United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division
PATRICK J. HANNA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Second
Amended Complaint. (Rec. Doc. 37). Defendants opposed (Rec.
Doc. 47). Also before the Court is Plaintiff's Objection
to Defendants' Stipulation of Liability (Rec. Doc. 39),
to which Defendants responded (Rec. Doc. 46). The parties
have also filed additional responses on both issues. (Rec.
Doc. 51; 55; 57). For the following reasons, Plaintiff's
Motion to Amend is GRANTED, and Plaintiff's Objection to
Defendants' Stipulation of Liability is OVERRULED.
Ruth Valdez, filed this lawsuit after she was allegedly
injured in an auto accident with Jason Price, an employee of
Mears Group, Inc., and insured by Old Republic Insurance (all
Defendants herein). On October 17, 2019, Defendants filed a
Stipulation of Liability, in which they stipulated that Price
was in the course and scope of his employment with Mears and
that his negligence was the sole cause of the accident. (Rec.
Doc. 35). Plaintiff objected to the stipulation, arguing that
she should be permitted to try the case as she desires,
including putting on evidence of Defendants' conduct.
(Rec. Doc. 39).
meantime, Plaintiff moved for leave to file a Second Amended
Complaint in order to set forth the alleged negligent acts of
Mears. (Rec. Doc. 37; 37-2). Plaintiff contends that her
counsel mistakenly omitted these allegations from the
original Complaint. (Rec. Doc. 41, p. 1-2). Defendants
opposed the motion for leave on the grounds that the proposed
amendment would be futile and unduly prejudicial in light of
Defendants' stipulation of liability. (Rec. Doc. 47).
Defendants further contended that allowing Plaintiff to put
on evidence of Defendants' liability, despite their
judicial admission of liability, could result in the
imposition of punitive damages on corporate defendants. (Rec.
to F.R.C.P. Rule 15(a)(2), a party is permitted to amend her
complaint with consent of the adverse party or with leave of
court. The Fifth Circuit set forth the relevant law as
Rule 15(a) requires a trial court “to grant leave to
amend ‘freely,' and the language of this rule
‘evinces a bias in favor of granting leave to
amend.'” Lyn-Lea Travel Corp. v. Am.
Airlines, 283 F.3d 282, 286 (5th Cir.2002) (citation
omitted). A district court must possess a “substantial
reason” to deny a request for leave to amend,
id., but “leave to amend is by no means
automatic.” Halbert v. City of Sherman, 33
F.3d 526, 529 (5th Cir.1994) (citation omitted). Decisions
concerning motions to amend are “entrusted to the sound
discretion of the district court [.]” Quintanilla
v. Tex. Television, Inc., 139 F.3d 494, 499 (5th
Cir.1998) (citation omitted). In deciding whether to grant
leave to amend, the district court may consider a variety of
factors in exercising its discretion, including undue delay,
bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant,
repeated failures to cure deficiencies by amendments
previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by
virtue of allowance of the amendment, and futility of the
amendment. Dussouy v. Gulf Coast Inv. Corp., 660
F.2d 594, 598 (5th Cir.1981).
Jones v. Robinson Prop. Grp., L.P., 427 F.3d 987,
994 (5th Cir. 2005).
the foregoing factors, the Court finds that Plaintiff should
be granted leave of Court to amend the Complaint in order to
set forth allegations regarding Mears's negligence. The
Court appreciates no undue delay, bad faith, or dilatory
motive by Plaintiff or her counsel, nor any undue prejudice
to Defendants. Thus, the Court finds that leave to amend is
warranted under Rule 15(a).
Court overrules Plaintiff's objection to Defendants'
Stipulation of Liability. Plaintiff is concerned that
Defendants' liability stipulation will deprive her of the
ability to introduce certain evidence at trial. She argues
that she should be permitted to try the case as she desires,
including introducing evidence such as the video of the crash
and other evidence pertaining to causation and damages.
Plaintiff cites no case, and the Court is not aware of any,
which authorizes the Court to prohibit a defendant from
admitting to liability or any other fact. See Wachob
Leasing Co. v. Gulfport Aviation Partners, LLC, No.
1:15-CV-237-HSO-RHW, 2017 WL 5653890, at *1 (S.D.Miss. Mar.
10, 2017). The Court finds that Plaintiff's objections
are more appropriately addressed at the motion in limine
stage or pursuant to a F.R.E. Rule 403 challenge, when the
Court can consider any challenged evidence in context.
chief argument in opposition to Defendants' stipulation
is that a stipulation must constitute an agreement between
the parties, and that she (Plaintiff) does not agree to
accept it as such. (Rec. Doc. 39-1; 51). In response,
Defendants classify the stipulation as a judicial admission
of liability and contend that Plaintiff has no right to
dictate whether Defendants choose to admit certain facts.
(Rec. Doc. 55, p. 2).
judicial admission is a formal concession in the pleadings or
stipulations by a party or counsel that is binding on the
party making them.” Martinez v. Bally's
Louisiana, Inc.,244 F.3d 474, 476 (5th Cir. 2001).
“Although a judicial admission is not itself evidence,
it has the effect of withdrawing a fact from
contention.” Id. To qualify as a judicial
admission, a statement must be (1) made in a judicial
proceeding; (2) contrary to a fact essential to the theory of
recovery; (3) deliberate, clear, and unequivocal; (4) such
that giving it conclusive effect meets with public policy;
and (5) about a fact on which a judgment for the opposing
party can be based.” Heritage Bank v. Redcom Labs.,
Inc.,250 F.3d 319, 329 (5th Cir. 2001). The Court
agrees that Defendants' “stipulation”
qualifies as a judicial admission over which Plaintiff has no
input. Defendants stated in a formal pleading that Price was
in the course and scope of his employment with Mears and that
he caused the accident. (Rec. Doc. 35). These facts are