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Christine Kuhn v. United Airlines

August 17, 2012

CHRISTINE KUHN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED AIRLINES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is a motion [73] by Plaintiff Christine Kuhn for leave to file a third amended complaint against her employer, Defendant United Airlines. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's motion [73] is denied.

I. Background

On April 23, 2007, Kuhn, an African-American, filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, alleging that United retaliated against her for complaining internally of age, sex, and race discrimination, in violation of Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). [77-1.] Kuhn specifically asserted that she complained about a certain flight captain who then had her removed from multiple assignments. [77-1.] Kuhn received a right to sue letter in January 2008 but did not file a federal complaint based on these allegations. [77-2.]

On July 19, 2010, Kuhn filed a second charge of discrimination with the EEOC, again alleging that United retaliated against her in violation of Title VII and the ADEA. [77-3.] Kuhn specifically asserted that, after she filed her 2007 EEOC charge, United failed to fully and impartially investigate her complaints of co-worker mistreatment. [77-3.] Kuhn received a right to sue letter in August 2010. [77-4.]

On November 5, 2010, Kuhn filed pro se an initial complaint. [1.] A few months later, she retained attorney Denise Mercherson and filed an amended complaint. [19.] The amended complaint alleged retaliation in violation of Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). [19.] Kuhn specifically asserted that, after she filed her 2007 EEOC charge, United failed to adequately investigate her hostile work environment complaints. [19.] The Court thereafter adopted a schedule that gave the parties until May 24, 2011, to amend pleadings. [24.]

On December 13, 2011, Kuhn moved for leave to file a second amended complaint. [41.] As grounds for the motion, Kuhn maintained that Count II of her amended complaint was actually based on the ADEA, as reflected in her 2010 EEOC charge, not the ADA. [41.] The second amended complaint was therefore necessary only to correct this mistake. [41.] The Court granted the motion. [43.]

On February 9, 2012, the Court granted Kuhn's motion to substitute attorney Spencer Smith for Mercherson as lead counsel. [66.] Around the same time, United moved for sanctions based on Kuhn's failure to follow court orders governing discovery. [60, 67.] Although the Court declined to dismiss the case [64], Magistrate Judge Kim awarded monetary sanctions [92]. Notably, Judge Kim found that Kuhn's failure to attend her deposition was not substantially justified where she had: 1) cut her original deposition short, 2) repeatedly failed to produce documents, and 3) engaged in manipulation in changing counsel just before her long-delayed second deposition. [92.]

On February 16, a week before the close of discovery [see 50], Kuhn moved for leave to file a third amended complaint [73]. The proposed third amended complaint adds two new claims: race discrimination and race harassment, both in violation of Title VII. [73 at Ex. A.] The third amended complaint also adds new factual allegations from 2003 to 2007 primarily involving Captain James Reaney, who was not mentioned in the second amended complaint. [73 at Ex. A.] In brief, Kuhn alleges that Reaney refused to fly with her based on her race; Kuhn complained to United to no avail. [73 at Ex. A.]

II. Legal Standard

Leave to amend a complaint should be freely given "when justice so requires." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a). Nevertheless, "courts in their sound discretion may deny a proposed amendment if the moving party has unduly delayed in filing the motion, if the opposing party would suffer undue prejudice, or if the pleading is futile." Campania Mgmt. Co., Inc. v. Rooks, Pitts & Poust, 290 F.3d 843, 849 (7th Cir. 2002). Delay alone is usually insufficient to deny a motion to amend. Dubicz v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 377 F.3d 787, 792 (7th Cir. 2004). But "the longer the delay, the greater the presumption against granting leave to amend." King v. Cooke, 26 F.3d 720, 723 (7th Cir. 1994) (internal quotation omitted). An amended complaint is futile if it could not withstand a motion to dismiss. See Smart v. Local 702 Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, 562 F.3d 798, 811 (7th Cir. 2009).

III. Analysis

United argues that granting Kuhn's motion for leave to filed a third amended complaint would be futile and unduly prejudicial. The ...


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