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Borgonah v. Rocky Mountain Health Center Pediatrics P.C.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

October 18, 2019

CANDICE BORGONAH, Plaintiff,
v.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN HEALTH CENTER PEDIATRICS P.C., Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO AMEND

          Nina Y. Wang United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter comes before the court on Plaintiff Candice Borgonah's “Motion for Leave to Amended [sic] First Amended Complaint” (the “Motion to Amend” or “Motion”), filed July 22, 2019. [#26]. The court considers the Motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and the Order of Reference for all purposes dated February 1, 2019 [#10]. The court concludes that oral argument will not materially assist in the resolution of this matter. Accordingly, having reviewed the Motion and associated briefing, the applicable case law, and the docket, the court DENIES the Motion to Amend for the reasons stated herein.

         BACKGROUND

         The court has discussed the background of this matter in its prior Orders, see [#13; #24], and therefore limits its discussion here to only the most salient facts. Ms. Borgonah (“Plaintiff” or “Ms. Borgonah”), who is Asian and whose nationality is Indian, worked for Defendant Rocky Mountain Health Center Pediatrics P.C.'s (“Defendant” or “RMHCP”) as a Practice Administrator from about November 17, 2014 to November 3, 2016. See [#14 at 7, 12]. According to Ms. Borgonah, she was the only employee of Indian national origin at RMHCP and RMHCP's owner Dr. Kimberly Mourani and its agents Karolynn St. Pierre and Carli Seeba treated Plaintiff differently than similarly-situated non-Asian, non-Indian employees. See [#14 at 7-8, 12-13].

         Believing RMHCP's conduct constituted a violation of her civil rights, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination and retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on February 10, 2017. See [#1 at 3, 11]. On September 6, 2018, the EEOC issued Plaintiff a Notice of Right to Sue letter. See [id. at 7-8]. Plaintiff initiated this action by filing her pro se[1] Complaint on December 4, 2018. See [#1]. RMHCP moved to dismiss Plaintiff's original Complaint on January 3, 2019, arguing that Ms. Borgonah failed to plead plausible Title VII claims for disparate treatment and retaliation and did not exhaust her administrative remedies related to any tortious interference claim. See [#6; #11]. The court granted in part the initial Motion to Dismiss as to Plaintiff's Title VII claims, but afforded Plaintiff leave to amend these claims, and denied in part the initial Motion to Dismiss as to Plaintiff's tortious interference claim. See [#13].

         Plaintiff then filed her Amended Complaint on March 14, 2019. See [#14]. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint asserted Title VII claims for disparate treatment based on race and national origin (“Claim 1”) and hostile work environment (“Claim 2”) as well as state law claims for wrongful discharge (“Claim 3”) and tortious interference (“Claim 4”). [#14]. Defendant moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint in its entirety, arguing that Plaintiff failed to plead adequate facts to state plausible claims for relief. See [#15]. On June 10, 2019, the court granted in part and denied in part the Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint, holding that Claims 1 and 3 pleaded plausible claims for relief while Claims 2 and 4 did not. See [#24]. In so ruling, the court provided Plaintiff until July 24, 2019 to file a formal Motion to Amend addressed only at the deficiencies identified with Claims 2 and 4, and informed Ms. Borgonah that any such motion would need to satisfy the standards of Rules 16(b)(4) and 15(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See [id. at 11 & n.6].

         Ms. Borgonah filed the instant Motion to Amend on July 22, 2019. [#26]. She requests leave to amend her Amended Complaint to add allegations bolstering her hostile work environment claim and to assert a new claim for violations of the Colorado Wage Act, Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 8-4-101 et seq. [Id.]. Defendant has since responded in opposition to the Motion. See [#27]. And although Ms. Borgonah has not filed her Reply, the time to do so has since expired, and I conclude that the Motion is ripe for disposition presently. See D.C.COLO.LCivR 7.1(d) (“Nothing in this rule precludes a judicial officer from ruling on a motion at any time after it is filed.”). Accordingly, I consider the Parties' arguments below.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         As courts in this District have repeatedly observed, a “Scheduling Order is not a frivolous piece of paper, idly entered, which can be cavalierly disregarded by counsel without peril.” E.g., Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc. v. Universal Am. Mortg. Co., LLC, 300 F.R.D. 678, 681 (D. Colo. 2014). Indeed, a Scheduling Order is an important tool used for the orderly preparation of a case for trial and to avoid surprise to the parties and to the court. Id. Accordingly, Rule 16(b)(4) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure expressly provides that “[a] schedule may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4). The court repeated the same admonition in the Scheduling Order entered in this matter. [#21 at 8].

         The purpose of the deadline to amend pleadings and join parties, as set out in a Scheduling Order, is to force the parties to prioritize their discovery to obtain the information necessary to know if amendment is required sooner rather than later. This also ensures that discovery proceeds in an orderly fashion. See Valles v. Gen-X Echo B, Inc., Civil Action No. 13-cv-00201-RM-KLM, 2013 WL 5832782, *3 (D. Colo. Sept. 27, 2013). Accordingly, when a party seeks to amend pleadings after the deadline set in the Scheduling Order, the court's consideration is subject to a two-prong analysis. First, the party must establish good cause under Rule 16(b)(4) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Gorsuch, Ltd., B.D. v. Wells Fargo Nat'l Bank Ass'n, 771 F.3d 1230, 1240 (10th Cir. 2014). Only if the party establishes good cause does the court turn to whether amendment is proper under Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Id. at 1242; Pumpco, Inc. v. Schenker Int'l, Inc., 204 F.R.D. 667, 668 (D. Colo. 2001).

         ANALYSIS

         I. Rule 16(b)(4)

         The determination of good cause under Rule 16 lies within the sound discretion of the court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4). The inquiry under the Rule focuses on the diligence of the party seeking leave to amend. A party establishes good cause when she demonstrates that she could not have met the deadline as set in the Scheduling Order despite her best efforts. Pumpco, 204 F.R.D. at 668. A party's delay in performing the pretrial preparation necessary to recognize a claim or defense does not satisfy Rule 16(b)(4)'s good cause standard. See Colo. Visionary Acad. v. Medtronic, Inc., 194 F.R.D. 684, 688 (D. Colo. 2000). In analyzing good cause, the court focuses on Ms. Borgonah's diligence in seeking leave to amend, not the prejudice to the opposing party. Id. at 687.

         In its Order on the Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint, the court explained, “The deadline to amend pleadings expired on July 5, 2019. Any forthcoming Motion to Amend must therefore satisfy the standards of both Rule 16(b)(4) and Rule 15(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” [#24 at 11 n.6]. But Ms. Borgonah (like RMHCP) does not address Rule 16(b)(4) or offer any explanation as to why, despite her diligence, she could not comply with the Scheduling Order's deadline for the amendment of pleadings. Rather, Ms. Borgonah's Motion to Amend reiterates many of her factual allegations that she has raised since the inception of this lawsuit in various pleadings and papers, though she now provides further documentary support for her alleged position. This, however, is insufficient to satisfy Rule 16(b)(4)'s good cause requirement. See Husky Ventures, Inc. v. B55 Investments, Ltd., 911 ...


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