Pro Se Plaintiff Should Have Been Allowed To Amend Complaint

On August 19, 2014, the Second Circuit issued a decision in Garay v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., 13-3762-CV, reversing a denial by the EDNY of leave to amend a complaint that had been dismissed on the pleadings.

In Garay, the EDNY dismissed with prejudice a pro se plaintiff’s age discrimination and retaliation claims. The Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal, but reversed the EDNY’s refusal to allow the plaintiff to file an amended complaint, explaining:

While the District Court’s ruling was otherwise sound, it erred in denying [the plaintiff] leave to amend her complaint on futility grounds. As a general rule, leave to amend should be freely given, and a pro se litigant in particular should be afforded every reasonable opportunity to demonstrate that she has a valid claim. We have thus held that a pro se complaint should not be dismissed without the Court granting leave to amend at least once when a liberal reading of the complaint gives any indication that a valid claim might be stated. An amendment to a pleading is futile if the proposed claim could not withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).

(Internal quotations and citations omitted). After reviewing the plaintiff’s opposition to the defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Second Circuit concluded that she should have been allowed to file an amended complaint because such an amendment might not have been futile in light of her allegations regarding retaliation.