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Naca v. Macalester College

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

December 28, 2017

KRISTIN NACA, Plaintiff,

          Peter J. Nickitas for plaintiff.

          Sean R. Somermeyer, Kathlyn E. Noecker, and Terran C. Chambers, FAEGRE BAKER DANIELS LLP, for defendant.


          Patrick J. Schiltz United States District Judge

         This case is before the Court on two matters: (1) plaintiff Kristin Naca's motion for leave to refile her (previously stricken) objection to Magistrate Judge Becky R. Thorson's August 31, 2017 order denying Naca's motion to amend her complaint; and (2) Naca's objection to Judge Thorson's October 25, 2017 order granting in part and denying in part Naca's motion to compel discovery.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court denies Naca's motion for leave to refile her objection to the August 31 order and overrules her objection to the October 25 order. The Court will also order Naca's counsel, Peter Nickitas, to show cause why he should not be required to pay $1, 000 to defendant Macalester College to compensate it for having to incur attorney's fees to brief the effect of Nickitas's failures to comply with the Local Rules of this District.

         A. Motion to Refile

         Naca sought leave to file a third amended complaint. Judge Thorson denied the motion. ECF No. 101. At 10:40 pm on the date that objections to Judge Thorson's order were due, Nickitas filed an objection that was grossly in excess of (in fact, more than double) the word count prescribed by the Local Rules. ECF No. 102. The Court struck Naca's objection the next day, noting that this was not the first time that Nickitas had violated the Local Rules in this case. ECF No. 108. Later that day, Naca filed a motion for leave to refile Naca's objection, with a copy of the proposed objection attached. ECF No. 109.

         In essence, Naca is requesting leave to file a late objection. See D. Minn. L.R. 72.2(a)(1) (14-day deadline for filing objections). But in the one-paragraph motion, Nickitas offers no explanation for his violation of the rules and no argument for why Naca should be permitted to file a late objection. For that reason alone, Naca's motion is denied.

         Even if the Court were to consider Naca's proposed objection on the merits and review de novo Judge Thorson's order, the Court would overrule the objection and affirm the order. See Magee v. Trs. of the Hamline Univ., Minn., 957 F.Supp.2d 1047, 1062 (D. Minn. 2013) (“[T]he Court reviews de novo a magistrate judge's determination that a motion to amend a pleading will be denied because the amendment would be futile.”). The Court generally agrees with Judge Thorson's analysis. Only a few matters merit comment:

         Naca argues that her entitlement claim under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) is timely because it relates back to the filing of her first amended complaint. To the extent that Naca claims that Macalester is liable under the FMLA for failing to inform her in December 2013 that she was eligible to take leave under the FMLA, see Third Am. Compl. ¶ 52, the Court agrees with Judge Thorson that this claim does not relate back. Moreover, even if this claim about an omission that occurred in December 2013 did relate back to the filing of the first amended complaint in October 2016, the claim would still be barred by the two-year statute of limitations. 29 U.S.C. § 2617(c)(1). It is not true, as Naca argues on the basis of irrelevant Minnesota case law, that Naca's FMLA claim did not accrue until she discovered it. Naca's argument is belied by the language of the FMLA itself, which clearly provides that the limitations period begins running on the date of the violation. Id. (“an action may be brought under this section not later than 2 years after the date of the last event constituting the alleged violation for which the action is brought”).

         To the extent that Naca bases her FMLA entitlement claim on the various requests for leave identified in her proposed third amended complaint, she is correct that her claim relates back. In her first amended complaint, Naca pleaded that she requested medical leave on several occasions and that Macalester unlawfully denied her requests. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 70, 75, 77-79, 82-83. Naca's FMLA entitlement claim is based on this same series of requests and thus “ar[ises] out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out-or attempted to be set out-in the original pleading.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c)(1)(B); see also Alpern v. Utilicorp United, Inc., 84 F.3d 1525, 1543 (8th Cir. 1996) (“The basic inquiry is whether the amended complaint is related to the general fact situation alleged in the original pleading.”).

         Naca's FMLA entitlement claim is nevertheless untimely, however, because she does not identify any leave request that was denied within the two years preceding the filing of this action. Reed v. Lear Corp., 556 F.3d 674, 681 (8th Cir. 2009) (“An FMLA violation occurs when an employer improperly denies a request for leave.”). Like her other pleadings, Naca's proposed third amended complaint manages to be both prolix and ambiguous, and it is therefore difficult to identify and catalogue her leave requests. It is clear, however, that the only possible leave request that could fall within the two- year statute of limitations-a request for a one-course reduction in the fall of 2015-was granted. See Third Am. Compl. ¶¶ 83-84. True, Naca was fired before she could take advantage of that course reduction. As discussed below, however, Naca has not alleged any plausible connection between her leave requests and her termination and therefore she cannot base an FMLA claim on this fact.

         Naca also alleges that in April 2014 she requested a one-course reduction for spring 2015. Third Am. Compl. ¶¶ 67-70. While Naca alleges that Macalester failed to follow up on this request, Third Am. Compl. ¶ 81, she does not allege that she renewed the request during the two years preceding this action.[1]

         Naca argues that the three-year limitations period for willful violations-rather than the two-year limitations period for non-willful violations-should apply to her FMLA claim. See 29 U.S.C. § 2617(c)(2). Naca did not present this argument to Judge Thorson, however, and therefore she cannot raise it now. Ridenour v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharms., Inc., 679 F.3d 1062, 1067 (8th Cir. 2012) (“The district court properly refused to consider Ridenour's argument that ...

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