United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division
MEMORANDUM, OPINION, AND ORDER
Brent Brennenstuhl United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the Court on the Motion (DN 49) of Plaintiff
John Doe to amend his complaint. The Defendant, George
Dordoni, has responded (DN 52). Plaintiff's time to file
a reply has expired, and the matter is ripe for review.
of the Case
time relevant to the complaint, Doe was an international
student at Western Kentucky University (DN 1 ¶ 1).
George Dordoni was the director of Student Affairs and WKU
International Student and Scholar Advisor (Id.). Doe
alleges that Dordoni informed him in May of 2015, toward the
end of a tumultuous trip home to Saudi Arabia, that his
student visa would not expire until 2017 (Id. at
¶ 21-23). However, when Doe re-entered the country,
Customs Border Patrol told him his visa was no longer valid
because WKU had listed him as an inactive student who was
ineligible to take classes due to the results of a
psychological evaluation (Id. at ¶ 25). CBP
detained Doe for approximately one month without the
opportunity for a hearing or bond (Id. at ¶
37). Additionally, CBP registered Doe as an illegal immigrant
(Id.). Doe later learned that WKU sent the
information about his student status in error (Id.
at ¶ 26). He now alleges that by offering to assist in
the international student visa process, Dordoni was obligated
to exercise reasonable care in the circumstances, and his
failure to do so makes him liable for Doe's damages
(Id. at ¶ 29).
of the Parties
seeks to amend his complaint to add a punitive damages
complaint (DN 49). The motion alleges that the Plaintiff has
discovered new facts during discovery that justify the claim
(Id.). Notably, Doe does not identify these facts
either in the motion or the amended complaint (See
DN 49; DN 49-1). Instead, he appears to have filed a copy of
the original complaint with a paragraph added simply alleging
that the exact same facts, as stated in the original
complaint, meet the threshold for punitive damages (DN 49-1
at PageID # 158).
response, Dordoni points out that Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a) counsels
courts to liberally grant motions to amend so long as the
proposed amendments could withstand a 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss (DN 52 at PageID # 166). Dordoni argues there is no
reading of the factual allegations in the complaint that
could rise to the standard required to obtain punitive
damages under Kentucky Law (Id. at PageID # 167).
Doe has offered no reply.
15(a)(2) states that leave to amend a complaint shall be
freely granted “when justice so requires." This
liberal standard has led courts to conclude that “[a]
motion to amend a complaint should be denied if the amendment
is sought in bad faith, for dilatory purposes, results in
undue delay or prejudice to the opposing party, or would be
futile.” Colvin v. Caruso, 605 F.3d 282, 294
(6th Cir. 2010). According to Rose v. Hartford
Underwriters Ins. Co., 203 F.3d 417, 420 (6th Cir.
2000), “[a] proposed amendment is futile if the
amendment could not withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
order to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must state
a claim upon which relief can be granted. F.R. Civ. P.
12(b)(6). The complaint must contain enough factual material
to satisfy the basic requirements of Rule 8, which requires
only a “short and plain statement of the claim showing
that the pleader is entitled to relief.” F. R. Civ. P.
8(a)(2). However, the facts alleged in the complaint must at
least be sufficient to “state a claim for relief that
is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A set of facts is
plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for
relief will be a context-specific task that requires the
reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common
sense." Id. at 679 (cleaned up). The moving
party carries the burden of demonstrating that the nonmoving
party has failed to state a claim. DirecTV, Inc. v.
Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007). The Court
will accept all factual allegations as true and draw all
reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.
Total Benefits Planning Agency v. Anthem Blue Cross &
Blue Shield, 552 F.3d 430, 434 (6th Cir. 2008).
Importantly, however, accepting all factual allegations as
true does not require a court to accept legal conclusions
couched as factual assertions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
Kentucky law, in order to receive punitive damages, a
defendant must act toward the Plaintiff "with
oppression, fraud, or malice." KRS § 411.184(2).
"'Oppression' means conduct which is
specifically intended by the defendant to subject the
plaintiff to cruel and unjust hardship." KRS §
411.184(1)(a). "'Fraud' means an intentional
misrepresentation, deceit, or concealment of material fact
known to the defendant and made with the intention of causing
injury to the plaintiff." KRS § 411.184(1)(b). And,
"'[m]alice' means either conduct which is
specifically intended by the defendant to cause tangible or
intangible injury to the plaintiff or conduct that is carried
out by the defendant both with a flagrant indifference to the
rights of the plaintiff and with a subjective awareness that
such conduct will result in human death or bodily harm."
KRS § 411.184(1)(c). Alternatively, a plaintiff may be
awarded punitive damages if the defendant acted with gross
negligence. Saint Joseph Healthcare, Inc. v. Thomas,
487 S.W.3d 864 (Ky. 2016). Gross negligence means acting with
"wanton or reckless disregard for the lives, safety, or
property of others." Id. (internal quotations
and citation omitted).
Doe's proposed amended complaint does not assist the
Court by identifying specific conduct which he believes
justifies an award of punitive damages. Doe has simply added
a count that incorporates the entirety of the original
complaint. Nevertheless, the undersigned has examined the
factual allegations leveled against Dordoni in search of
anything that might, viewed in a light most favorable to the
Plaintiff, either satisfy the statutory requirement or amount
to gross negligence. Nothing meets either threshold.
states, for instance, that it was "WKU" who
reported incorrect information about him to the Student
Exchange and Visitor Information System (Id. at
¶ 26). Doe does not even allege that Dordoni
intentionally sent incorrect information or, in fact, that
Dordoni sent the information at all or that his position was
even ultimately responsible for ensuring the accuracy of such
transmissions. Doe states that Dordoni guided him through the
process (DN 49-1 at ¶ 17). But Doe also states that,
upon learning of Doe's situation, Dordoni sent an email
stating that he had reached out and provided accurate
information to the relevant authorities and stating that Doe
would be in Dordoni's thoughts (Id. at ¶
27). None of this conduct is remotely malicious, fraudulent,
or oppressive. Moreover, Doe has alleged no facts that would
support a charge that Dordoni acted with wanton or reckless
disregard for Doe's person, Property, or safety. At best,
Doe has alleged that Dodorni acted negligently. Thus, because
no set of facts exist in the proposed amended complaint that
would support a ...