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Perez v. Hospital Damas, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

October 16, 2014

ALTAMIRA RODRÍGUEZ PÉREZ, ET AL., Plaintiffs, Appellants,
v.
HOSPITAL DAMAS, INC., ET AL., Defendants, Appellees

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO. Hon. Carmen C. Cerezo, U.S. District Judge.

Manuel San Juan for appellants.

Roberto Ruiz Comas, with whom RC Legal & Litigation Services PSC was on brief, for appellees.

Freddie Pérez-González, with whom Freddie Pérez-González & Assoc., P.S.C. was on brief, for Fundación Damas, Inc., intervenor-appellee.

Before Howard, Lipez and Barron, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

BARRON, Circuit Judge.

This appeal asks us to reverse a denial of a motion to amend a complaint in a medical malpractice case. We cannot do so, however, because the District Court acted within its discretion when it decided the plaintiffs had waited too long before trying to add -- just weeks ahead of the trial's scheduled start -- a new defendant.

Page 801

I.

The underlying complaint concerns the medical treatment Estella Rodríguez Pérez received in 2007 and 2008 at the Damas Hospital in Ponce, Puerto Rico. The hospital admitted her in November of 2007 for gastrointestinal distress. The hospital discharged her seven months later in a persistent vegetative state.[1] In response, Pérez's sister and daughter -- Sonia Hodge and Alma Sanchez-Rodríguez, respectively -- brought suit in November of 2008.

The plaintiffs originally filed their complaint in the Puerto Rico Court of First Instance. They then voluntarily dismissed their suit and re-filed in federal court in October of 2009. It is that federal complaint -- and, in particular, the plaintiffs' unsuccessful attempt to amend it -- that gives rise to this appeal.

The federal complaint named Hospital Damas, Inc., various hospital employees and staff members, and a number of unnamed entities as defendants. One of those unnamed defendants was listed only as " Corporation ABC." Though the plaintiffs did not then know the identity of " Corporation ABC," they nonetheless alleged it was, along with Hospital Damas, Inc., the owner and operator of the Damas Hospital.

On April 23, 2010, the District Court dismissed the complaint as to all unnamed defendants, including " Corporation ABC." The court explained " [t]he term to identify [unnamed] defendants ha[d] expired." One week later, however, the plaintiffs successfully filed an amended complaint that again listed the unnamed " Corporation ABC" as a defendant.

Then, in September of 2010, Hospital Damas, Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In doing so, Hospital Damas, Inc. provided information of potential relevance to the plaintiffs' identification of " Corporation ABC" in the medical malpractice case. Specifically, Hospital Damas, Inc. named Fundación Damas, Inc. both as ...


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