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Ickes v. NexCare Health Systems, L.L.C.

United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division

April 7, 2015

JOANNE M. ICKES, Plaintiff,
v.
NEXCARE HEALTH SYSTEMS, L.L.C., Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND COMPLAINT (DKT. 26)

TERRENCE G. BERG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Before the Court is Plaintiff Joanne Ickes’s motion for leave to amend her complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 (Dkt. 26) filed on November 19, 2014. Plaintiff seeks leave to add South Lyon as an additional defendant. The Court took this motion under advisement without oral argument under Eastern District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(f)(2) on March 5, 2015. For the reasons explained below, Plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend her complaint will be GRANTED.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff worked for Integrity Rehab Services (“Integrity”), a non-party entity, at the South Lyon Senior Care and Rehabilitation Center (“SLSCRC”) as a physical therapist from 2006 until her termination in January 2013. (Dkt. 1, p. 1.) Defendant NexCare managed SLSCRC and proposed defendant South Lyon owned SLSCRC. (See Dkt. 28, p. 4.) According to the Complaint, in the course of her employment, Plaintiff became aware that SLSCRC had adopted a new policy of discharging patients when their insurance changed from more lucrative to less lucrative sources. (Dkt. 1, p. 3.)

Plaintiff believed that this policy violated the law and expressed her concerns with SLSCRC staff. In July 2012, Plaintiff contacted her direct supervisor Barb Sturtevant, an Integrity employee, to discuss this practice. (Dkt. 1, p. 3.) When the meeting with Sturtevant failed to resolve the problem, Plaintiff met with Patricia Milgrom, Chief Operating Officer and President of Integrity, on August 3, 2012. Plaintiff followed up with Milgrom on August 24, 2012 and was told to speak with South Lyon Administrator Michelle “Shelly” Berryman.[1] (Dkt. 1, p. 4.)

Plaintiff met with Berryman on September 4 and September 5, 2012. At the meetings, Berryman allegedly assured Plaintiff that SLSCRC would no longer discharge patients based on the type of insurance they carried. (Dkt. 29, Ex. C.) Based on this representation, Plaintiff emailed Milgrom informing her that she would not contact the NexCare Compliance Committee regarding her concerns. (Id.) Milgrom later forwarded this email from Plaintiff to Berryman among others. (Id.)

Months later, in early January 2013, Plaintiff discovered that the allegedly improper discharge policy continued after a patient’s family was told that there were no long-term beds available. (Dkt. 1, p. 4.) Berryman then called a meeting with the therapy staff and instructed the therapists to refrain from speaking to patients about whether they could continue to stay at the facility. (Id.) Later that day, Berryman emailed Milgrom to relay what happened at the meeting, stating that she “explained that if [the therapists] continue to promise this to all of our short term people, they will be out of a job…” (Dkt. 29, Ex. D.) Berryman also stated that she had spoken with Plaintiff and told her that “she needs to get on board with the direction we are going [in]…and if she does not agree…she needs to find another facility to work in.” (Id.)

The next day, Milgrom suspended Plaintiff. (Id.) Milgrom conveyed this to Berryman and told her that she would meet with Barb Sturtevant to “take our next steps.” (Id.) Milgrom also indicated she would address the staff along with Berryman in the coming week. (Id.) Plaintiff was terminated on or about January 16, 2013. (Dkt. 29, p. 1.) Sturtevant and Cheryl Rankin, both Integrity employees, were the only ones who signed Plaintiff’s termination agreement. (Dkt. 29, Ex. C.)

On October 7, 2013, Plaintiff brought suit against NexCare on two counts: (1) retaliation in violation of the False Claims Act and (2) tortious interference with a business relationship. At the time, Plaintiff was unaware that Berryman was an employee of South Lyon. (Dkt. 26, p. 4.)

Plaintiff filed this instant motion on November 19, 2014 seeking to add South Lyon as a defendant in this action on both counts. (Dkt. 28.) According to Plaintiff, Defense counsel has stated that they will represent South Lyon and Ms. Berryman should Plaintiff’s motion be granted. (Dkt. 28, p. 8.) At the time Plaintiff filed this motion, no depositions had been taken. Pursuant to the Court’s scheduling order, discovery was due on March 31, 2015 and the matter is set for trial on October 5, 2015. (Dkt. 22.)

II. ANALYSIS

A. Standard of Review

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), a party who can no longer amend its complaint as of right “may amend its pleading only with the opposing party’s written consent or the court’s leave. The court should freely give leave when justice so requires.”

Granting a motion for leave to amend the complaint is a matter “within the discretion of the District Court.” Forman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1982). Though discretionary, “[i]n the absence of any apparent or declared reason-such as undue delay, bad faith…undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the ...


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