In a 10-page decision signed November 6, 2017 in an adversary proceeding arising within the Physiotherapy Holdings bankruptcy (PAH Litigation Trust, case 15-51238), Judge Gross of the Delaware Bankruptcy Court denied a motion of the Litigation Trust (the “Trust”) to file an amended complaint, providing guidance on a number of different issues. Judge Gross’s opinion is available here (the “Opinion”).
The Defendants opposing the motion to amend had an uphill battle in this issue. Judge Gross begins his discussion by stating, “Motions for leave to amend the complaint are granted liberally.” Opinion at *2. Judge Gross then provided a foreshadowing of the Defendants’ way out, stating, “The Court may, however, deny leave to amend if the proposed amendment is futile or untimely.” Id.
The Court had established a deadline of September 30, 2016 for the amending of the complaint. The Trust filed its motion approximately ten months after that deadline. The Trust was thus required to satisfy the ‘good cause’ standard of FRCP 16(b)(4) in order to obtain approval of its motion. Opinion at *2.
The Trust argued that it satisfied the good cause requirement because the proposed defendants had “deeper pockets”. Opinion at *3. The Trust expressed concern that the current defendants have made distributions to their limited partners, the proposed defendants. The Court held that “the Litigation Trust has not satisfied the ‘good cause’ requirement… The fact that Defendants may not have sufficient assets to satisfy any judgments is not good cause to add the Proposed Defendants.” Opinion at *4-5.
Judge Gross then turned to the motion’s request to amend the complaint to seek punitive damages. There was an initial dispute as to whether the defendant should have raised choice of law arguments in their motion to dismiss. Judge Gross opined that “there must be an actual conflict between the laws of different jurisdictions to engage in a choice of law determination.” Opinion at *6 (quoting Rice v. Dow Chem. Co., 875 P. 2d 1213, 1216 (1994)). Judge Gross held that the answer to which law controls depends on which state has the most significant relationship to the claim and the parties. Opinion at *6-7 (following the precedent of Emerald Capital Advisors Corp. v. Bayerische Motoren Aktiengesellschaft (In re FAH Liquidating Corp.), 2017 WL 2559892, at *9 (Bankr. D. Del. June 13, 2017)). Finding that Delaware law controls, and Delaware courts of equity do not allow for punitive damages to be awarded. Opinion at *9 (“under Delaware law punitive damages are not available under principles of equity which Delaware courts apply.”)
And with that, Judge Gross denies the motion to amend the complaint. The primary takeaway – if the Court sets a deadline to amend the complaint, make sure you hit the deadline. Because the Court grants motions to amend “liberally”, had this motion been timely I imagine the result would have been very different.
John Bird practices with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP and is resident in Portland, Oregon. You can reach John at 302-622-4263, or email@example.com.