The opinion of the court was delivered by: Geraldine Soat Brown, Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This cause is before the Court on the Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to
file Instanter Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. [Dkt #42.] The
defendant filed its Response to Plaintiff's Motion to Amend [Dkt #38],
the plaintiff filed a Reply in Support of her Motion [Dkt #40], and the
Court heard oral argument. For the reasons set out below, the Plaintiff's
Motion is GRANTED.
PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND AND JURISDICTION
This case arises from a 1999 contract between Plaintiff Angie Chen
("Chen") and Defendant Mayflower Transit, Inc. ("Mayflower") for the
movement of Chen's furniture and household goods from Atlanta, Georgia to
Chicago, Illinois. Chen alleges, inter alia, as follows: Mayflower,
Admiral Moving and Storage, Inc. ("Admiral"), its agent in
Georgia, gave Chen a "not to exceed" estimate of $1,741.89 for the move.
Chen's property did not arrive in Chicago as scheduled, causing Chen to
incur expenses. When the property did arrive, Mayflower, again through a
local agent Century Moving and Storage, Inc. ("Century"), would not
release Chen's goods unless she paid $2,641.19 in cash or certified
check. Because Century would not accept a credit card, Century placed
Chen's goods in storage and threatened to auction them to pay both the
moving costs and storage costs, totaling $5,122.83. Chen's property
remained in storage for three months. (Proposed 2nd Am. Compl. at ¶¶
6-57.) Chen alleges three other similar occurrences in which Mayflower
and its local agents issued cost estimates to individuals — Craig
Pietrowiak, Kate Rice, and Gerald and Minna Aronoff — and
subsequently refused to release the individual's property unless the
individual agreed to pay more than the original estimate. (Id. at ¶¶
Jurisdiction exist pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Chen's breach of
contract and conversion claims are brought pursuant to the Carmack
Amendment (49 U.S.C. § 14706), and thus, there is jurisdiction under
28 U.S.C. § 1331 for those claims and the proposed RICO claim. There
is supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367 for plaintiff's
state law claims of negligent and intentional infliction of emotional
Chen initially filed her Complaint on September 23, 1999, alleging
breach of contract, conversion, and both intentional and negligent
infliction of emotional distress. [Dkt #1.] She filed an Amended
Complaint on November 23, 1999. [Dkt #10.] On January 13, 2000, Mayflower
filed its Answer and Counterclaim for $5,573.38 allegedly due and owing
from Chen. [Dkt #15.] When this case was reassigned to this Court in June
2000, expert discovery was underway and a trial date had been set. [Dkt
#22.] In September 2000, Mayflower was given leave to file an Amended
Answer and Counterclaim [Dkt #31, 32], which it filed on November 13,
2000. [Dkt #35.]
On December 8, 2000, Chen filed the present motion for leave to file a
Second Amended Complaint, in order to add proposed Count V, a claim under
the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (18 U.S.C. § 1961,
et seq. (RICO)). Mayflower objected to Chen's proposed amendment, and
filed Defendant's Response to Plaintiff's Motion to Amend Complaint.
"Futility" means that the complaint, as amended, would
fail to state a claim upon which relief could be
granted. In reviewing for "futility," the district
court applies the same standard of legal sufficiency
as applies to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.
Glassman v. Computervision Corp., 90 F.3d 617, 623 (1st Cir. 1996)
(citations omitted.) A complaint may not be dismissed for failure to
state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove
no set of facts in support of her claim which would entitle her to
relief. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45 (1957).
Chen's proposed amendment was not dilatory and will not
result in undue delay.
Mayflower first argues that Chen should not be permitted to amend
because Chen's motion was filed after fact discovery had closed.
However, viewed in light of the history of this case set out above, that
argument does not overcome Rule 15's directive that leave to amend should
be "freely given." Chen's present motion to amend was filed a little over
a year after her initial complaint, and less than a month after Mayflower
filed its Amended Answer and Counterclaim. Chen argues that her counsel
first learned of the facts that might give rise to a RICO claim in late
October 2000 when he learned of the case Pietrowiak v. Century Moving &
Storage, Inc., 99 C 7419, 1999 WL 1295133 (N.D. Ill., Dec. 20, 1999). In
that case, Judge James Moran of this Court dismissed an action brought
against Century because the proper defendant was Mayflower. According to
Chen, the similarity between Pietrowiak's allegations and Chen's claims
prompted counsel to investigate the possibility of a RICO claim. (Pl.'s
Mot. at 3-4.) Plaintiffs present motion was filed promptly after counsel
completed his investigation. (Id. at 4.) Mayflower argues that Chen
should have learned of Pietrowiak earlier (Def.'s Resp. at 4), but the
facts do not demonstrate Chen was dilatory in the sense of failing to
plead a claim based on facts known to her.
Mayflower has not claimed that it will be prejudiced by the delay in
resolution of its counterclaim if Chen's motion is granted and the trial
of this case delayed. As Mayflower admits, its counterclaim is "nominal"
and the amount claimed was actually reduced in its latest amendment.
(Def.'s Resp. at 4.) The gravamen of Mayflower's argument is that Chen's
proposed amendment may transform a relatively simple lawsuit in which
Mayflower contemplated a motion for summary judgment into a more complex
litigation that will require additional discovery. (Def.'s Resp. at 4-5.)
However, Mayflower does not argue that Chen's RICO claim is time-barred.
Thus, if Chen is not permitted to file her RICO claim in this
litigation, she presumably could bring it as a separate action, which
would result in more duplication of effort and expense than if the claim
is brought in this proceeding. This case is distinguishable from Sanders
v. Venture Stores, Inc., 56 F.3d 771 (7th Cir. 1995), cited by
Mayflower, where the plaintiff filed her motion to amend after the
defendant filed an ultimately-successful motion for summary judgment, and
the plaintiff sought in its amendment to assert federal claims that would
be time-barred but for the relation-back doctrine. 56 F.3d at 775, n.2.
The Federal Rules of Civil ...