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Bustetter v. Ceva Logistics U.S., Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division

April 25, 2019




         This 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.[1] (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.


         This 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, 4.

         Discovery 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.

         Bustetter 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.

         Mr. 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).

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         Pursuant 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).

         If the 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)).

         B. Magistrate Judge Atkins's Order

         Magistrate 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. Id.

         C. ...

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