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Sprint Communications Co. L.P. v. Cable One, Inc.

United States District Court, District of Kansas

February 14, 2014

SPRINT COMMUNICATIONS COMPANY L.P., Plaintiff,
v.
CABLE ONE, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

John W. Lungstrum, United States District Judge

This matter comes before the Court on plaintiff’s objections (Doc. # 73) to the Order by which the Magistrate Judge denied plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend. For the reasons set forth below, the objections are overruled.

I. Background

In this patent infringement action, plaintiff filed its amended complaint against defendant on March 29, 2012. In April 2013, plaintiff served certain interrogatories on defendant, the answers to which were due on May 13, 2013. Plaintiff agreed to a thirty-day extension of that deadline, and in return, defendant agreed to an extension of the scheduling order’s deadline for motions to amend, which then became due by June 17, 2013. Defendant served its interrogatory answers on June 12, 2013. After plaintiff requested more complete answers, defendant served supplemental answers to those interrogatories on August 23, 2013.

On October 23, 2013, plaintiff filed a motion for leave to amend its complaint to add (a) with respect to all 12 asserted patents, a claim of joint direct infringement, and (b) with respect to six asserted patents, claims of willful infringement and induced infringement. By Order of December 16, 2013 (Doc. # 68), the Magistrate Judge denied the motion to amend. Specifically, the Magistrate Judge ruled that plaintiff failed to demonstrate good cause for modification of the scheduling order under Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4), and that plaintiff’s undue delay in seeking the amendments provided an additional basis for denial of the motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). Plaintiff now seeks review of the Magistrate Judge’s Order as it pertains to its motion for leave to amend to add a claim of joint direct infringement.

II. Governing Standard of Review

With respect to a magistrate judge’s order relating to nondispositive pretrial matters, the district court does not conduct a de novo review; rather, the court applies a more deferential standard by which the moving party must show that the magistrate judge’s order is “clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” First Union Mortgage Corp. v. Smith, 229 F.3d 992, 995 (10th Cir. 2000) (quoting Ocelot Oil Corp. v. Sparrow Indus., 847 F.2d 1458, 1461-62 (10th Cir. 1988)); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); see also Navegante Group, Inc. v. Butler Nat’l Serv. Corp., 2011 WL 1769088, *3 (D. Kan. May 9, 2011) (Lungstrum, J.) (for purposes of the standard of review, a magistrate judge’s denial of a motion to amend for reasons others than futility is a non-dispositive order). The clearly erroneous standard “requires that the reviewing court affirm unless it on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” See Ocelot Oil, 847 F.2d at 1464 (quoting United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948)).

III. Analysis

Plaintiff first argues that the Magistrate Judge applied the wrong standard for “good cause” under Rule 16(b)(4).[1] Citing cases from this district, the Magistrate Judge applied the following standard:

To establish good cause under Rule 16(b)(4), [plaintiff] must show that it could not have met the June 17, 2013 scheduling order deadline for amending its complaint even if it had acted with due diligence. Carelessness is not compatible with a finding of diligence and offers no reason for a grant of relief.

(Internal quotation omitted.) Plaintiff argues that the Magistrate Judge should have applied a standard based on language he used in Monge v. St. Francis Health Center, Inc., 2013 WL 328957 (D. Kan. Jan. 10, 2013) (O’Hara, Mag. J.), in which he stated that the plaintiff in that case had shown good cause to amend the complaint “[b]ecause the factual basis giving rise to [the proposed new claim] arguably did not arise until after the scheduling order deadline.” See Id . at *2. The Magistrate Judge quoted that same language from Monge in allowing this plaintiff to amend its complaint in a companion case. See Sprint Communications Co., L.P. v. Time Warner Cable, Inc., No. 11-2686, slip. op. at 4 (D. Kan. Dec. 16, 2013) (O’Hara, Mag. J.).

The Court rejects this argument. In both Monge and Time Warner, the Magistrate Judge cited the same standard for good cause that he cited in his order in this case: that the plaintiff must show that it could not have met the scheduling order deadline for amending its complaint even if it had acted with due diligence. See Id . at 2; Monge, 2013 WL 328957, at *1. In applying that standard in those two cases, the Magistrate Judge allowed the amendment based on his finding that the factual basis for the new claim in each case arguably did not arise until after the scheduling order deadline. The Magistrate Judge essentially found in this case that the factual basis for plaintiff’s proposed claim had arisen before the deadline, and he therefore denied the motion. The Magistrate Judge did not act contrary to law in failing to use similar language in making his contrary ruling in this case.

The Tenth Circuit has noted that Rule 16(b)(4)’s “good cause” standard “requires the moving party to show that it has been diligent in attempting to meet the deadlines, which means it must provide an adequate explanation for any delay.” See Minter v. Prime Equip. Co., 451 F.3d 1196, 1205 n.4 (10th Cir. 2006), quoted in Strope v. Collins, 315 F. App’x 57, 61 (10th Cir. Feb. 25, 2009) (unpub. op.). In this case, the Magistrate Judge properly considered plaintiff’s diligence and its explanation for its delay in seeking the amendment. Thus, the Magistrate Judge did not act contrary to law with respect to the standard he applied in considering whether plaintiff showed good cause for modification of the scheduling order.

Plaintiff also argues that the Magistrate Judge erred by concluding that plaintiff failed to act with sufficient diligence between June 12, 2013, when it received defendant’s interrogatory answers, and June 17, 2013, the amendment deadline. Plaintiff contends that it should not have been required to prove ...


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