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Knox v. United States

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

October 24, 2017

Zekiya Knox, Plaintiff,
v.
The United States of America; AMISUB of SC, INC., d/b/a Piedmont Medical Center; South Carolina Emergency Physicians, LLC; Jeffrey Warden, MD; Brian Fleet, PA; Piedmont General Surgery Associates, LLC; Alex Espinal, MD; Bret Garretson, MD; and Digestive Disease Associates, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT (ECF NO. 83)

          CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on Plaintiff Zekiya Knox's (“Knox”) motion for leave to file Second Amended Complaint[1]. ECF No. 83. Defendant AMISUB of SC, Inc., d/b/a Piedmont Medical Center (“PMC”) opposes Knox's motion[2]. ECF No. 84. Knox filed a reply. ECF No. 85. For the following reasons, Knox's motion for leave to file Second Amended Complaint is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         Knox filed this action on January 4, 2017, alleging medical malpractice against Defendants, including a federal funded community health care center in Rock Hill, SC (which provides the basis for this court's jurisdiction over the case). ECF No. 1. On February 16, 2017, the court entered a scheduling order, noting motions to amend pleadings were due by May 18, 2017.[3] ECF No. 10. On March 16, 2017, Knox filed a consent motion for leave to file First Amended Complaint, which was granted as unopposed. ECF Nos. 43, 44. This amendment added two Defendants to the case, Digestive Disease Associates and Bret Garretson, M.D. ECF No. 45. The deadline for motions to amend pleadings passed without additional motions.

         On September 22, 2017, Knox filed the instant motion for leave to file Second Amended Complaint to add additional facts supporting her medical malpractice claim against existing Defendants. ECF No. 83. As explained by Knox, the proposed amendments would make “two primary changes to the currently operative Complaint:” 1) “to conform to the evidence recently uncovered through [discovery] . . .” and 2) “to refine the allegations against PMC to make explicit a claim that PMC's medical care of Plaintiff on May 4 through May 6, 2014, deviated and departed from the prevailing and accepted standards of medical care, particularly with regard to overdosing Ms. Knox on pressors in excess of the doctor's orders and PMC's policy, in improperly relying on a knowingly inaccurate arterial line, and in failing to report the signs and symptoms of ischemia that arose during this time.” ECF No. 83-2 at 2.

         Only PMC opposes the motion, arguing Knox has failed to show good cause under Rule 16(b), failed to meet the requirements of Rule 15(a) due to prejudice to PMC, and failed to show the new allegations relate back to the Amended Complaint because they do not arise out of the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence in that pleading. ECF No. 84. PMC also argues Knox's proposed amendments are futile, as the statute of limitations has run and she did not satisfy the notice of intent requirement as to this theory.

         Knox's reply details communications between her attorney and counsel for PMC, showing PMC's counsel was aware as early as March 2017 of the theory advanced regarding Knox's medical care at PMC between May 4 and May 6 (hereinafter, the “pressor theory”). ECF No. 85. Therefore, Knox argues, PMC would suffer no prejudice if the amendment is allowed, because it was aware of the facts surrounding the claim well before the deadline for amendment of pleadings or the close of discovery. Knox also argues she satisfies the good cause standard for amendment of the Amended Complaint after the deadline in the scheduling order and there is no prejudice to PMC.

         STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) provides that leave to amend a pleading should be “freely give[n] . . . when justice so requires.” The Fourth Circuit has held “that leave to amend a pleading should be denied only when the amendment would be prejudicial to the opposing party, there has been bad faith on the part of the moving party, or the amendment would be futile.” Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 242 (4th Cir. 1999). However, “after the deadlines provided by a scheduling order have passed, the good cause standard must be satisfied to justify leave to amend the pleadings.” Nourison Rug Corp. v. Parvizian, 535 F.3d 295, 298 (4th Cir. 2008). Therefore, the Amended Complaint may only be modified “for good cause and with the judge's consent.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4).

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2) governs relation back of amendments - whether an amendment will relate back to the filing of the original Complaint. The Fourth Circuit has required:

First, to relate back there must be a factual nexus between the amendment and the original complaint. Second, if there is some factual nexus an amended claim is liberally construed to relate back to the original complaint if the defendant had notice of the claim and will not be prejudiced by the amendment.

Grattan v. Burnett, 710 F.2d 160, 163 (4th Cir. 1983), aff'd, 468 U.S. 42, 104 S.Ct. 2924, 82 L.Ed.2d 36 (1984)

         DISCUSSION

         a. ...


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