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Casey v. Rouse

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville

July 26, 2019

BETTY CASEY, Administratrix of the Estate of John Alexander y, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
JONATHAN ROUSE, Defendant.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          KAREN K. CALDWELL, CHIEF JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15. (DE 24.) For the reasons stated below, that Motion (DE 24) is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of the death of John Alexander Casey, who was shot and killed by Defendant Jonathan Rouse of the Kentucky State Police (“KSP”). (DE 1 at 1.) Casey's mother, as Administratrix of his Estate, brought this suit alleging battery, wrongful death pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. § 411.130, and violations of the Fourth Amendment, the Civil Rights Act of 1871, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (DE 1 at 6.) Plaintiff now seeks to amend her Complaint to delete parties and causes of action previously dismissed by the Court and to correct the allegations from the initial complaint to conform with facts adduced in discovery. (DE 24 at 1.)

         The initial Complaint alleged as follows: KSP Troopers Rouse and Rowe arrived at Casey's residence to arrest him on a bench warrant for failure to appear in court. (DE 1 at 4.) Upon their arrival, they encountered Casey, who did not appear to be armed or threatening. (DE 1 at 4.) After Casey was advised by the Troopers that they were there to arrest him, Casey fled up a hill adjacent to his residence. (DE 1 at 4.) Then, “Casey may have picked up a rock or an empty blue Pepsi can to throw at Defendant Rouse.” (DE 1 at 5.) Thereafter, Casey was shot by Rouse before he threw anything. (DE 1 at 5.) Casey died from the single gunshot wound, and at the time he was shot, he was not armed or threatening. (DE 1 at 5.)

         The proposed Amended Complaint changes the facts slightly. It alleges as follows: Rouse and Rowe drove to the residence of Lacy Wolford in Pike County, Kentucky, to question Wolford about an alleged assault. (DE 24-1 at 2.) While at Wolford's residence, the Troopers encountered Casey, who lived next door and did not appear to be in possession of a weapon. (DE 24-1 at 2-3.) Troopers spoke with Casey and performed a warrant check, which revealed that a bench warrant had been issued for Casey's arrest for non-payment of a fine for a minor violation. (DE 24-1 at 3.) Thereafter, the Troopers advised Casey that he was under arrest. (DE 24-1 at 3.) Wolford-who was also on the scene-then fled, and both Troopers pursued him, leaving Casey unrestrained and unattended. (DE 24-1 at 3.) When Rouse returned, Casey was gone. (DE 24-1 at 3.) Rouse then walked toward Casey's residence and advised Casey's girlfriend and two minor females that he intended to call Social Services. (DE 24-1 at 3.) Thereafter, a verbal altercation ensued, and Rouse walked back toward his cruiser to call Social Services. (DE 24-1 at 3.) At that time, Casey reappeared on a hill above Rouse. (DE 24-1 at 3.) Rouse and Casey had a verbal altercation, and Casey may have thrown a rock at Rouse, which missed. (DE 1 at 5; DE 24-1 at 3.) Rouse then drew his gun and fired at Casey, killing him. (DE 24-1 at 3.) At the time Casey was shot, he was not armed or threatening. (DE 24-1 at 3-4.)

         II. ANALYSIS

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) permit any party to “amend its pleading once as a matter of course within 21 days after serving it, or if the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is required, 21 days after service of a responsive pleading.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). “In all other cases, a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave. The court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). However, this window of opportunity is not indefinite. See Shane v. Bunzel Distribution USA, Inc., 275 Fed.Appx. 535, 536 (6th Cir. 2008). “Once a pleading deadline has passed, litigants must meet the higher threshold for modifying a scheduling order found in Rule 16(b).” Id. See also Leary v. Daeschner, 349 F.3d 888, 906-07 (6th Cir. 2003); Birchwood Conservancy v. Webb, 302 F.R.D. 422, 424 (E.D. Ky. 2014). FRCP 16(b)(4) states that “[a] schedule may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent.” Good cause requires the late moving litigant to show that “despite their diligence they could not meet the original deadline.” Leary, 349 F.3d at 907.

         In determining whether to grant a motion to amend a complaint, the court should consider the Foman factors: (1) undue delay in filing the motion; (2) lack of notice to adverse parties; (3) whether the movant is acting in bad faith, or with a dilatory motive; (4) failure to cure deficiencies by previous amendments; (5) the possibility of undue prejudice to adverse parties; and (6) whether the amendment is futile. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 192 (1962).

         Here, the proposed Amended Complaint deletes parties and causes of action previously dismissed by the Court, and it corrects the allegations from the initial Complaint to conform with facts adduced in discovery. (DE 24 at 1.) Rouse asserts that amending the Complaint at this stage would be unduly prejudicial due to discovery deadlines. (DE 28 at 2.) However, Rouse does not explain why deleting the parties and causes of action that have been dismissed by the Court and clarifying the facts would prejudice him.

         Amending the Complaint is unnecessary. There is no need to amend a complaint to delete parties and dismissed claims because the Court knows which parties and claims it has dismissed. See Johnson v. Cleveland City Sch. Dist., 344 Fed.Appx. 104, 114 (6th Cir. 2009). Additionally, facts adduced in discovery are before the Court regardless of whether they are included in the Complaint. Id. Nevertheless, after analyzing the relevant Foman factors listed above, the Court grants Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint. As further explained below, although Plaintiff's Motion is untimely, Rouse is not unduly prejudiced.

         A. Plaintiff's Motion is untimely.

         Plaintiff's Motion is undeniably untimely. The Court's Scheduling Order set a deadline of November 1, 2018 to amend pleadings. (DE 15 at 1). Litigants who fail to observe a pleading deadline must meet the higher threshold for modifying a scheduling order according to FRCP 16(b)(4), which provides that schedules may be modified with the judge's consent only for good cause. See Shane v. Bunzel Distribution USA, Inc., 275 Fed.Appx. 535, 536 (6th Cir. 2008); Leary, 349 F.3d at 906-07. Good cause requires moving litigants to show that “despite their diligence they could not meet the original deadline.” Leary, 349 F.3d at 907.

         Plaintiff has not conclusively shown that she could not meet the original November 1, 2018 deadline, though she does offer some explanation for her delay in her reply. She states that the initial Complaint was filed in good faith reliance on incomplete information because of an approaching statute of limitations deadline and because the KSP investigation of the shooting of Casey was incomplete. (DE 29 at 2.) The KSP investigation of Casey's death was not closed and made available to Plaintiff until November 16, 2018, nearly two and a half years after the shooting and two weeks after the amendment deadline passed. (DE 29 at 2.) Plaintiff alleges that the delay in her Motion was a result of KPS's custom and practice of trying to “run out the clock” on claims arising from its troopers' misconduct. (DE 29 ...


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