Magistrate Bars Keurig From Amending Answer 2 Years After Filing

On Tuesday, a federal magistrate blocked Keurig Green Mountain, Inc., et al. from having the opportunity to amend its initial answer to a complaint in antitrust litigation currently taking place in the Southern District of New York.  The magistrate held that Keurig’s motion was unduly delayed, and would significantly delay resolution of the dispute.

The case is being held before Judge Vernon S. Broderick and Magistrate Judge Sarah L. Cave, who denied Keurig’s request.  Keurig was seeking to amend its answer to the complaint filed by TreeHouse Foods, Inc. et al.

Keurig originally filed its motion seeking to amend its answer in May.  In its memorandum in support, Keurig argued Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 accords the court “should freely give leave” to amend its answer, because “justice so requires” in this case.  Keurig stated it sought to amend its answer because it unintentionally omitted a release defense and covenant not to sue that pertained to certain redacted information from a settlement agreement between the parties in 2013.  They said “[counsel] only realized the unintentional omission of the release defense last week when TreeHouse produced a document that in Keurig’s view was subject to the confidentiality provisions of the Settlement Agreement.” 

Keurig claimed there was no substantial reason to deny its motion.  Additionally, it argued that TreeHouse faced no prejudice if the motion was granted, because in its original answer Keurig “also pled the closely related defenses of waiver and estoppel, putting TreeHouse on notice.”  Magistrate Cave noted in her memorandum opinion and order that TreeHouse opposed the motion and argued it was “brought in bad faith after undue delay, is futile, and does not represent “good cause” under Rule 16 to amend the 2016 CMO.”

Magistrate Cave’s reasoning regarding undue delay was similar, as she first stated “the 27-month delay in filing the Motion after the deadline in the 2016 CMO is not justified and constitutes an undue delay by Keurig.”  Furthermore, Cave stated Keurig’s omission is not simply a typographical error as it tried to argue, but is rather “an entirely new defense as Keurig seeks to assert here.”  As for prejudice, Magistrate Cave stated in this case it was present, because granting this motion would “require the opponent to expend significant additional resources to conduct discovery and prepare for trial” and “significantly delay the resolution of the dispute.”  Lastly, the order stated “[t]he Court agrees that all Plaintiffs, not only TreeHouse, would in fact be adversely impacted by any extension of the discovery deadlines and resulting delay of the resolution of this case.”

Keurig is being represented by Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, and Buchanan Ingersoli & Rooney.  TreeHouse is being represented by Winston & Strawn and Lockridge Grindal Nauen.