United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, District Judge.
Presently pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' Objection to the Magistrate's Order Denying Plaintiffs' Motion to File a Fourth Amended Complaint. [Filing No. 117.] For the reasons that follow, the Court OVERRULES the Objection.
The Court draws the following background from the allegations in the Third Amended Complaint. M-3 Investments ("M-3") owned property encumbered by a mortgage held by Fifth Third Bank ("Fifth Third"). [Filing No. 87 at 2.] Plaintiff Andy Mohr Truck Center ("Andy Mohr") leased the property through Andy Mohr Automotive Group, Inc. in 2010, and it operates a semi-truck dealership on the property. [Filing No. 87 at 2.]
In 2013, Andy Mohr entered into negotiations with M-3 to purchase the property, and those negotiations led to a contract for sale between Plaintiff Anton Realty, LLC ("Anton Realty") and M-3. [Filing No. 87 at 2-3.] As required by the contract, M-3 requested a payoff amount from Fifth Third in September 2013. [Filing No. 87 at 3.] Fifth Third entered into a payoff contract whereby it agreed to "issue appropriate release of [the] mortgage, " and the contract was to remain enforceable until September 12, 2013. [Filing No. 87 at 3.] Anton Realty and M-3 scheduled a closing for the purchase of the property on September 11, 2013. [Filing No. 87 at 3.] After Anton Realty tendered the purchase price, M-3 received a loan transfer notice from Fifth Third that informed M-3 that its commercial note with Fifth Third had been sold to Defendant Guardian Brokers Ltd., Inc. ("Guardian Brokers"). [Filing No. 87 at 4.] Guardian Brokers, however, refused to accept the tendered loan payoff from M-3 via payment from Anton Realty. [Filing No. 87 at 4.]
Anton Realty brought this suit against Guardian Brokers in state court on October 31, 2013. [Filing No. 1-1 at 6.] The case was removed to this Court on December 5, 2013. [Filing No. 1.] The case management plan set the deadline to seek leave to amend the pleadings or join additional parties as July 7, 2014. [Filing No. 28 at 3.] On November 26, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a motion for leave to file a fourth amended complaint that added Fifth Third as a defendant. [Filing No. 93.] Subsequently, Plaintiffs filed a separate suit against Fifth Third.
The Magistrate Judge denied Plaintiffs' motion for leave to file a fourth amended complaint. [Filing No. 109.] Specifically, the Magistrate Judge provided four reasons why leave to amend should not be granted: (1) the motion was filed over four months past the deadline; (2) Plaintiffs seek to add a new defendant to the case even though discovery is already closed; (3) Plaintiffs claim that they could not have added Fifth Third as a defendant earlier, but fail to explain what information was not available to them earlier that made them unable to seek an amendment; and (4) the complaint had already been amended several times and a summary judgment motion was pending. [Filing No. 109 at 1-2.] Plaintiffs' objection to the Magistrate Judge's ruling is now pending before the Court.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The district court's review of any decision by a magistrate judge on a non-dispositive motion is governed by Rule 72(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. A motion to amend a pleading is considered a non-dispositive motion. See Hall v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co., 469 F.3d 590, 595 (7th Cir. 2006). The district court should not modify or set aside a magistrate judge's ruling on a non-dispositive motion unless the ruling is contrary to law or the factual findings are clearly erroneous. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). A finding is clearly erroneous when, after considering the entire record, the reviewing court has been definitely and firmly convinced that a mistake has been made. See Kidd v. Illinois State Police, 167 F.3d 1084, 1095 (7th Cir. 1999). A decision whether to allow amendment of a complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15 is highly discretionary. See Vitrano v. United States, 643 F.3d 229, 234 (7th Cir. 2011) ("district courts are vested with... wide discretion when it comes to evaluating the merits of Rule 15(a)(2) motions to amend"). "[A] district court may deny a plaintiff leave to amend if there is undue delay, bad faith[, ] or dilatory motive... [, or] undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, [or] futility of amendment." Sound of Music Co. v. Minn. Min. & Mfg. Co., 477 F.3d 910, 922 (7th Cir. 2007) (alterations in original) (citations and quotation marks omitted).
Plaintiffs object to the Magistrate Judge's decision primarily on the ground that judicial economy favors permitting them to include Fifth Third as a defendant in this suit, since most of the facts and witnesses involved in this suit and the one against Fifth Third-which has already been filed-are the same. [Filing No. 117 at 4.] As to the four reasons identified by the Magistrate Judge, Plaintiffs respond to them as follows: (1) one of the two previous amended complaints was ordered by the Court and was not a substantive amendment; (2) Plaintiffs' prior counsel did not recognize that claims against Fifth Third existed until depositions were taken in September 2014, which was admittedly after the deadline to amend; (3) the discovery deadline had passed, but "denying the addition of Fifth ...