Walton v. U.S. Steel Corp., Case No. 2:10-cv-188

Decision Date15 June 2011
Docket NumberCase No. 2:10-cv-188
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Indiana

This matter is before the court on the Motion to Strike [DE 37] filed by the defendant, United States Steel Corporation, on January 19, 2011, and the Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint [DE 41] filed by the plaintiff, Eric Rashad Walton, on January 28, 2011. For the following reasons, the Motion to Strike is GRANTED, and the Motion for Leave to Amend is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. The court STRIKES the documents entitled "Adding Charges to the Amended Complaint" [DE 33] and "Documents in Support of Amended Complaint" [DE 34].


Eric Rashad Walton, pro se, filed his original complaint against United States Steel Corporation and several individuals asserting a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. U.S. Steel moved to dismiss Walton's complaint on September 3, 2010. The court granted the motion and dismissed the claims against all individual defendants with prejudice and against U.S.Steel without prejudice. The court provided Walton the opportunity to file an amended complaint by October 1, 2010.

Walton filed his amended complaint against U.S. Steel on September 29, 2010. In addition to the original allegations, he asserted that U.S. Steel wrongfully terminated him in retaliation for filing a workers compensation claim, a "Whistleblower complaint" with the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Association, grievances with the United Steelworkers of America Local Union 1066, and a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. U.S. Steel filed an answer to Walton's amended complaint on October 12, 2010. On January 7, 2011, Walton filed documents titled "Adding Charges to the Amended Complaint" and "Documents in Support of Amended Complaint" with the court. U.S. Steel now requests that the court strike these documents, arguing that the documents are essentially amended pleadings and Walton did not request leave to amend his complaint.

After U.S. Steel filed its motion to strike, Walton filed a motion to amend his amended complaint on January 28, 2011. Walton's motion explains that he intends to add additional claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act, negligence under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, employer negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emo-tional distress, breach of confidence and trust, and violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. U.S. Steel opposes Walton's motion to amend, arguing that the claims are futile.


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) states that "the court may strike from a pleading any . . . redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Motions to strike are generally disfavored, although they may be granted if they remove unnecessary clutter from a case and expedite matters, rather than delay them. Heller Financial, Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., Inc., 883 F.2d 1286, 1294 (7th Cir. 1989); Shirley v. Jed Capital, LLC, 2010 WL 2721855, *5 (N.D. Ill. July 8, 2010); Doe v. Brimfield Grade School, 552 F.Supp.2d 816, 825 (CD. Ill. 2008). The decision whether to strike material is within the discretion of the court. Talbot v. Robert Matthews Distrib. Co., 961 F.2d 654, 665 (7th Cir. 1992). "Motions to strike under Federal Rule 12(f) are not favored and are usually denied unless the language in the pleading has no possible relation to the controversy and is clearly prejudicial." Tektel, Inc. v. Maier, 813 F.Supp. 1331, 1334 (N.D. Ill. 1992).

"As a pro se litigant, [a] [p]laintiff is permitted a more lenient standard with respect to [his] pleadings than thatimposed on a practicing attorney." Cintron v. St. Gobain Abbras-sives, Inc., 2004 WL 3142556, *1 (S.D. Ind. Nov. 18, 2004) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 596, 30 L.Ed.2d 652, 654 (1972)). Although the court recognizes that pro se litigants face special challenges that litigants represented by counsel do not, pro se litigants are not excused from following procedural rules simply because the "rules of procedure are based on the assumption that litigation is normally conducted by lawyers." Lee v. Wal-Mart Stores, 1994 WL 899240, *1 (N.D. Ind. Apr. 12, 1994). The Lee court explained, "[the court] ha[s] never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel." Lee, 1994 WL 899240 at *1. The Lee court further explained, "in the long run, experience teaches that strict adherence to the procedural requirements specified by the legislature is the best guarantee of evenhanded administration of the law." Lee, 1994 WL 899240 at *1 (quoting Mohasco Corp. v. Silver, 447 U.S. 807, 826, 100 S.Ct. 2486, 2497, 65 L.Ed.2d 532, 548 (1980)).

U.S. Steel requests that the court strike Walton's documents entitled "Adding Charges to the Amended Complaint" and "Documents in Support of Amended Complaint," arguing that the filing of those documents did not comply with Federal Rule of Civil Proce-dure 15(a). Although Walton's documents were not labeled as amended pleadings, the filings seek to add claims to Walton's complaint, and the court construes the documents as amended pleadings which require compliance with Rule 15.

Rule 15(a)(1)-(2) provides that a party may amend its pleadings as a matter of course within 21 days of service. After 21 days, the party may amend its pleadings only by leave of court or by written consent of the adverse party, and leave shall be freely given when justice so requires. See also Krupski v. Costa Crociere S.p. A., __ U.S. __ , 130 S.Ct. 2485, 2496, 177 L.Ed.2d 48 (2010); Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182, 83 S.Ct. 227, 230, 9 L.Ed.2d 222, 226 (1962).

Walton filed the documents over two months after U.S. Steel filed its response to Walton's amended complaint, and therefore Walton was not entitled to file the pleadings as a matter of course. U.S. Steel did not consent to Walton amending the allegations in his amended complaint, and Walton did not ask, nor did this court grant him, leave to amend his pleadings. In his response to U.S. Steel's motion to strike, Walton acknowledges that he did not comply with Rule 15(a) for adding charges to his complaint. Because Walton did not comply with Rule 15(a), U.S. Steel's Motion to Strike is GRANTED. The court STRIKES documents entitled "Adding Charges to the Amended Complaint" [DE 33] and"Documents in Support of Amended Complaint" [DE 34]. To the extent that the documents accompanying these filings are in response to U.S. Steel's requests for discovery, Walton is instructed to re-file only the discovery accompanying these documents pursuant to N.D. Ind. L.R. 26.2.

After learning of his failure to comply with Rule 15(a), Walton filed a Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint. Because the complaint merely serves to put the defendant on notice, it should be freely amended as the case develops, as long as the amendments do not unfairly surprise or prejudice the defendant. Jackson v. Rockford Hous. Auth., 213 F.3d 389, 393 (7th Cir. 2000). The decision to deny leave to amend a complaint is an abuse of discretion "only if 'no reasonable person could agree with the decision.'" Winters v. Fru-Con, Inc., 498 F.3d 7 34, 741 (7th Cir. 2 007) (quoting Butts v. Aurora Health Care, Inc., 387 F.3d 921, 925 (7th Cir. 2004)); Ajayi v. Aramark Bus. Servs., 336 F.3d 520, 530 (7th Cir. 2003).

The court may deny leave because the amendment is futile. Bethany Phamacal Co. v. QVC, Inc., 241 F.3d 854, 861 (7th Cir. 2001). Futility generally is measured by whether the amendment would survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). If a summary judgment motion is pending, futility may be shown with reference to the entire summaryjudgment record. Peoples v. Sebring Capital Corp., 2 09 F.R.D. 428, 430 (N.D. Ill. 2002). If the proposed amendment is not clearly futile, denying leave to amend on this ground would be improper. See Wright & Miller, 6 Federal Practice & Procedure §1487 at 637-642 (2d ed. 1990) ("If the proposed change clearly is frivolous or advances a claim or defense that is legally insufficient on its face, the court may deny leave to amend.").

First, Walton seeks to add a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 2008 ("ADA"). U.S. Steel contends that the claim is time barred or, in the alternative, that Walton's alleged impairment does not constitute a disability under the ADA and that he has not put forward any allegations that would support an inference that he is disabled under the ADA. Under the ADA, a plaintiff must file suit within 90 days of receiving the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's ("EEOC") notice of his right to sue. 42 U.S.C. §2000e-5(f)(1); Houston v. Sidley & Austin, 185 F.3d 837, 838-39 (7th Cir. 1999). Walton filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, and the EEOC issued Walton's right-to-sue letter on February 22, 2010. Walton filed his original complaint against U.S. Steel on May 6, 2010, which fell within the 90 day statute of limitations. Walton's original complaint alleged an ADA violation with respect to the circumstances surrounding his allergic reaction episodes and termina-tion. However that complaint was dismissed without prejudice, and his first amended complaint did not raise a cause of action under the ADA, as Walton now seeks to add in his second amended complaint.

Under Rule 15(c)(1) "an amendment to a pleading relates back to the date of the original pleading when . . . the amendment asserts a claim or defense that arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out — or attempted to be set out — in the original pleading." Notice is the critical element in making a Rule 15(c) determination. Krupski, __...

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