United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY ON MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT
William T. Lawrence, Judge
cause is before the Court on the Plaintiffs' motion
seeking leave to file an amended complaint (Dkt. No. 120).
The motion is fully briefed and the Court, being duly
advised, GRANTS the motion for the reasons set forth below.
The Clerk is directed to docket the amended complaint found
at Dkt. No. 120-1.
alleged in the Plaintiffs' original complaint, this case
arises out of a May 2013 incident involving a pipeline
("RIO Pipeline") previously owned by Plaintiff
Marathon Petroleum Company LP and now owned by Plaintiff
Hardin Street Transportation LLC. The Plaintiffs allege that
a copper ground wire ("the Wire") was installed
perpendicular to the RIO Pipeline in January 1967 as part of
Defendant Indianapolis Power & Light Company's
("IPL") grounding system for power distribution. In
April 2013, a series of electrical phase-to-ground faults
occurred in high voltage alternating current power lines that
run parallel to the RIO Pipeline and are operated by IPL. The
Plaintiffs allege that these faults caused electrical current
to be transmitted from the Wire to the RIO Pipeline, which,
in turn, caused an electrical burn breach of the RIO
Pipeline, resulting in a release of diesel fuel from the RIO
Pipeline onto the surrounding property.
Plaintiffs assert that IPL was negligent in its
"installation, maintenance, and operation" of the
Wire in two respects: (1) "installing, operating, and
maintaining the [Wire] on top of and in close proximity to
the RIO Pipeline"; and (2) "failing to operate and
control its electrical transmission system where electrical
faults are reasonably foreseeable." They further assert
that IPL's negligence caused the release of diesel fuel,
which is costing the Plaintiffs millions of dollars to
Plaintiffs seek to amend their complaint to accomplish three
goals. First, they seek to add "new and revised"
factual allegations that specify in greater detail the
alleged negligence of the Defendant. Second, they seek to
"clarify that it is making a claim for the costs
associated with mitigation of the ongoing effects of
alternating current ("AC") electrical interference
with the RIO pipeline." Dkt. No. 121 at 2. Finally, they
seek to add two new counts to assert claims for negligent
trespass and nuisance.
Plaintiffs filed their motion to amend their complaint after
the deadline set forth in the case management plan.
Accordingly, rather than the very liberal standard applicable
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), the
Plaintiffs were required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
16(b)(4) to show good cause for amendment, a standard that
"primarily considers the diligence of the party seeking
amendment." Empress Casino Joliet Corp. v. Balmoral
Racing Club, Inc., 831 F.3d 815, 831-32 (7th Cir. 2016)
(citation omitted). When assessing whether any delay by the
Plaintiffs was unreasonable, '"[t]he underlying
concern is the prejudice to the defendant rather than simple
passage of time.'" Id. (quoting McCoy
v. Iberdrola Renewables, Inc., 760 F.3d 674, 687 (7th
Court finds that the Plaintiffs have shown good cause for
allowing the amendment they seek even though the deadline has
passed. As an initial matter, the Court notes that the
Plaintiffs technically were not required to amend their
complaint simply to add new legal theories, as "[a]
plaintiff is not required to plead legal theories in his
complaint." King v. Kramer, 763 F.3d 635, 642
(7th Cir. 2014). In light of this fact, the case management
plan contains a deadline by which the Plaintiffs, as the
parties with the burden of proof, were required to set forth
a statement of claims, including their legal theories. That
deadline ultimately was extended to February 13, 2017, and
the Plaintiffs complied with it. Thus, to the extent that the
amended complaint adds new legal theories based upon the same
event-the May 2013 release of diesel fuel-upon which the
original complaint was based, the Defendant has no viable
objection based on timeliness. The same is true with regard
to the additional facts relating to that event that are
contained in the amended complaint.
Defendant's timeliness argument implicitly recognizes
this, properly focusing on the new claims in the proposed
amended complaint that relate to the Plaintiffs'
allegation that they must perform mitigation work to prevent
further breaches of the pipeline wall caused by AC
interference from the Wire. This claim is distinct from the
original claim, in that it does not relate to the May 2013
release of diesel fuel that allegedly was caused by faults,
but rather relates to the potential for breaches occurring as
a result of the normal use of the Wire over time. That said,
however, it is factually related to the original claim, and
the relevant facts relating to the two claims are so
intertwined that the interests of judicial economy clearly
are served by litigating the two together.
relevant inquiry, then, is whether the Plaintiffs
unreasonably delayed seeking to amend their complaint to add
the mitigation claim and whether any delay-unreasonable or
not-prejudiced the Defendant. The Defendant argued that the
Plaintiffs "were no doubt aware of their possible intent
to assert their new claim at least as early as it served its
[sic] answers to interrogatories back on May 6, 2016."
Dkt. No. 126 at 3. Given that the Defendant itself describes
the new claim as "highly technical in nature, "
id. at 4, the Court does not find it unreasonable
that the Plaintiffs waited until they had complete
information from their experts before filing their motion to
amend. The Court further finds that any potential prejudice
to the Defendant can be avoided by reopening expert discovery
and permitting whatever additional expert reports the
Defendant needs to address the new claim. If a supplemental
motion for summary judgment is appropriate to address the new
claims, that can be accommodated as well.
the Defendant argues that the Plaintiffs' claims for
nuisance and trespass are futile as a matter of law. The
Court finds that these arguments are better addressed in the
context of a summary judgment motion so that the parties can
more fully develop the arguments and the factual record.
14 days of the date of this Entry, the parties shall
confer and file an agreed amended case management plan that
will permit the Defendant to address the new claims contained
in the amended complaint. If the parties are unable to agree,
they shall request a conference with Magistrate Judge
Dinsmore to assist them. If the parties are able to fully
brief any supplemental motion for ...