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United States v. Pioneer Natural Resources Co.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

May 16, 2018




         This matter comes before the court on Defendants Pioneer Natural Resources Company (“Pioneer Natural Resources”) and Pioneer Natural Resources USA, Inc. (“Pioneer-USA”) (collectively, “Defendants”) “Partially Unopposed Motion for Leave to Amend their Pleadings” (“Motion to Amend”). [#84, filed April 3, 2018]. The Motion to Amend is before the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to the Order Referring Case dated February 3, 2017 [#17] and the memorandum dated May 7, 2018 [#94]. After carefully reviewing the Motion to Amend, the entire case file, and the applicable case law, I respectfully RECOMMEND that the Motion to Amend be GRANTED.[1]


         Plaintiff United States of America initiated this civil action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 9601 et seq., seeking to recover from Defendants certain costs incurred in response to the release (or threatened release) of hazardous waste at the Nelson Tunnel/Commodore Waste Rock Pile Superfund Site, located in Mineral County, Colorado. [#1]. Defendants filed their respective Answers on March 20, 2017. [#20; #21]. On April 19, 2017, this court presided over a Scheduling Conference and entered a Scheduling Order directing the Parties, in relevant part, to amend pleadings on or before September 5, 2017, complete written discovery by January 15, 2018, and complete non-written discovery by September 14, 2018. [#23; #24].

         On May 19, 2017, the Government filed an early Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the issue of Defendants' corporate successor liability. [#46]. On September 5, 2017, following the briefing of the early Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and with the Government's consent, Defendants filed respective Amended Answers and asserted counterclaims for declaratory judgment for the first time. [#61; #62]; see [#63]. The Government filed Answers to the counterclaims on November 6, 2017. [#70; #71]. Defendants subsequently filed the Motion to Amend, seeking leave to file amended counterclaims and revised affirmative defenses and defenses, and to revise two responsive paragraphs.

         On April 18, 2018, days before the Government's response to the Motion to Amend was due, the court granted the Government's early Motion for Summary Judgment, finding that Pioneer Natural Resources is a successor to the CERCLA liabilities of Pioneer Nuclear, Incorporated (“PNI”), and that Pioneer-USA is a successor to the CERCLA liabilities of Mesa Operating Limited Partnership (“MOLP”). See [#88]. The Government did not ultimately respond to the Motion to Amend.


         I. Applicable Law

         Defendants filed the Motion to Amend after the expiration of the deadline for amendment of pleadings as specified in this court's Scheduling Order. Therefore, this court considers the Motion to Amend pursuant to a two-step inquiry. First, the court considers whether the moving party demonstrates good cause pursuant to Rule 16(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Gorsuch Ltd. B.C. v. Wells Fargo Nat'l Bank, 771 F.3d 1230, 1242 (2014). Rule 16(b) provides that a scheduling order “may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4). “Rule 16(b) does not focus on the bad faith of the movant, or the prejudice to the opposing party. Rather, it focuses on the diligence of the party seeking leave to modify the scheduling order to permit the proposed amendment.” Colo. Visionary Acad. v. Medtronic, Inc., 194 F.R.D. 684, 687 (D. Colo. 2000).

         If the moving party can demonstrate good cause, the court then weighs whether the amendment should be allowed under Rule 15(a), which provides that “the court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Gorsuch, 771 F.3d at 1242. Whether to allow amendment is within the trial court's discretion. Burks v. Oklahoma Publ'g Co., 81 F.3d 975, 978-79 (10th Cir. 1996). The court may refuse leave to amend 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). A general presumption exists in favor of allowing a party to amend its pleadings, see Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962), and the non-moving party bears the burden of showing that the proposed amendment is improper. Jefferson County Sch. Dist. No. R-1 v. Moody's Investor's Services, Inc., 175 F.3d 848, 859 (10th Cir. 1999).

         II. Application

         According to the certificate of conferral in the Motion to Amend, the Government does not oppose the proposed amendments to Defendants' counterclaims, affirmative defenses, and defenses, [#84 at 1], and thus this court RECOMMENDS that those amendments be accepted.

         Defendants also seek leave to “conform two paragraphs, ” paragraphs 12 and 13, “to the facts developed in discovery.” [Id. at 2]. Defendants' Answers contain an almost identical Paragraph 12, which states that the respective Defendant:

denies Plaintiff's allegation in the first sentence of Paragraph 12 that the hydraulic structures are or were “makeshift” or that the discharge system was “pieced together.” Otherwise, ...

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