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Haigh v. Construction Industry and Laborers Joint Pension Trust for Southern Nevada

United States District Court, D. Nevada

June 26, 2015

Steven Haigh, Plaintiff
v.
Construction Industry and Laborers Joint Pension Trust for Southern Nevada, Plan A and Plan B, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND [##18, 33]

JENNIFER A. DORSEY, District Judge.

Steven Haigh started working for the Laborers' International Union of North America when he was 18-years-old and, after putting in 18 years, he left with a union pension and moved to other employers.[1] He formed A&J Concrete the month he stopped working with the union, [2] and describes his company as a non-union contractor "repeatedly threatened, harassed[, ] and picketed by the Union."[3] In April 2014, the month after Haigh began at A&J, the union suspended his pension benefits.[4]

Haigh sues the Construction Industry & Laborers Joint Pension Trust for Southern Nevada, Plan A & Plan B (Pension Trust) to reinstate his pension benefits.[5] Haigh sought discovery beyond the scope of his complaint, and Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach denied that discovery on April 24, 2015. Haigh promptly sought leave to amend both his complaint and the scheduling order on April 30, 2015.[6] The proposed complaint would add Pension Trust chairman Thomas White as a defendant and asserts new claims against White and the Trust.[7] Magistrate Judge Ferenbach granted leave to amend the scheduling order.[8] After reviewing the record and law, I grant Haigh's motion to amend his complaint and deny the Pension Trust's pending summary-judgment[9] motion without prejudice to its reassertion based on the amended complaint.

Discussion

After the amendment deadline passes, a plaintiff seeking amendment must move to reopen the filing period. When a party seeks amendment after the scheduling-order deadline expires, he must satisfy the good-cause standard in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b)(4).[10] Good cause "primarily considers the diligence of the party seeking the amendment."[11] Courts may also consider prejudice to the opposing party, but the focus is on what reasons the moving party has for modifying the scheduling order.[12] In addition, the plaintiff must satisfy Rule 15(a)(2), which governs leave to amend more than 21 days after service of the complaint. Justice requires courts to "freely" grant leave to amend a complaint in the absence of undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motives, failure to cure problems with the complaint despite repeated opportunities to amend, undue prejudice to the opposing party, or futility.[13]

A. Rule 16: Amendment after the Scheduling-Order Deadline Passes

I can readily find that Haigh was diligent in satisfying Rule 16. Haigh moved for leave to amend his complaint five court days after Magistrate Judge Ferenbach issued the order explaining why Haigh's discovery requests were beyond the scope of his complaint.[14] In granting leave to amend the court's scheduling order, Judge Ferenbach found that Haigh "was diligent in seeking a modification" and that the interests of justice required allowing a scheduling-order amendment.[15] I also find that Haigh was diligent in seeking amendment and that Rule 16's good-cause standard is thus satisfied.

B. Rule 15: Amendment More than 21 Days after the Complaint Is Filed

1. Timeliness and good faith

Next, I consider Haigh's motion under the Rule 15 standard. Because Haigh was diligent, I also find under Rule 15 that he did not display undue delay, dilatory motive, or bad faith. He sought amendment within a week of receiving Judge Ferenbach's order, and it is still fairly early in the timeline of this suit, which was pending only seven months before Haigh moved to amend. In addition, because this is Haigh's first motion to amend, he has not repeatedly failed to correct deficiencies.

Because I recognize that the Pension Trust filed a motion for summary judgment two months before Haigh moved to amend, I take particular care in examining Haigh's timeliness.[16] In this case, the defendant chose to skip a motion to dismiss and went straight to a motion for summary judgment. This is entirely within its prerogative. At the same time, this means that the Pension Trust's motion for summary judgment came only five months after the complaint was filed. This is earlier than most summary-judgment motions are filed and means it still came early in the litigation.

Accordingly, I do not find undue delay, dilatory motive, or bad faith on Haigh's part.

2. Good cause

The Pension Trust argues that there is not good cause to amend because "Haigh alluded to similar issues" in his administrative appeal and original complaint, when he alleged that the Trust failed "to enforce the 2001 Plan consistently with respect to similarly situated retirees" and that he received "uneven and disparate treatment."[17] But these generalized disparate-treatment allegations are distinguishable from the detailed allegations, now raised in the proposed complaint, that the Pension Trust's chair personally suspended ...


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