The opinion of the court was delivered by: DONALD WILKERSON, Magistrate Judge
This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Amend the
Complaint filed by the Plaintiff, Casey Riedemann, on June 28,
2005 (Doc. 21) and the Motion to Limit Plaintiff's Damages Claim
filed by the defendant, the United States of America, on July 18,
2005 (Doc. 26). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to
Amend is DENIED and the Motion to Limit is GRANTED.
The Plaintiff alleges that she was involved in a traffic
accident with a United States Postal Office truck on May 11,
2002. She filed a "Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death"
(hereinafter "claim") with the United States Postal Office
pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) on August 21, 2003
claiming $250,000 in personal injuries and $200.00 in property
damage. After this claim was denied, the Plaintiff filed a
lawsuit with this Court on March 4, 2004. In the present motion
to amend, the Plaintiff seeks to amend her complaint to increase
her prayer for damages due to increased medical costs, and pain
and suffering, incurred after she filed her claim.
When the Plaintiff filed her motion to amend, this matter was
scheduled for the presumptive trial month of August, 2005. This matter now has been
reset and has a final pretrial conference scheduled on October
17, 2005 with a presumptive trial month of November, 2005.
On September 20, 2005, this Court conducted an evidentiary
hearing on the Plaintiff's motion to amend. Each party presented
arguments regarding whether the Plaintiff may amend her pleading
at this stage of the proceedings. The Plaintiff presented, as
evidence, documents that she had submitted to chambers and which
also are attached to the Plaintiff's motion to amend. Plaintiff's
Exhibit A is a letter dated May 30, 2002 to Attorney Rich
regarding the Plaintiff's claim. Plaintiff's Exhibit B is the
claims form itself. Plaintiff's Exhibit C is an Emergency Room
Report dated September 20, 2003 from the Edward A. Utlaut
Memorial Hospital. Plaintiff's Exhibit D is an Initial Spinal
Examination report (with attachments) dated November 6, 2003 from
The Orthopedic Center of St. Louis.*fn1 The Defendant
presented the entire transcript of Dr. Matthew Gornet's
deposition, which was taken on August 8, 2005. In addition to
these exhibits presented at the hearing, the Defendant attached
the deposition transcript of the Plaintiff, taken on January 20,
2005, to its motion to limit damages. The Defendant also has
attached, as Exhibit 1, the entire claims form which includes a
list of medical treatment dates and places. The Defendant's two
remaining exhibits are a Radiology Report dated December 16, 2002
(Exhibit 3) and an Initial Interview form dated May 11, 2002 from
the Edward A. Utlaut Hospital (Exhibit 4).
The evidence presented reveal a number of undisputed facts.
Prior to the accident, the Plaintiff was fully aware that she had an allergy to latex and
that it caused adverse physical reactions (Pl. Ex. D at p. 8). As
stated above, the accident occurred on May 11, 2002. The
Plaintiff sought medical care immediately thereafter (Casey
Riedemann Deposition, 1/20/05, pp. 18-19). The Plaintiff
testified that, after the accident, she was placed on bed rest
for "severe back pain" (Riedemann Dep. at p. 25). A week after
the accident, the Plaintiff, who was thought to have whiplash,
was prescribed physical therapy for her neck and low back by Dr.
Tricia Gifford. (Riedemann Dep. at p. 26, 28). She also began
seeing Dr. Matthew Chanault, a chiropractor, and had a number of
x-rays taken in the Fall of 2002*fn2 (Riedemann Dep. at p.
29-30). Her neck problems resolved by the end of 2002 with
chiropractic care and physical therapy (Riedemann Dep. at pp.
34-35). Her back problems, however, did not resolve. A December
16, 2002 x-ray revealed: "mild end-plate degenerative change at
L5-S1 with grade I anterior spodylolisthesis of L5 on S1 and
spondylolysis at this level. There is most likely neural
foraminal narrowing at this level" (Def. Ex. 3 (all caps
omitted)). The Plaintiff also saw Dr. Burger, a neurologist, in
the first half of 2003 for her back pain and continued to see Dr.
Gifford for her back pain (Riedemann Dep. at p. 33). Dr. Burger
performed "epidural blocks" for her back pain that did not result
in "permanent relief" (Riedemann Dep. at p. 34). The Plaintiff
argued that, prior to the filing of her claim, she was being
treated conservatively, i.e. non-surgically, with minimal relief
of her back pain
On August 21, 2003, the Plaintiff filed her claim with the
United States Post Office (Pl. Ex. B, p. 1). In this claim, the
Plaintiff alleged $250,000 in personal injury damages and $200.00 in property damage (Pl. Ex. B, p. 1). The claim also
states: "See Medical Records regarding Casey Ann Riedemann, Date
of Accident, 5-11-02. Ms. Riedemann is still treating and has
been referred to an orthopedic surgeon for evaluation on
11-14-03" (Pl. Ex. B, p. 1). Attached to the claim is a listing
of the medical care that the Plaintiff had received and the
appointments that she will have in the future (Def. Ex. 2 at pp.
3-6). The Plaintiff's subsequent medical treatments began with a
trip to the emergency room on September 20, 2003 (Pl. Ex. C).
The report of the September 20, 2003 hospital visit states that
the Plaintiff appeared because of back pain (Pl. Ex. C). This
report further indicates:
Mrs. Riedemann, a 25 year old while female, complains
of low back pain. She states that her back pain is
particularly severe today with radiation down both
legs. She has had chronic back pain for about one
year since a motor vehicle accident. She denies any
recent fever, chills, dysuria or urinary frequency.
The report states a diagnosis of "Chronic back pain" and an
apparent prescription of Vicodin. Thereafter, the Plaintiff began
to see Dr. Matthew F. Gornet starting on November 6, 2003 (Pl.
Ex. D). Dr. Gornet's reports show that during the Plaintiff's
"first visit and spinal examination" related to back pain, "[s]he
states her problem began after a motor vehicle accident." This
report notes an allergy to latex and states that an MRI scan from
December, 2002 as well as undated radiographs reveal "isthmic
spondylolisthesis at L5-S1" and "disc hydration and central
annular lesion at L5-S1" (Pl. Ex. D at p. 2). Notes of follow-up
visits with Dr. Gornet state that a February 16, 2004 MRI scan
"clearly reveal[s] central disc herniation at L5-S1 with an
isthmic spondylolisthesis at L5-S1" and further indicates the
possible benefit of surgery. Subsequent notes regarding a phone
call on April 22, 2004 and a visit on August 19, 2004 reveal that
the Plaintiff's latex allergy would make surgery infeasible (Pl.
Ex. D at p. 5). The Plaintiff noted that this is the first medical record that indicates that the
Plaintiff's back condition cannot be resolved by surgery. At this
point, the Plaintiff argued, she first became aware that her
condition will become a chronic condition.
On August 8, 2005, Dr. Gornet's deposition was taken. He
indicated that after seeing the Plaintiff on August 19, 2004 he
did not next see her until August 7, 2005 (Matthew Gornet
Deposition, 8/8/05, at p. 24). Between that time period, Dr.
Gornet testified that he continued to research new treatment
options for the Plaintiff (Gronet Dep. at p. 25). Dr. Gornet
informed the Plaintiff that there are new treatment options that
will be "coming out" and that further diagnostic tests, i.e. MRI
and CT scans, will have to be taken to see if she can benefit
from these new treatments (Gornet Dep. at p. 28). However, the
Plaintiff is now pregnant and any new procedure would have to
wait until she delivers in March, 2006 (Gornet Dep. at p. 28).
Dr. Gornet further testified that the Plaintiff's "prognosis is
pretty poor" because she has a "significant structural problem"
(Gornet Dep. at p. 30). He stated that without surgery, her
condition may worsen with increased activity (Gornet Dep. at p.
30-31). However, with surgery her condition would be improved
(Gornet Dep. at p. 31-32).
In light of the prognosis after the Plaintiff filed her claim,
she seeks to amend her complaint to increase her damages request
to $975,000. At the hearing, the parties also proposed staying
this case pending the Plaintiff's pregnancy and the exploration
of further treatment options.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) provides that a party may
amend a pleading and that leave to amend "shall be freely given
when justice so requires." However, leave to amend may be denied if there is "undue delay, bad faith, dilatory
motive, prejudice, or futility." Guise v. BWM Mortgage, LLC.,
377 F.3d 795, 801 (7th Cir. 2004). The granting or denying of
a motion to amend is ...