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Curry v. Westgate Enterprises Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division

July 29, 2019

CRYST'N J. CURRY, Plaintiff,
v.
WESTGATE ENTERPRISES, INC. and RAINBOW CITY CHICKEN, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          KARON OWEN BOWDRE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the court on “Plaintiff's Motion to Amend Complaint.” (Doc. 49). In her motion, Plaintiff Cryst'n Curry requests leave under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) to amend her complaint to add a new party, Anniston Fried Chicken, Inc., as a defendant. For the reasons discussed below, the court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion.

         I. Background

         Defendant Rainbow City employed Ms. Curry from September 11, 2011, until her termination on May 19, 2016. Ms. Curry's complaint arises directly from her termination, and Ms. Curry alleges that Beth Ezell, the area director at the time, “effectively decided to terminate Ms. Curry.” (Doc. 49 at 2).

         When Ms. Curry filed her first amended complaint, she believed Defendant Westgate Enterprises, Inc. employed Ms. Ezell. (Doc. 7 at ¶ 8). So, even though Ms. Curry worked at and was terminated by Defendant Rainbow City Chicken, Inc., she alleged Westgate and Rainbow City were both liable under either a joint or single employer theory. (Doc. 7 at ¶¶ 7-8).

         The court entered a Scheduling Order in this case on June 14, 2018, in which it provided that “Plaintiff(s) may amend pleadings and/or join additional parties, in accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 15, until August 1, 2018.” (Doc. 26 at 2). The court entered a Revised Scheduling Order on January 30, 2019, but did not amend or extend the August 1 deadline, which by that time had already expired. (Doc. 32).

         During her November 7, 2018 deposition, Ms. Ezell, who terminated Ms. Curry, identified her employer as Anniston Fried Chicken. (Doc. 51-1 at 10:22-11:6). Mike Cothran, the owner of Westgate, Rainbow City, and Anniston Fried Chicken, confirmed Ms. Ezell as an employee of Anniston Fried Chicken during his February 22, 2018 deposition. (Doc. 49-1 at 17:13-16). Mr. Cothran also identified Ms. Ezell as an area director with supervisory responsibilities at Westgate, Rainbow City, and Anniston Fried Chicken. (Doc. 49-1 at 19:12-18, 20:13-16).

         II. Standard of Review

          Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), courts “should freely give leave [to amend complaints] when justice so requires.” Rule 15 is a liberal amendment policy within the discretion of the district court. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).

         But when a scheduling order sets a deadline to amend pleadings and a party seeks to amend after the deadline, the court should apply the standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b). O'dell v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P., o. 5:18-CV-1763, 2019 WL 2206444, at *3 (N.D. Ala. May 22, 2019). Rule 16(b)(4) provides that a “schedule may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent.” The decision to grant a plaintiff leave to amend her complaint under either Rule 15 or 16 falls within the court's discretion.

         III. Discussion

         Ms. Curry seeks leave to add Anniston Fried Chicken as a defendant after the August 1, 2018, deadline to amend pleadings set out in the Scheduling Order. (Doc. 26 at 2). So Ms. Curry must show good cause why the court should modify its Scheduling Order and allow her to amend her complaint now.

         Although Ms. Curry's motion applies the more liberal Rule 15 standard, the court still concludes that she has met her burden of showing good cause.

         Ms. Curry alleges she did not know Anniston Fried Chicken was Ms. Ezell's employer until November 7, 2018, more than two months after the Scheduling Order's cutoff to amend pleadings. (Doc. 49 at 3 n. 1).[1] Failing to amend a complaint before the cutoff date because the plaintiff did not know the party should be added until after the cutoff ...


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