United States District Court, D. Colorado
KATHLEEN M. TAFOYA, Magistrate Judge.
This matter is before the court on "Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File First Amended Complaint." (Doc. No. 94, filed May 9, 2014.) "Defendants Charles C. Powers's Response to Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File First Amended Complaint" was filed on June 24, 2014 (Doc. No. 101) and "Defendant Davis Engineering, Inc.'s Response to Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to file a First Amended Complaint" was filed on June 26, 2014 (Doc. No. 102). Plaintiff's Reply was filed on July 14, 2014 (Doc. No. 110). For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion to Amend is GRANTED.
In its Complaint, filed July 3, 2012 (Doc. No. 1), Plaintiff has asserted eleven claims against Defendants Charles Powers, Davis Engineering Service, Inc., and three other individuals who have since been dismissed as defendants, arising out of a real estate transaction in Rio Grande County, Colorado. Plaintiff now seeks leave to file its proposed Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 94-1), which (1) removes the claims against the dismissed defendants; (2) asserts additional allegations that Defendant Powers acted negligently in his alleged role as the title and/or closing agent and in obtaining certain water rights for Plaintiff; (3) asserts additional allegations in support of its existing claims against Defendant Davis Engineering; and (3) adds a respondeat superior claim against a new defendant, Attorneys Title Guaranty Fund, Inc., based on the alleged actions of Defendant Powers.
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), "The court should freely give leave [to amend the pleadings] when justice so requires." See also York v. Cherry Creek Sch. Dist. No. 5, 232 F.R.D. 648, 649 (D. Colo. 2005); Aspen Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, LLC v. Aspen Valley Hosp. Dist., 353 F.3d 832, 842 (10th Cir. 2003). The grant or denial of an opportunity to amend is within the discretion of the court, but "outright refusal to grant the leave without any justifying reason appearing for the denial is not an exercise of discretion; it is merely abuse of that discretion and inconsistent with the spirit of the Federal Rules." Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). "Refusing leave to amend is generally only justified upon a showing of undue delay, undue prejudice to the opposing party, bad faith or dilatory motive, failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, or futility of amendment." Frank v. U.S. West, Inc., 3 F.3d 1357, 1365 (10th Cir. 1993). Notably,
The Federal Rules reject the approach that pleading is a game of skill in which one misstep by counsel may be decisive to the outcome and accept the principle that the purpose of pleading is to facilitate a proper decision on the merits.
Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 48 (1957) abrogated on other grounds by Bell Atl. Corp. v Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007).
A. Undue Delay
Defendants Davis Engineering and Powers both argue that Plaintiff's proposed amendments are unduly delayed because Plaintiff knew of the facts supporting its proposed amendments over two years ago, at the time it filed its original Complaint. The court disagrees that the proposed amendments are unduly delayed.
At the Scheduling Conference held on March 25, 2014, Defendants objected to the court setting a renewed deadline for joinder of parties and amendment of pleadings. Defendants argued that because this case had been pending for over two years, Plaintiff already had sufficient time to amend the pleadings. The court rejected Defendants' arguments because, based on the phased-discovery approach agreed to by the parties-whereby discovery would initially proceed on Plaintiff's equitable claims before turning to Plaintiff's remaining legal claims-Plaintiff's legal claims are effectively "new." Accordingly, in the Phase Two Scheduling Order, the court set a deadline of May 9, 2014 for joinder of parties and amendment of pleadings. (Doc. No. 90, § 9(a).)
Plaintiff's Motion to Amend was filed in compliance with that deadline. The court declines to reject Plaintiff's proposed amendments on grounds of undue delay when it has fully complied with the pertinent court-ordered deadline. See Handy v. Diggins, Case No. 10-cv-02022-WYD-KMT, 2011 WL 7201986, at *2 (D. Colo. Dec. 21, 2011), recommendation aff'd and adopted at 2013 WL 415343 (Feb. 8, 2012) (Daniel, J.).
B. Undue Prejudice
Defendant Powers maintains that he will be unduly prejudiced if Plaintiff's proposed amendments are ...