Almost seven years into this lawsuit, after discovery had been closed and with a summary judgment deadline looming, the defendants in this case, Dr. Partha Ghosh and Wexford Health Sources Inc., raised the affirmative defense of res judicata for the first time. This was an unexpected motion to dismiss an amended complaint. When the plaintiff, Alnoraindus Burton, responded that the defense had been waived or forfeited, while the defendants argued that the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion in Massey v. Helman, 196 F.3d 727 (7th Cir. 1999), required a district court to allow any and all new affirmative defenses whenever a plaintiff amends a complaint in any way. The district court judge in this case agreed with that decision and granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss.
In this appeal, the 7th Circuit reversed and remanded the case. The court stated that the standard for amending pleadings under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(c) and 15 continues to govern the raising of new affirmative defenses even when an amended complaint is filed.
This appeals panel stated that Massey held that a defendant is entitled to add a new affirmative defense prompted by an amended complaint that changes the scope of the case in a relevant way. Massey does not, however, require a district court to allow any and all new defenses and response to any amendment to a complaint, without regard for the substance of the amendment and its relationship to the new defenses. Rather, a district court must exercise its sound discretion under Rules 8 and 15 in deciding whether to allow the late addition of a new affirmative defense.