United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. Rodovich United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the court on the Motion by United States
Steel Corporation for Leave to File a First Amended Answer to
the Complaint [DE 25] filed by the defendant, United States
Steel Corporation, on May 20, 2019, and the Motion by Gary
Railway Company for Leave to File a First Amended Answer to
the Complaint [DE 26] filed by the defendant, Gary Railway
Company, on May 23, 2019. For the following reasons, the
motions are GRANTED.
plaintiffs, Nicholas Nicholson and Charity Nicholson,
initiated this matter against the defendants, Gary Railway
Company and United States Steel Corporation, on January 29,
2018. Nicholas Nicholson sustained an injury on February 2,
2016, while working for Gary Railway. At the time of
Nicholson's injury, he was working on property owned by
U.S. Steel and maintained by Gary Railway.
defendants filed answers to the plaintiffs' complaint on
April 25, 2018. Both defendants asserted affirmative defenses
alleging that the injuries were caused by third parties over
which they had no control. The defendants' generic
nonparty defenses did not specifically name a nonparty.
Therefore, the defendants have requested leave to amend their
answers and affirmative defenses to name TMS International,
LLC in their nonparty defense.
defendants have indicated that TMS leased the property
adjacent to the tracks where Nicholson was working and was
responsible for maintaining, including grading and
controlling dust, thereon. TMS' failure to exercise due
care in so doing could have adversely affected the condition
of the walkway Nicholson was working on. The plaintiffs
objected to the defendants' request for leave to amend
their answers on June 4, 2019, arguing that the defendants
have failed to demonstrate good cause for seeking to amend
after the court's deadline. The plaintiffs also argued
that the amendment does not satisfy Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 15 standards because it is futile and unfairly
prejudicial. The defendants filed a reply on June 17, 2019.
Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) provides that a party
may amend the party's pleading only by leave of court or
by written consent of the adverse party and that leave shall
be freely given when justice so requires. Because pleadings
merely serve to put the opposing side on notice, they should
be amended freely as the case develops, as long as amendments
do not unfairly surprise or prejudice the opposing party.
Rule 15(a); Jackson v. Rockford Housing Authority,
213 F.3d 389, 390 (7th Cir. 2000). The decision to deny leave
to amend a pleading is an abuse of discretion only if no
reasonable person could agree with the decision. Winters
v. FruCon, Inc., 498 F.3d 734, 741 (7th Cir. 2007)
(quoting Butts v. Aurora Health Care, Inc., 387 F.3d
921, 925 (7th Cir. 2004)); Ajayi v. Aramark Business
Services, 336 F.3d 520, 530 (7th Cir. 2003).
15(a)(2) says that courts should “freely give
leave” to amend. However, a different standard provided
by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b)(4) applies once the
scheduled deadline passes. See Tschantz v. McCann,
160 F.R.D. 568, 571 (N.D. Ind. 1995). “To amend a
pleading after the expiration of the trial court's
Scheduling Order deadline to amend pleadings, the moving
party must show ‘good cause'” to modify the
schedule. Trustmark Ins. Co. v. General & Cologne
Life Re of Am., 424 F.3d 542, 553 (7th Cir. 2005)
(citing Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b)). In order to
demonstrate good cause, the defendants must show that despite
their diligence they could not have met the earlier deadline.
See Tschantz, 160 F.R.D. at 571.
plaintiffs have argued that the defendants have not
demonstrated good cause to amend their answers and
affirmative defenses after the deadline. On May 23, 2018, the
court set July 24, 2018, as the last date for the defendants
to seek leave to amend the pleadings. The defendants'
request comes approximately ten months after the deadline.
Additionally, the land where Nicholson was injured was owned
by U.S. Steel and maintained by Gary Railway. Thus, the
plaintiffs have argued that both defendants had access to the
location where Nicholson was injured, and therefore could
have discovered the alleged actions of TMS before the
court's deadline expired.
defendants claim that they raised the nonparty defense as
soon as counsel and U.S. Steel supervisory personnel realized
that a nonparty defense was available while complying with
discovery. Moreover, the defendants contend that the
amendment will not prejudice the plaintiffs. The defendants
assert that the plaintiffs have not responded to discovery
and have not appeared for nor noticed the deposition of any
of the defendants' personnel. Therefore, at the time the
instant motion was filed, discovery was in its infancy and
barely had begun.
the court finds that the defendants have shown good cause to
modify the schedule. The defendants represented that they
acted promptly when they realized that a nonparty defense was
available. Moreover, the discovery deadline was extended to
October 25, 2019. Since discovery has not concluded, allowing
the defendants to amend their answers and affirmative
defenses will not prejudice the plaintiffs or delay this
plaintiffs also have argued that, even if the defendants
demonstrated good cause, the requested amendment does not
meet Rule 15's requirements. The plaintiffs contend that
the requested amendment is futile because the defendants were
ultimately responsible for the condition of the premises
where Nicholson was injured. However, the plaintiffs are free
to advance any arguments against any attribution of fault to
TMS. The plaintiffs also claim that they will be unfairly
prejudiced since the statute of limitations against TMS has
expired. The instant matter was filed on January 29, 2018,
approximately four days before the two-year statute of
limitations was set to expire on the personal injury claim.
Therefore, the timing of the defendants' nonparty defense
does not negatively affect the plaintiffs' ability to
bring a claim against TMS because it was time-barred before
the defendants' original answers were due.
on the foregoing reasons, the Motion by United States Steel
Corporation for Leave to File a First Amended Answer to the
Complaint [DE 25] is GRANTED, and the Motion
by Gary Railway Company for Leave to File a First Amended
Answer to the Complaint [DE 26] is GRANTED.
The defendants are DIRECTED to file ...