United States District Court, D. Colorado
KISSING CAMELS SURGERY CENTER, LLC, CHERRY CREEK SURGERY CENTER, LLC, ARAPAHOE SURGERY CENTER, LLC, and HAMPDEN SURGERY CENTER, LLC, Plaintiff,
CENTURA HEALTH CORPORATION, Defendant.
ORDER OVERRULING IN PART AND SUSTAINING IN PART DISMISSED DEFENDANTS' OBJECTION TO THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S ORDER
WILLIAM J. MARTÍNEZ, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on a filing by former Defendants Colorado Ambulatory Surgery Center Association, Inc., Rocky Mountain Hospital and Medical Service, Inc, d/b/a Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Colorado, UnitedHealthcare of Colorado, Inc., Audubon Ambulatory Surgical Center, LLC, and Aetna, Inc. (collectively "Dismissed Defendants") objecting to an order by U.S. Magistrate Judge Boyd N. Boland ("Objection"). (ECF No. 218.) For the reasons set forth below, the Objection is sustained in part and overruled in part.
I. LEGAL STANDARD
A magistrate judge may issue orders only on nondispositive motions. Ocelot Oil Corp. v. Sparrow Indus., 847 F.2d 1461, 1462-63 (10th Cir. 1988). W hether motions to amend a complaint are dispositive is an unsettled issue. See Chavez v. Hatterman, 2009 WL 82496, at *1 (D. Colo. Jan. 13, 2009) (collecting cases). When an order denying a motion to amend removes or precludes a defense or claim from the case, it may be dispositive. Zinn-Hoshijo v. Comm. for Catholic Secondary Educ. in Colo. Springs, 2012 WL 1582784, at *1 (D. Colo. May 7, 2012).
When a magistrate judge issues a recommendation on a dispositive matter, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b)(3) requires that the district court judge "determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's [recommendation] that has been properly objected to." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). In conducting its review, "[t]he district court judge may accept, reject, or modify the [recommendation]; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." Id.
In contrast, when reviewing an objection to a Magistrate Judge's non-dispositive ruling, the Court must adopt the ruling unless it finds that the ruling is "clearly erroneous or contrary to law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Hutchinson v. Pfeil, 105 F.3d 562, 566 (10th Cir. 1997); Ariza v. U.S. West Commc'ns, Inc., 167 F.R.D. 131, 133 (D. Colo. 1996). The clearly erroneous standard "requires that the reviewing court affirm unless it on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." Ocelot Oil, 847 F.2d at 1464. The "contrary to law" standard permits "plenary review as to matters of law, " 12 Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller, Richard L. Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3069 p. 355 (2d ed. 1997), but the Court will set aside a Magistrate Judge's order only if it applied the wrong legal standard or applied the appropriate legal standard incorrectly. See Wyoming v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 239 F.Supp.2d 1219, 1236 (D. Wyo. 2002).
The Dismissed Defendants' Motion challenges Magistrate Judge Boland's Order granting Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to Amend their complaint ("Magistrate Judge's Order") (ECF No. 212). The Magistrate Judge's Order, issued on August 12, 2014, found that Plaintiffs had met the standards of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 15 and 16, and had shown good cause to extend the deadline in the Scheduling Order for amendment of pleadings to permit the proposed amendment of the complaint. ( Id. ) Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 213) reinstates their claims against the Dismissed Defendants, which were previously dismissed on February 13, 2014 in an order granting the Dismissed Defendants' Motions to Dismiss ("Dismissal Order"). (ECF No. 177.)
The Dismissed Defendants now object to the Magistrate Judge's Order on the basis that the Dismissal Order effected a dismissal of all claims against them with prejudice, and therefore they are not subject to reinstatement as defendants. ( See ECF No. 218 at 2-4.)
A. Effect of Dismissal Order
The Dismissal Order is silent as to whether the claims against the Dismissed Defendants were dismissed with or without prejudice. (ECF No. 177 at 23.) Rule 41(b) governs involuntary dismissals, and states that "[u]nless the dismissal order states otherwise, ... [an involuntary dismissal]-except one for lack of jurisdiction, improper venue, or failure to join a party under Rule 19-operates as an adjudication on the merits." Because the Dismissal Order does not specify that the claims against the Dismissed Defendants are dismissed without prejudice, the Dismissed Defendants contend that the dismissal of the claims against them was "an adjudication on the merits", which Tenth Circuit law establishes as a dismissal with prejudice. (ECF No. 218 at 4.) Plaintiffs do not contest this reading of Rule 41(b), arguing instead that such a dismissal is still subject to revision under Rule 54(b) because it did not have the effect of a final adjudication of all claims and parties. (ECF No. 225 at 3-5.)
The Court agrees with the Dismissed Defendants that, pursuant to Rule 41(b), the Dismissal Order must be read to have effected a dismissal with prejudice. As a result, the claims against the Dismissed Defendants could not be reinstated without amending the Dismissal Order to specify that the dismissal is without prejudice. However, the Magistrate Judge's Order permitted Plaintiffs to amend their Complaint to reinstate the claims against the Dismissed Defendants without such an amendment. To that extent, the Magistrate Judge's Order must be vacated as contrary to law. See Ocelot Oil, 847 F.2d at 1464; Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). Accordingly, the Objection is sustained insofar as it sought to vacate the Magistrate Judge's Order.
B. Motion to Amend
As a result of the vacatur of the Magistrate Judge's Order, Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint ("Motion to Amend") (ECF No. 179) is once again pending. The Court has reviewed the Magistrate Judge's Order, and finds that it thoroughly analyzes Plaintiffs' and Centura's arguments under Rules 15 and 16. (ECF No. 212.) Thus, because a denial of the Motion to Amend would be dispositive of Plaintiffs' claims against the Dismissed Defendants, the Court construes the Magistrate Judge's Order as a Report and Recommendation as to the appropriate analysis under Rules 15 and 16, and will conduct ...