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Shabazz v. Delaware Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Delaware

November 5, 2019


          Matthew G. Summers, Brittany M. Giusini, and William J. Burton, BALLARD SPAHR LLP, Wilmington, DE. Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          Adria B. Martinelli and Allison J. McCowan, DEPUTY ATTORNEYS GENERAL, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, DE. Attorneys for Defendants.



         Currently before me is Plaintiff Abdul-Haqq Shabazz's Motion for Leave to File Third Amended Complaint (D.I. 104). Defendants oppose this motion. (D.I. 110). Plaintiff has also renewed his claim in the form of a new complaint. (l:19-cv-01909-UNA, D.I. 1). For the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiffs motion is denied as to the Third Amended Complaint and Plaintiff is given leave to amend his complaint in light of this opinion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Abdul-Haqq Shabazz, an inmate at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("JTVCC") in Smyrna, Delaware, filed his initial complaint pro se on June 30, 2016. (D.I. 2).[1]Plaintiff has suffered from diagnosed glaucoma and cataracts in both of his eyes for the past fourteen to nineteen years. (D.I. 104-1 at ¶ 15). When Plaintiff filed his original complaint, he was completely blind in his left eye and his vision was severely impaired in his right eye. (D.I. 105 at 2). After various appointments and interactions with physicians and other medical personnel, Plaintiff received glaucoma surgery on October 9, 2017. (D.I. 104-1 at 4). On April 13, 2019, Plaintiff became completely and irreversibly blind in his right eye. (Id. at ¶ 49).

         After being appointed counsel, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint on April 7, 2017, which added Connections Community Support Programs as a defendant and stated a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deliberate indifference and cruel and unusual punishment based upon Connections' and the Department of Corrections' failure to provide Plaintiff with constitutionally required medical care treating his glaucoma. (D.I. 22). Plaintiff then filed a Second Amended Complaint on May 12, 2017. (D.I. 27).

         I dismissed Plaintiffs Second Amended Complaint because Plaintiffs allegations lacked sufficient detail about a particular policy, practice, or custom maintained by Defendant that caused Plaintiffs injury. (D.I. 57 at 1). In his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserted causes of action under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act against two individuals in their official capacities, who could not be subject to claims for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (D.I. 27). At that time, I was inclined to give Plaintiff another opportunity to state his claim with sufficient factual detail to "allow the court the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.1 granted Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint, with a deadline of December 15, 2017. (D.I. 58).

         Well past the original deadline, Plaintiff now requests leave to file a third amended complaint. (D.I. 104). Plaintiff argues that his current state of complete and irreversible blindness has given rise to new claims under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. (D.I. 105 at 1). These claims are related to the claims that Plaintiff previously asserted.

         In his proposed Third Amended Complaint and in his separately filed action, Plaintiff seeks to add as a defendant Vincent Carr ("Dr. Carr"), the former medical director of the Delaware Department of Corrections who oversaw decisions related to Plaintiffs treatment. (D.I. 104-1; l:19-cv-01909-UNA, D.I. 1). Plaintiff asserts an Eighth Amendment claim against Dr. Carr individually under Section 1983, alleging effective denial of surgical treatment leading to the loss of eyesight. (D.I. 104-1). Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Carr was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiffs serious medical needs and contributed to delays in Plaintiffs medical treatment from 2012 to July 2018. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-14). Plaintiff describes meeting with Dr. Carr in 2016 and receiving inadequate attention to his medical needs from Dr. Carr after that meeting. (Id. at ¶ 67). Plaintiff further alleges that Dr. Carr instituted and enforced policies and procedures that caused Plaintiff to go completely and irreversibly blind in both eyes. (Id. at ¶¶ 74-78).

         Defendants oppose the addition of Dr. Carr as a new defendant. (D.I. 110 at 1 n.1).


         In general, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) governs the amendment of pleadings before trial. The rule provides that leave to amend should be given freely "when justice so requires." Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). Rule 15(a) "embodies a liberal approach to pleading," and "leave to amend must generally be granted unless equitable considerations render it otherwise unjust." Arthur v. Maersk, Inc., 434 F.3d 196, 204 (3d Cir. 2006). The relevant equitable considerations include undue delay or bad faith by the party seeking leave to amend, prejudice to the non-moving party, futility of the proposed amendments, and judicial economy. See Mullin v. Balicki, 875 F.3d 140, 149-50 (3d Cir. 2017). Prejudice to the non-moving party is the "touchstone" inquiry for the denial of leave to amend. Id. at 155.

         In this case, another rule is applicable. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b)(4) requires district courts to impose a schedule which "may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent." Since Plaintiff seeks to amend a pleading after the scheduling order deadline for pleading amendments has passed, I will first apply Rule 16(b). See In re Fisker Auto. Holdings, Inc., 2018 WL 5113964, at *3 (D. Del. Oct. 12, 2018) ("When a party seeks to amend a pleading after the scheduling order's deadline for pleading amendments has passed, the court will apply Rule 16(b) as opposed to Rule 15(a)."); see also Eastern Minerals & Chems. Co. v. Mahan, 225 F.3d ...

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