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Spano v. Boeing Co.

December 14, 2007

GARY SPANO, ET. AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE BOEING COMPANY, ET. AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Donald G. Wilkerson United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Currently pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend the Complaint (Doc. 79), Defendants have responded (Doc. 91), and Plaintiffs have filed a reply (Doc. 93). For the reasons set forth below, this motion is GRANTED.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The Plaintiffs in this case, Gary Spano, John Bunk, and James White, Jr. ("Plaintiffs"), filed their complaint against the Defendants, The Boeing Company, the Employee Benefits Plans Committee, and Scott Buchanan ("Defendants"), on September 28, 2006 (Doc. 2). The Plaintiffs bring this action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et. seq. ("ERISA"), alleging that the Defendants breached their fiduciary duties as defined contribution plan administrators under the Act.

On February 15, 2007, the Court issued a Scheduling Order in the action adopting the discovery deadlines recommended by the parties (Doc. 54). The Scheduling Order directed that the "[p]arties may amend their respective complaint and answer freely on or before June 1, 2007" (Doc. 54, p. 3). The parties later agreed to extend the deadline to June 20, 2007 (Doc. 71). Discovery is scheduled to close on April 2, 2008, dispositive motions must be filed by April 23, 2008, and trial is set for August of 2008 (Doc. 54).

In response to Plaintiffs' discovery requests, the Defendants produced almost 56,000 pages of documents between April and October of 2007 (Doc. 79, pp. 2-3; Doc. 93, p. 1). During the course of reviewing these documents, the Plaintiffs discovered that Boeing had delegated operational and investment matters to an Employee Benefits Investment Committee (the "EBIC"), as revealed in a document entitled "VIP Investment Funds Delegation of Authority" produced by the Defendants on September 14, 2007 (Doc. 79, pp. 3-4).

On September 29, 2007, the Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Leave to Amend the Complaint, seeking to join EBIC as a defendant in accordance with the information discovered in the "VIP Investment Funds Delegation of Authority" document (Doc. 79, pp. 1, 4). The Plaintiffs also seek to add claims relating to the Defendants' breach of fiduciary duty in the operation and administration of the defined contribution plan (Doc. 79, p. 4). Plaintiffs contend allowing the amendments would not prejudice Defendants.

In opposition to the Plaintiffs' motion, Defendants argue that the Plaintiffs were not diligent in their review of the documents produced and that they were, in fact, aware of EBIC's role as the defined contribution plan's fiduciary before the amendment deadline in the Scheduling Order (Doc. 91, p. 1). They further argue that the Plaintiffs should not be allowed to add any additional causes of action at this point in the litigation because the Plaintiffs knew or should have known of the claims before the expiration of the deadline for amendment (Doc. 91, pp. 5-6).

LEGAL STANDARDS

A district court enjoys wide latitude in the discovery matters before it.See Hay v. Indiana State Bd. Of Tax Comm'rs, 312 F.3d 876, 882 (7th Cir. 2002). Granting leave to amend is entirely within the sound discretion of the Court. See Zenith Radio Corp. v. Hazeltine Research, Inc., 401 U.S. 321, 330 (1971). The Court is guided by the general principle that the "discovery rules are to be accorded a broad and liberal treatment" as the "[m]utual knowledge of all the relevant facts gathered by both parties is essential to proper litigation." Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 507 (1947); see also Herbert v. Lando, 441 U.S. 153, 177 (1979) ("[t]he Court has more than once declared that the deposition-discovery rules are to be accorded a broad and liberal treatment to effect their purpose of adequately informing the litigants in civil trials").

In considering a motion to amend the complaint, the Court looks to Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which states that a party may amend his complaint once as a matter of course before being served with a responsive pleading. Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1)(A).*fn1

Thereafter, "a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). The rule also mandates that "[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). The Supreme Court has ordered that "this mandate is to be heeded." Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). The Court may deny a motion to amend where there is evidence of undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, prejudice, or futility. See Guise v. BWM Mortgage, LLC, 377 F.3d 795, 801 (7th Cir. 2004). Courts consider requests to add a party presented in a motion to amend under the standards of Rule 15(a), even though Rule 21 governs the joinder of parties. See U.S. ex rel. Precision Co. v. Koch Indus., Inc., 31 F.3d 1015, 1018-19 (10th Cir. 1994). Similar standards underlie determinations made pursuant to both rules. See Helene Curtis Indus. v. Sales

Affiliates, 105 F.Supp. 886, 900 (S.D.N.Y. 1952) (question whether to add or drop party under Rule 21 is treated liberally and is within sound discretion of trial court; inquiry focuses on potential prejudice to non-movant).

Once a scheduling order deadline has passed, however, a motion to amend the complaint is also construed as a request to amend the scheduling order.*fn2 See, e.g., Trustmark Ins. Co. v. Cologne Life Re of America, 424 F.3d 542, 553 (7th Cir. 2005); Johnson v. Mammoth Recreations, Inc., 975 F.2d 604, 607-08 (9th Cir.1992). The standard for amending a scheduling order is governed by Rule 16(b)(4), which states "[a] schedule may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent." Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b)(4). The "'good cause' standard primarily considers the diligence of the party seeking amendment." Trustmark, 424 F.3d at 553 (quoting Johnson, 975 F.2d at 609). In Trustmark, the question of whether to ...


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