United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
T. TREADWELL, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Titus and Sueanna Jones move to join Macon-Bibb County as a
defendant pursuant to Rule 19 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure and for leave to file an amended complaint adding
claims against Macon-Bibb. For the following reasons, that
motion (Doc. 24) is DENIED.
Plaintiffs brought suit against Defendant Lake Wildwood
Association, Inc. alleging that Lake Wildwood had barred them
from their home. Doc. 1. They now seek leave to file a
proposed amended complaint alleging the following facts
concerning Macon-Bibb: (i) someone in the Code Enforcement
Office created and distributed a flyer containing a picture
of the Plaintiffs' home, (ii) the Code Enforcement Office
falsely represented to Lake Wildwood that the Plaintiffs'
property was condemned, (iii) Macon-Bibb failed to give the
Plaintiffs adequate notice of legal action concerning their
home, and (iv) Macon-Bibb wrongly placed a stop-work order on
their home, despite the Plaintiffs having properly sought a
permit. Doc. 31-1 at 4-7. The Court has entered several
orders informing the Plaintiffs of deficiencies in their
proposed amended complaints. Docs. 26; 28; 30. The Court
observed that the Plaintiffs' first proposed amended
complaint “d[id] not state the legal basis of the
claims against the County” or include “specific
legal grounds for their suit” and gave them ten days to
file a recast proposed amended complaint. Doc. 28 at 2. The
Plaintiffs then filed a recast proposed amended complaint.
Doc. 29-1. That recast proposed amended complaint added a
section labeled “claims for relief, ” which
quoted the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause and
clarified that a proposed takings claim against Macon-Bibb
was “[s]imilar” to the claim in Palazzolo
v. Rhode Island, 533 U.S. 606 (2001). However, that
complaint also included a “parties” section,
which purported to add a number of Macon-Bibb employees whom
the Plaintiffs had not moved to join. Doc. 29-1 at 6-8.
Accordingly, the Court requested a new proposed recast
amended complaint. Doc. 30 at 2. The Plaintiffs then filed
their second proposed recast amended complaint (Doc. 31-1),
which deleted the “parties” section and added
more detail concerning the flyer, as well as conclusory
allegations that Macon-Bibb worked in concert with Lake
Wildwood Association to bar the Plaintiffs from their home.
addressing the propriety of the proposed amendment under
Rules 15 and 19, the Court must first determine whether the
Plaintiffs' motion is untimely under the controlling
scheduling Order issued in this case. See Sosa v.
Airprint Sys., Inc., 133 F.3d 1417, 1419 (11th Cir.
1998) (noting that when a motion to amend was filed after the
scheduling order's deadline, the movant must first
demonstrate good cause under Rule 16(b) before the court
considers whether the amendment is proper under Rule 15(a))
(citations omitted); Ne. Drilling, Inc. v. Inner Space
Servs., Inc., 243 F.3d 25, 36 (1st Cir. 2001) (Rule
16(b) applies to Rule 19(a) joinder). “District courts
are required to enter a scheduling order that limits the time
to join other parties and to amend the pleadings. Such orders
control the subsequent course of the action unless modified
by a subsequent order and may be modified only upon a showing
of good cause. This good cause standard precludes
modification unless the schedule cannot be met despite the
diligence of the party seeking the extension.”
Sosa, 133 F.3d at 1418 (quotation marks, alteration
marks, and citations omitted) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 16).
“If a party was not diligent as to the matter that is
the subject of the motion to amend, the good cause inquiry
should end.” Clean Harbors Envtl. Servs., Inc. v.
Cedar Enters. Inc., 2012 WL 13008804, at *1 (N.D.Ga.
2012) (citing Sosa, 133 F.3d at 1418). Because the
motions to join Macon-Bibb and for leave to amend the
complaint are untimely under Rule 16, the Court does not
reach the question of whether those motions would be granted
under the standards of Rules 15 and 19.
12, 2018, the Court entered a scheduling and discovery order,
which set a deadline of August 3, 2018 for amending pleadings
or joining parties. Doc. 7 at 9. At a conference on December
5, 2018, the Court extended the deadlines for discovery and
for dispositive and Daubert motions, but it did not
extend the deadline for amending pleadings or joining
parties. Doc. 19. That deadline had already passed in August
2018. Doc. 7 at 9. On February 7, 2019, the Court granted
further extensions of the deadlines for discovery and for
dispositive and Daubert motions. Doc. 23. On April
21, 2019, the Plaintiffs filed motions to join Macon-Bibb and
to amend the complaint to add claims against Macon-Bibb. Doc.
24. The Court entered several orders over the following two
months in an attempt to clarify the Plaintiffs' proposed
new claims so that it could properly address the motions.
Docs. 26; 28; 30.
Plaintiffs allege they learned that a flyer mentioned in
their original complaint was in fact created by employees of
Macon-Bibb. Doc. 31-1 at 5. The basis of this allegation is
Lekitte Robinson's deposition. Id. That
deposition, however, was taken on January 11, 2019, and the
Plaintiffs did not move to join Macon-Bibb until April 21,
2019. Doc. 27-3 at 1. The Plaintiffs provide no reason for
the more than three months' delay. Also, the flyer
requested that if residents saw someone working on the house
at 404 Breezeview Circle, they contact Bibb County. Doc. 27-3
at 31-32. The Plaintiffs do not identify a specific legal
basis for asserting a claim against Macon-Bibb arising from
the flyer, and no such basis is evident to the Court. The
Plaintiffs also did not file the flyer, despite the
Court's requesting them to do so. Doc. 28 at 2.
Plaintiffs also claim that Macon-Bibb condemned their house
without notice or judicial process, based on a reinspection
letter sent by Baker, an employee of Macon Bibb, allegedly to
Lake Wildwood. Docs. 29 at 2; 27-3 at 44:19-45:15. That
letter was Exhibit 10 of the Robinson Deposition.
Id. Without seeing the letter, the Court cannot
determine (1) the factual basis for the false condemnation
claim or, more importantly, (2) that the facts supporting
that claim were previously undiscoverable despite the
Plaintiffs' diligence. The Court, therefore, requested
that the Plaintiffs file the deposition exhibits. Doc. 28 at
2 (“the Plaintiffs did not file the exhibits to the
depositions: at minimum, they must attach the flyer, the
letters stating the property was condemned, or any of the
other documents which form the basis of the Plaintiffs'
allegations.”). The Plaintiffs filed some exhibits, but
not the flyer, discussed above, or the letter stating the
property was condemned. See Docs. 29-2; 29-3; 29-4;
29-5; 29-6; 29-7; 29-8; 29-10; 29-11; 29-12; 29-13; 29-14.
The Plaintiffs have failed to show that the factual bases for
these claims were undiscoverable despite their diligence.
fact, the limited deposition exhibits which the Plaintiffs
did file prove the opposite. For instance, the Plaintiffs
filed a letter of April 15, 2016, from a Macon-Bibb inspector
to a Department of Housing and Urban Development official,
responding to accusations by Plaintiff Titus Jones that the
Macon-Bibb inspector had threatened to hurt Mr. Jones's
family if he ever returned to the property. Doc. 29-12.
Clearly, either the building inspector was behaving highly
unusually or Jones's accusations lacked credibility.
Either way, the letter shows that the Plaintiffs were aware
of Macon-Bibb's involvement, if any, long before the
August 3, 2018 deadline for amending pleadings and joining
parties. Doc. 7 at 9. The attachments also indicate that
Macon-Bibb informed the Plaintiffs they were not allowed to
do the work as far back as February 2016. Doc. 29-11 at 2.
The Plaintiffs' limited filings in support of their
motion undermine, rather than support, any claim that the
Plaintiffs were diligent. In sum, the Court finds the Plaintiffs
were not diligent and have not shown good cause, and the
Court denies the Plaintiffs' motion to amend.
repeated attempts, the Court has been unable to coax from the
Plaintiffs a “short and plain statement of the claim[s]
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed R.
Civ. P. 8(a)(2). The Court has construed all pleadings
liberally, but the Plaintiffs simply have not shown good
cause for joining Macon-Bibb and adding allegations pursuant
to a motion filed more than eight months after the deadline
for amending pleadings and adding new parties. The few
relevant documents the Plaintiffs have filed confirm the
Court's conclusion that the Plaintiffs were not diligent
regarding the proposed claims against Macon-Bibb. Because the
August 3, 2018 deadline of the scheduling Order has passed
and there is no good cause for modifying that Order, the
Plaintiffs' motions to amend and to join Macon-Bibb as a
defendant (Doc. 24) are DENIED.