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RIEDEMANN v. U.S.

October 6, 2005.

CASEY RIEDEMANN, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DONALD WILKERSON, Magistrate Judge

ORDER

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.

BACKGROUND

  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.

  Evidentiary Hearing

  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.

  DISCUSSION

  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 ...


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