United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division
L. BUNNING UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Lewis Bustetter's
Objections to Magistrate Judge Atkins's December 26, 2018
Memorandum Opinion and Order denying Plaintiff's Motion
for Leave to Amend his Complaint. (Doc. # 29). The Defendant
having responded to the Objections (Doc. # 31), the matter is
now ripe for the Court's review. For the reasons set
forth herein, the Objections are sustained in
part and overruled in part. The
Motion for Leave to Amend remains denied.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
(“ERISA”) action commenced on May 11, 2018 when
Plaintiff Bustetter filed a Complaint alleging that Defendant
CEVA failed “to provide requested plan documents
relating to employee benefit plans under which Plaintiff was
a participant.” (Doc. # 1 at 1). Specifically,
Bustetter, an employee of CEVA, requested that CEVA, the plan
sponsor and administrator, “provide him with copies of
the controlling employee benefit plan documents” for
the plans he was a participant in. Id. at 2. Despite
sending five letters requesting the documents, Bustetter
claims he did not receive a response. Id. at 3.
Thus, Bustetter brought suit under ERISA. Id. at 1,
appears to have proceeded in a timely manner, as required by
the Scheduling Order, and the parties filed a required status
report on October 31, 2018 at the close of discovery. (Docs.
# 11 and 16). That report indicated that the parties were
nearing a settlement agreement. (Doc. # 16 at 1). However,
the next court filing, Bustetter's Motion for Leave to
Amend, indicated that the settlement negotiations had fallen
apart. (Doc. # 17 at 2). In fact, Plaintiff moved to amend
his Complaint based on a position the CEVA took during
settlement negotiations on November 14, 2018 and confirmed on
November 19, 2018. Id. at 2-4, 6.
alleges that CEVA breached its fiduciary duty during
settlement negotiations. Id. at 2-3. Specifically,
Bustetter asserts that the material terms of the settlement
negotiations had been agreed to, but then CEVA switched
gears. Id. at 2-3. He claims CEVA demanded as part
of a settlement that Bustetter release his claims against the
CEVA Welfare Benefit Plan and the CEVA 401(k) Plan-neither of
which are parties to the present action. Id. at 2-3,
5. Bustetter alleges that this demand was self-dealing, which
is prohibited under ERISA, and, therefore, CEVA breached its
fiduciary duty to him. Id. at 3.
Bustetter filed the at-issue Motion in an attempt to add this
new breach-of-fiduciary-duty claim to the pending action.
Id. at 4. After the Motion was fully briefed, (Docs.
# 20 and 24), Judge Atkins took the matter under submission.
On December 26, 2018, Judge Atkins denied the Motion. (Doc. #
27). Plaintiff Bustetter filed Objections to the Order (Doc.
# 29) and CEVA filed a Response in opposition to his
Objections. (Doc. # 31).
Standard of Review
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) “a judge may designate
a magistrate judge to hear and determine any pretrial matter
pending before the court” with some limitations. A
motion for leave to file an amended complaint is a
non-dispositive, pretrial matter for the purposes of this
rule. See Lester v. Wow Car Co., Ltd., 601 Fed.Appx.
399, 400 (6th Cir. 2015) (indicating that a motion for leave
to file an amended complaint was referred to a magistrate
judge and objections were lodged under 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(A) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a)). Within fourteen days of
being served with the Order, any party may file specific
objections. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). “Vague, general or
conclusory objections” are equivalent to “a
complete failure to object.” Cole v. Yukins, 7
Fed.Appx. 354, 356 (6th Cir. 2001). Further, “an
‘objection' that does nothing more than state a
disagreement with a magistrate's suggested resolution, or
simply summarizes what has been presented before, is not an
‘objection' as that term is used in this
context.” United States v. Vanover, No.
2:10-cr-14, 2017 WL 1356328, at *1 (E.D. Ky. Apr. 11, 2017)
(quoting VanDiver v. Martin, 304 F.Supp.2d 934, 938
(E.D. Mich. 2004)) (internal quotations omitted).
magistrate judge's decision is found to be clearly
erroneous or contrary to law, the district judge may
reconsider the matter. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A).
Specifically, factual findings are reviewed under the
clearly-erroneous standard, while legal conclusions are
reviewed under “the more lenient ‘contrary to
law' standard.'” Gandee v. Glaser, 785
F.Supp. 684, 686 (S.D. Ohio 1992). Under the contrary-to-law
standard, the court will undertake independent and plenary
review of the legal conclusions in the at-issue Order and
will overturn any legal conclusions which “contradict
or ignore applicable precepts of law, as found in the
Constitution, statutes, or case precedent.”
Id. (quoting Adolph Coors Co. v. Wallace,
570 F.Supp 202, 205 (N.D. Cal. 1983)).
Magistrate Judge Atkins's Order
Judge Atkins denied Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend
his Complaint on four grounds. (Doc. # 27). First, Judge
Atkins found that there was not good cause for the amendment
and subsequent modification of the case schedule.
Id. at 3. Second, Judge Atkins found that the
amendment at this point in the litigation would be
prejudicial to the defendant. Id. at 4. Third, Judge
Atkins determined that Bustetter's failure to act before
the deadline set in the Scheduling Order was not due to
excusable neglect. Id. at 5. Finally, the Magistrate
Judge found that the amendment would be futile because no
settlement agreement had been reached by the parties.