United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division
K.E. Mahoney United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the court on Plaintiff's
Amended Motion to File a Complaint and Jury Demand
Pursuant to Federal Law (Doc. 16). Defendants Daniel Dawson
and the State of Iowa (the State) filed a timely resistance
to the motion (Doc. 19), as did Defendants James Fouts and
the City of Onawa, Iowa (the City) (Doc. 20). Lee filed a
reply (Doc. 24). Lee requests leave to file an amended
petition, which, as outlined below, would essentially
constitute the fourth amended petition in this action.
Defendants resist, arguing the proposed amended petition
cannot not withstand a motion to dismiss and therefore leave
to amend should be denied.
originally filed this action by petition in state court
against Defendants Fouts and the City on September 11, 2017.
Doc. 4 at 3-6. Lee filed an amended petition the next day, on
September 12, 2017. Doc. 4 at 9-12. Lee then filed a second
amended petition on September 22, 2017. Doc. 4 at 18-21.
After Defendants Fouts and the City filed their answer (Doc.
4 at 33-35) and a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 4 at
36-45), Lee sought leave of court to file a third amended
petition (Doc. 4 at 49-52, 65-74). The state court granted
leave for the amendment and the third amended petition was
deemed filed on November 27, 2017. Doc. 4 at 75-82, 91, 94.
The third amended petition added Defendants Dawson and the
State. Doc. 4 at 75-82.
Fouts and the City removed the action to this court on
December 13, 2017 (Doc. 1), and the third amended petition
became the initial pleading in this federal case (Doc. 3).
Defendants Fouts and the City filed an answer on December 19,
2017 (Doc. 7), and Defendants Dawson and the State filed a
motion to dismiss on January 3, 2018 (Doc. 10). After
resisting the motion to dismiss (Doc. 12), Lee then timely
filed both the original motion and the amended motion to
amend the petition (Docs. 14, 16) prior to the deadline for
amending pleadings, which is set for March 19, 2018 (Doc.
requests leave of court “to amend his former Iowa
Petition into a federal Complaint.” Doc. 16 at 1. Lee
seeks to amend his petition “[t]o better comply with
federal law and to be more specific about Plaintiff's
allegations.” Doc. 16 at 2. The proposed amended
complaint (Doc. 16-1) appears to add information about
jurisdiction and venue for this court, sets forth the factual
allegations in separate numbered paragraphs, and rephrases
the two counts raised in the third amended petition (Doc. 3).
stage in a case, a party may amend a pleading prior to trial
with the opposing parties' written consent or leave of
court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Allowing amendment of a
pleading would be improper if the motion to amend involves
“undue delay, bad faith, repeated failure to cure
deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue
prejudice to the non-moving party, or futility of the
amendment.” Popoalii v. Corr. Med. Servs., 512
F.3d 488, 497 (8th Cir. 2008). “The court should freely
give leave . . . to amend . . . when justice so
requires.” Id. A party seeking leave to amend
after the amendment deadline has expired must also show good
cause to extend the deadline. Id. at 497 (citing
Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)). In this case, because Lee sought leave
to amend his petition prior to the deadline for amending
pleadings, he need not show good cause, and amendment should
be freely given if justice requires. Van Stelton
v. Van Stelton, 904 F.Supp.2d 965, 968 (N.D. Iowa
argue the proposed amendment would be futile because even as
revised, the proposed amended petition (Doc. 16-1) fails to
state a claim and would therefore not survive a motion to
dismiss. Docs. 19 at 3-7, 20 at 2-3. Dawson and the State
also argue the claims against them are subject to summary
dismissal and therefore the requested amendment should be
denied. Doc. 19 at 7. “[A] proposed amendment is futile
if it could not survive a Rule 12 motion to dismiss.”
Van Stelton, 904 F.Supp.2d at 969.
The essential function of a complaint under the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure is to give the opposing party “fair
notice of the nature and basis or grounds for a claim, and a
general indication of the type of litigation
involved”[;] “[i]t is the facts well pleaded, not
the theory of recovery or legal conclusions, ” that
state a cause of action and put a party on notice.
Hopkins v. Saunders, 199 F.3d 968, 973 (8th Cir.
1999) (citations omitted) (quoting Redland Ins. Co. v.
Shelter Gen. Ins. Cos., 121 F.3d 443, 446 (8th Cir.
1997); Economy Hous. Co. v. Continental Forest
Prods., Inc., 757 F.2d 200, 203 (8th Cir. 1985)).
although the proposed amended petition rephrases and revamps
the original petition, the general nature of the two counts
remain the same and allege that Defendants, acting under
color of law, violated Lee's rights by conducting an
unreasonable search and seizure that was unsupported by
probable cause (Count 1) and that Defendants, acting under
color of law, violated Lee's rights by unlawfully seizing
his firearm. Although this would technically be the fourth
amended petition in this action, this would be the first
amendment since the action was removed to this court from
state court. It is possible that the proposed amended
petition may not survive a motion to dismiss or summary
judgment, but the proposed amended complaint is not so
facially deficient to warrant denial of the motion to amend.
At this stage of the case, the court finds that justice
requires that Lee should be allowed to amend his petition as
court has taken into consideration in ruling on this motion
that both sets of Defendants have responded to the petition
since its removal from state court and that Fouts and the
City previously responded to multiple amended petitions in
state court. The court is mindful of the time and expense
Defendants incur by having to respond to multiple amended
petitions. Although the court finds leave should be granted
to amend the petition as requested, the court is
highly unlikely to grant any future
request to amend the petition in light of the procedural
history of prior amendments in this action.