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Rankinn v. Wanack

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 4, 2017

ANDRE RANKIN, Plaintiff,
v.
DONALD J. WANACK, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Hon. Reona J. Daly, United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Andre Rankin's Motion for Leave to File First Amended Complaint (Doc. 87). Defendant filed a response in opposition to the motion (Doc. 91) and Plaintiff filed a reply thereto (Doc. 92), which the Court will consider in light of the exceptional circumstances delineated by Plaintiff. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is GRANTED.

         Procedural and Factual Background

         Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections, filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 alleging his constitutional rights were violated while he was incarcerated at Pinckneyville Correctional Center. Plaintiff is currently proceeding on the following claims:

Count One: Defendant Wanack violated Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights by failing to protect him from an assault by Inmate Biggs on May 22, 2013;
Count Two: Defendant Wanack violated Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights by using excessive force when removing Plaintiff from his cell following the assault on May 22, 2013; and
Count Three: Defendant Wanack retaliated against Plaintiff for complaining about his cell assignment with Inmate Biggs, in violation of the First Amendment, by moving him back to the cell with Inmate Biggs on May 22, 2013, and to segregation on July 15, 2014.

(See Docs. 6 and 73).

         Plaintiff, through counsel, seeks leave to amend his complaint to include additional, recently discovered information and set forth claims of civil conspiracy, assault, and battery against Defendant Wanack[1]. The newly discovered information, on which Plaintiff bases his proposed claims, consists of statements allegedly made by Defendant Wanack to another inmate, Biggs, instructing Biggs to attack Plaintiff and advising Biggs that he would pretend that he did not see anything.

         Plaintiff explains that he did not become aware of Defendant Wanack's statements until sometime around April 15, 2017, when Plaintiff and Biggs happened to be assigned nearby cells at Pontiac Correctional Center (Deposition of Plaintiff Andre Rankin, Doc. 92-2, p. 20). Plaintiff then relayed this newly learned information to his counsel who sought to depose Biggs. Inmate Biggs was deposed on June 22, 2017. Plaintiff filed his motion to amend now before the Court on July 5, 2017, approximately one week before the dispositive motion filing deadline.

         Discussion

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) provides that a party may amend a pleading and that leave to amend should be freely given "when justice so requires." The Seventh Circuit maintains a liberal attitude toward the amendment of pleadings "so that cases may be decided on the merits and not on the basis of technicalities." Stern v. U.S. Gypsum, Inc., 547 F.2d 1329, 1334 (7th Cir. 1977). The Circuit recognizes that "the complaint merely serves to put the defendant on notice and is to be freely amended or constructively amended as the case develops, as long as amendments do not unfairly surprise or prejudice the defendant." Toth v. USX Corp., 883 F.2d 1297, 1298 (7th Cir. 1989); see also Winger v. Winger, 82 F.3d 140, 144 (7th Cir. 1996) ("The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure create [a system] in which the complaint does not fix the plaintiff's rights but may be amended at any time to conform to the evidence.") (quotation omitted). A court may also deny a party leave to amend if there is undue delay, dilatory motive or futility. Guise v. BMW Mortgage, LLC, 377 F.3d 795, 801 (7th Cir. 2004).

         Defendant contends that Plaintiff's motion to amend must be denied insofar as it is untimely, prejudicial, and futile. When considering whether a proposed amendment is unduly delayed, courts look to the similarity of the factual basis for the claims in the original complaint to the newly-asserted claims, the moving party's explanation for their delay in raising the new claims, and whether granting the motion to amend will require new or duplicated discovery efforts. See, e.g., Bethany Pharmacal Co., Inc. v. QVC, Inc., 241 F.3d 854, 861-62 (7th Cir. 2001). Delay alone, however, “is usually not sufficient to deny a motion for leave to amend, ” Arrigo v. Link, 836 F.3d 787, 797 (7th Cir. 2016). Indeed, delay “must be coupled with some other reason” - typically, prejudice to the nonmoving party. Dubicz v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 377 F.3d 787, 793 (7th Cir. 2004).

         Defendant argues Plaintiff's motion to amend is unduly delayed and prejudicial as it was filed four years after the cause of action accrued, more than two years after Plaintiff filed his initial complaint, and after extensive discovery was conducted and exchanged[2]. Although Defendant takes issue with the timing of Plaintiff's motion, Plaintiff has offered an adequate explanation for his delay - that he was not aware of the new information concerning Defendant Wanack's statements to Inmate Biggs until April 2017. Further, cutting against any possible prejudice to Defendant is that fact that Defendant was able to question Biggs and Plaintiff as to the newly discovered information during their respective depositions. That Defendant was not informed of Plaintiff's intent to add new claims prior to taking these depositions is not evidence of prejudice, as it is well recognized that pleadings may be amended to conform to the evidence, which is the circumstance here. See Winger, 82 F.3d at 144. Although the proposed amended complaint does assert new claims against Defendant, the factual basis is ...


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