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Gierer v. Rehab Medical, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

October 20, 2016

JENNIFER GIERER, Plaintiff,
v.
REHAB MEDICAL, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CHARLES A. SHAW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on plaintiff's motion for leave to amend the complaint to conform to evidence. Defendant opposes the motion and has filed a cross motion for sanctions. The motions are fully briefed. For the following reasons, the Court will grant plaintiff's motion for leave to amend the complaint, and deny defendant's cross motion for sanctions.

         Legal Standard

         Plaintiff sought leave to amend her complaint nearly seven months after the deadline in the case management order for filing such motion. Where a party seeks leave to amend its complaint after the deadline in the case management order has passed, Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)'s good-cause standard applies, not the standard of Rule 15(a). Under Rule 16(b), the party must show good cause in order to be granted leave to amend. Sherman v. Winco Fireworks, Inc., 532 F.3d 709, 716 (8th Cir. 2008); Popoalii v. Correctional Med. Servs., 512 F.3d 488, 497 (8th Cir. 2008).

         “The primary measure of good cause is the movant's diligence in attempting to meet the order's requirements.” Rahn v. Hawkins, 464 F.3d 813, 822 (8th Cir. 2006). “While the prejudice to the nonmovant resulting from modification of the scheduling order may also be a relevant factor, generally, we will not consider prejudice if the movant has not been diligent in meeting the scheduling order's deadlines.” Sherman, 532 F.3d at 717 (citing Bradford v. DANA Corp., 249 F.3d 807, 809 (8th Cir. 2001) (concluding there was no need to inquire beyond the first criterion, diligence, because the record clearly demonstrated the plaintiff made only minimal efforts to satisfy the scheduling order's requirements)).

         Discussion

         As a threshold matter, the parties do not agree on what relief plaintiff is seeking. Plaintiff has filed a motion for leave to amend the complaint to conform to the evidence. She states that her proposed third amended complaint would simply reflect newly-discovered evidence that defendant has paid her unpaid wages, which renders moot her statutory unpaid wages claim in Count II. In her second amended complaint, Count II was pled as a Missouri statutory claim for unpaid wages and commissions due. Plaintiff proposes to voluntarily dismiss her statutory unpaid wages claim from Count II, while keeping her statutory unpaid commissions claim in Count II. Because plaintiff states she is only voluntarily dismissing the claim for unpaid wages, and alleging no new claims, the motion for leave to amend should be granted. She states she was diligent in moving to amend once she discovered defendant had paid her unpaid wages.

         Defendant disagrees. Defendant argues that plaintiff has never pleaded a statutory unpaid commissions claim in Count II. Defendant states that Count II of the proposed third amended complaint brings an entirely new statutory claim for unpaid commissions. (Resp. at 2.) Defendant relies on plaintiff's failure to cite to Missouri Statute § 407.913 governing unpaid commissions in her second amended complaint. Count II of plaintiff's second amended complaint had only cited Missouri Statute § 290.110 governing unpaid wages. Plaintiff's proposed third amended complaint adds the statutory citation governing unpaid commissions to Count II.

         The argument between the parties turns on whether plaintiff pleaded enough facts in Count II of her second amended complaint to put defendant on notice of her claim for statutory unpaid commissions. If so, then defendant should have been aware of the statutory unpaid commissions claim, and merely adding the statutory citation to the third amended complaint is not a substantive change. As such, any lack of diligence of plaintiff in seeking to amend the complaint would not bar the proposed amendment because she is not adding a new claim, only adding a citation to the statute.

         Federal Rule 8 requires only that a complaint be “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “This short and plain statement must provide fair notice of the plaintiff's claim and grounds for relief.” Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation omitted). Rule 8 also requires courts to construe pleadings “so as to do justice.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(e).

         A party is not necessarily required to identify a specific statute in its complaint. See Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806-07 (8th Cir. 2008) (citing Sagana v. Tenorio, 384 F.3d 731, 736-37 (9th Cir. 2004) and Northrop v. Hoffman of Simsbury, Inc., 134 F.3d 41, 45-46 (2nd Cir. 1997)). Plaintiff did not explicitly cite § 407.913 in her second amended complaint, but titled Count II as “Missouri Statutory Claim for Unpaid Wages and Commissions Due.” As the Eighth Circuit has stated, “[a] party need not plead specific legal theories in the complaint, so long as the other side receives notice as to what is at issue in the case.” Greenwood v. Ross, 778 F.2d 448, 454 (8th Cir. 1985) (finding plaintiff did not have to specify what statute or part of the Constitution he relied upon as source of § 1983 action).

         In Eckert, for example, the Eighth Circuit held that a third party plaintiff, Titan, did not provide sufficient notice to a third party defendant, Eckert, that it was bringing an ERISA claim. In its complaint, Titan had invoked ERISA twice, but only within the jurisdictional section of the complaint. Titan did not mention any ERISA violation in the complaint, and only sought relief on the basis of a breach of the parties' asset purchase agreement.

         Here, although plaintiff did not cite the unpaid commissions statute § 407.913 in her second amended complaint, plaintiff brought Count II as a “Missouri Statutory Claim for Unpaid Wages and Commissions Due.” (2d Am. Compl. at 36.) In the body of Count II, plaintiff states that her compensation included an annual salary and sales commissions. She claimed her wages and compensation were wrongfully withheld after her termination. She states: “In light of Rehab's knowing and continued violation of Missouri statutory requirements concerning the immediate disbursement of earned wages and compensation to a discharged employee, Plaintiff seeks recovery of the penalty provided for by RSMo. § 290.110, namely, her agreed-upon compensation rate paid for a period of sixty work days following her termination, along with payment of all wages and compensation previously earned and left unpaid.” (Id. at ¶ 98).

         Although the Court finds that plaintiff's claim in Count II for statutory unpaid wages and commissions due would have been clearer had she cited both statutes under which she was suing, a party is not necessarily required to identify a specific statute in its complaint. See Eckert, 514 F.3d at 806. Construing the pleading as to do justice, plaintiff's second amended complaint provided fair notice to defendant that she was making a claim for statutory unpaid commissions in Count II. Plaintiff titled the claim as a “statutory claim for unpaid wages and commissions, ” and stated in the body of the claim that she was owed wages and unpaid compensation at the time of her discharge.[1]The Court will grant plaintiff leave to ...


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