. 7, 2014) (holding the plaintiffs failed to “present a reasonable justification” for delaying amendment until “after summary judgment was filed, after the close of discovery, and more than two years after they filed their original Complaint”); see also SHM Int'l Corp. v. Guangdong Chant Grp., Inc., No. 1:14-cv-1446-ODE, 2016 WL 4204553, at *4 (N.D.Ga. June 29, 2016) (denying amendment where the plaintiff provided “no reason as to why it waited just under two years to ...


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