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DeCrane v. Eckart

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

February 16, 2018

SEAN DeCRANE, Plaintiff,
v.
EDWARD ECKART, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court upon the Motion (ECF DKT #15) of Plaintiff Sean DeCrane for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint. For the following reasons, the Motion is granted.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a retired City of Cleveland Division of Fire Battalion Chief. He alleges that Assistant Safety Director Edward Eckart, along with James Votypka and Christopher Chumita, repeatedly retaliated against him based on the mistaken belief that Plaintiff disclosed to a reporter that a previous fire chief lacked the required continuing education to maintain his professional certification. Allegedly, the retaliation included: repeated failures to promote him; seizing the Fire Training Academy's records while Plaintiff served as Director of Training; making false allegations against him about deficient record-keeping; trying to have him criminally prosecuted; concocting false administrative charges against him; delaying a state audit that would have cleared him; relaying false information to the media; ignoring his emails and refusing to meet with him; trying to outsource training activities; and trying to damage his reputation and career.

         On October 31, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against the City, Eckart, Votypka and Chumita for: (1) First and Fourteenth Amendment Retaliation under § 1983; (2) False Light Invasion of Privacy (Eckart); and (3) a state-law claim for Intimidation under R.C. § 2921.03 (Eckart, Votypka and Chumita).

         After the City dismissed the pending administrative charges, Plaintiff filed an Amended and Supplemental Complaint updating his allegations on January 31, 2017. Defendants answered.

         On April 21, 2017, the individual Defendants moved for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings, arguing that the Intimidation claim against them cannot be maintained because Plaintiff did not plead that Defendants were charged with or convicted of the state-law crime of Intimidation. (ECF DKT #13).

         Plaintiff has opposed the Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings and has moved, on May 18, 2017, for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint. (ECF DKT #15). Plaintiff seeks to add a claim for Civil Liability for Criminal Acts under R.C. § 2307.60.

         Defendants oppose the Motion for Leave to Amend on the basis of futility, i.e., Eckart, Votypka, and Chumita have not been charged with, plead guilty to, or been convicted of any criminal offense related to this matter. They argue that absent such evidence, a party cannot maintain a claim under Ohio Rev. Code § 2307.60.

         II. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Motion to Amend

         Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2) reads in part, “The court should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires.” However, this liberal amendment policy is not without limits. The Sixth Circuit has observed: “A motion to amend a complaint should be denied if the amendment is brought in bad faith, for dilatory purposes, results in undue delay or prejudice to the opposing party, or would be futile.” Colvin v. Caruso, 605 F.3d 282, 294 (6th Cir.2010) (citing Crawford v. Roane, 53 F.3d 750, 753 (6th Cir.1995)).

         Delay, by itself, “does not justify denial of leave to amend.” Morse v. McWhorter, 290 F.3d 800 (6th Cir.2002). In addition, when discovery is in the early stages, any prejudice from entertaining an amended pleading is minimal. Addressing the contention that an amendment might necessitate another dispositive motion, the Sixth Circuit also noted that “another round of motion practice ... does not rise to the level of prejudice that would warrant denial of leave to amend.” Morse, 290 F.3d at 801.

         “In determining what constitutes prejudice, the court considers whether the assertion of the new claim or defense would: require the opponent to expend significant additional resources to conduct discovery and prepare for trial; significantly delay the resolution of the dispute; or prevent the plaintiff from bringing a timely ...


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