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Joseph J. Farnan: Amended Complaint Allowed to Stave Off Negative Case Law

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A recent decision by district judge Joseph J. Farnan Jr. illustrates the broad scope of Rule 15′s amended pleading provisions. In the underlying copyright-infringement action, Leonard sought to leave open the operative infringement date in response to negative case law raised by Stemtech during mediation. Stemtech argued that this late change in position was simply a gambit designed to avoid the limitations statute and forestall a winning summary judgment motion.

The Court acknowledged Stemtech’s plight, but nonetheless permitted the amendment:

“While the circumstances cited by Stemtech give rise to the specter of bad faith, the Court concludes, at this juncture, that the inference is not strong enough to deny Leonard leave to amend . . . . [T]he deletion of specific date references from the proposed Amended Complaint will leave this issue open for further development during discovery and will preserve Stemtech’s ability to defend this action on the basis of a statute of limitations defense or a defense under the case law cited by Stemtech during mediation.”

By allowing Leonard to amend these crucial dates in the complaint, the Court reminded litigators that, in the absence of prejudice, Rule 15 allows parties an immense latitude in framing their claims for relief.

Leonard v. Stemtech Health Sciences, Inc., C.A. No. 08-067-JJF (D. Del. July 16, 2010) (Farnan, J.).

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