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NAPLES v. NEW JERSEY SPORTS & EXPOSITION AUTHORITY

June 26, 2000

MICHAEL NAPLES, PLAINTIFF,
V.
NEW JERSEY SPORTS AND EXPOSITION AUTHORITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wolin, District Judge.

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on motions of both parties. Plaintiff, Michael Naples, moves (1) to amend his Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), in an attempt to remove all federal questions from his Complaint and (2) to remand to state court. Defendant, the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, moves for dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court has considered this motion on the papers pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. For the reasons stated below, the Court will permit the amendment to the Complaint and remand this case to Bergen County Superior Court.

BACKGROUND

The following facts, derived predominantly from the pleadings, are taken as true only for the purpose of deciding the motions before the Court.

Plaintiff, an employee of defendant until October 1998, claims that he was injured in an automobile accident on defendant's roadway in January 1998. (See Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 4, 14). After the accident, "defendant instructed the plaintiff and his family to submit all bills for medical and rehabilitative treatment through Workers' Compensation. . . ." (See id. ¶ 6). On April 23, 1998, despite defendant's alleged assurances, defendant denied plaintiffs workers' compensation claims. (See id. ¶ 7). Defendant then terminated plaintiffs employment in October 1998. (See id. ¶¶ 9, 12, 14). Plaintiff claims he was fired due to his disability.*fn1

On September 8, 1999, plaintiff filed a Complaint in Bergen County Superior Court. The Complaint alleged, inter alia) disability discrimination in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD") and a breach of a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") which governed the parties' employment relationship.

Thereafter, on November 17, 1999, defendant removed the Complaint to this Court. Defendant claimed, in the Notice of Removal, that Count Four — breach of the CBA — served as a basis for federal jurisdiction. Specifically, defendant stated that Count Four required an interpretation of the CBA and, therefore, was completely preempted by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA").

Plaintiff now moves to amend his Complaint. In his Amended Complaint, plaintiff seeks to remove Count Four and any reference to the terms of the CBA. The proposed, multi-count, Amended Complaint alleges (1) a violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD") and (2) retaliation against plaintiff for filing his workers' compensation claim.*fn2 Pursuant to this amendment, plaintiff contends that the Amended Complaint contains no basis for federal jurisdiction. Thus, plaintiff seeks remand to the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division: Bergen County.

Defendant disagrees. Defendant argues that all counts of the Amended Complaint require the interpretation of the CBA and are, therefore, preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act. Defendant, thus, concludes that the Amended Complaint is properly within the subject matter jurisdiction of this Court.*fn3 Assuming the Court has jurisdiction, defendant argues that the Court should dismiss the Complaint because plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies under the CBA.

DISCUSSION

I. Amendment as of Right

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) permits a plaintiff to amend his complaint "once as a matter of course at any time before a responsive pleading is served." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). In the context of this case, a "responsive pleading" is an answer to the complaint. See 6 Charles A. Wright, Arthur R. Miller, Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure, ¶ 1475 (2d ed. 1990).

Here, defendant has not filed its answer. Therefore, the Court must permit ...


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