United States District Court, D. Kansas
THE ESTATE OF RACHEL M. HAMMERS, DECEASED, et al., Plaintiffs,
DOUGLAS COUNTY, KANSAS BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MURGUIA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the court on defendants Douglas County,
Kansas Board of Commissioners, Sheriff Kenneth M. McGovern,
and Kenneth L. Massey's Motion for District Judge to
Review Order of the Magistrate Judge (Doc. 204). Defendants
object to United States Magistrate Judge Kenneth G.
Gale's decision to allow plaintiffs to amend their
pleadings to include claims for punitive damages. Judge Gale
allowed this amendment-over defendants' objection-in the
pretrial order (Doc. 202). For the reasons set forth,
defendants' motion is denied.
pretrial order, plaintiffs sought leave to amend their
original pleading to include claims for punitive damages.
Defendants objected to the amendment for various substantive
and procedural reasons. Judge Gale overruled the objections
finding: 1) plaintiffs have shown good cause for making the
amendment out of time, 2) plaintiffs' original petition,
filed in state court where claiming punitive damages in an
initial petition is not permitted, alleged the facts
necessary to support the claim, 3) the failure to make an
earlier motion constitutes excusable neglect in this
particular case, and 4) defendants are not prejudiced by the
out-of-time amendment. (Doc. 202, at 28.)
now ask this court to reverse Judge Gale's decision as
clearly erroneous and contrary to law. They argue that
plaintiffs' delay in seeking an amendment to add a claim
for punitive damages is not excusable neglect because
plaintiffs had more than a year to amend their pleadings, and
that defendants are prejudiced by the amendment because of
insurance coverage issues.
argue defendants must prove that manifest injustice would
occur if the pretrial order was not amended.
orders, which become the operative pleading in cases after
they are entered, may only be modified “to prevent
manifest injustice.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(e). To the extent
plaintiffs' motion seeks to amend the pretrial order,
they must show that such modification is necessary to prevent
extent plaintiffs' motion objects to the magistrate
judge's specific decision to allow plaintiff to add a
claim for punitive damages, Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a) applies. It
provides that a party may file objections to a magistrate
judge's order within 14 days of its entry. Rule 72
provides that the district judge must then consider the
“objections and modify or set aside any part of the
order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law.”
Gale's decision to allow a claim for punitive damages in
the pretrial order is nondispositive. 28 U.S.C. § 636
provides that: “[a]s to nondispositive pretrial
matters, the district court reviews the magistrate
judge's order under a clearly erroneous or contrary to
law standard of review.” Hinsdale v. City of
Liberal, 981 F.Supp. 1378, 1379 (D. Kan. 1997) (quoting
Ocelot Oil Corp. v. Sparrow Indus., 847 F.2d 1458,
1461-62 (10th Cir. 1988). A magistrate judge's order will
be affirmed “unless on the entire evidence the court is
left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has
been committed.” Id. The district court will
only overrule the magistrate judge's order if it is clear
that his broad discretion in the resolution of pretrial
matters has been abused. Id.
decision to grant leave to amend a complaint, after the
permissive period, is within the trial court's discretion
. . .” Woolsey v. Marion Labs., Inc., 934 F.2d
1452, 1462 (10th Cir. 1991). Leave to amend should be
“freely given when justice so requires” unless
there is a showing of “undue delay, undue prejudice to
the opposing party, bad faith or dilatory motive, failure to
cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, or
futility of amendment.” Frank v. U.S. West,
Inc., 3 F.3d 1357, 1365 (10th Cir. 1993).
Judge Gale found that plaintiffs had shown good cause for
making the amendment out of time-because they were not
allowed to claim punitive damages when they originally filed
their petition in state court-and that they had alleged the
facts necessary to support the claim. And it is true that in
plaintiffs' original petition, they alleged facts to
support a punitive damage claim without expressly pleading
one, due to the state law prohibition. While plaintiffs could
have sought to amend their complaint earlier to plead a claim
for punitive damages, Judge Gale did not find this delay to
be inexcusable neglect or that it prejudiced defendants. The
court finds no reason to set aside this decision.
Defendant's prejudice argument is based on conjecture,
and the court does not find Judge Gale's decision that
defendants were not prejudiced by the amendment to be clearly
erroneous or contrary to law. The court therefore finds Judge
Gale was within his discretion to grant plaintiffs'
amendment to include punitive damages claims and finds no
reversible error in his decision.
IS THEREFORE ORDERED that defendants' Motion for
District Judge to Review Order of the ...