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Koch Materials Co. v. Shore Slurry Seal

July 14, 2003

KOCH MATERIALS COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SHORE SLURRY SEAL, INC., AND ASPHALT PAVING SYSTEMS, INC., DEFENDANTS.
SHORE SLURRY SEAL, INC., COUNTERCLAIM PLAINTIFF,
v.
KOCH MATERIALS COMPANY, COUNTERCLAIM DEFENDANT.



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

FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Plaintiff and Counterclaim Defendant, Koch Materials Company ("Koch"), appeals the Order of Magistrate Judge Joel B. Rosen dated December 6, 2002, which granted the motion to amend the counterclaim of Defendant and Counterclaim Plaintiff, Shore Slurry Seal, Inc. ("Shore Slurry"). For the reasons set forth below, I conclude that Judge Rosen's decision was not clearly erroneous or contrary to law. Accordingly, Judge Rosen's December 6, 2002 Order shall be affirmed.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The detailed factual background in the saga that this case has become has already been set forth in the previous Opinions of this Court, see, e.g., Koch Materials Co. v. Shore Slurry Seal, Inc., 205 F. Supp. 2d 324 (D.N.J. 2002) and 209 F. Supp. 2d 418 (D.N.J. 2002), and shall not be repeated here except where necessary to resolve the pending appeal of Judge Rosen's December 6, 2002 Order.

In my June 12, 2002 Opinion, I granted Koch's motion for partial summary judgment and found, inter alia, that Shore Slurry repudiated its Exclusive Supply and Sublicense Agreement with Koch by failing to provide Koch with adequate assurances that Shore Slurry would perform on the parties' requirements contracts. See Koch, 205 F. Supp. 2d at 332-33. Arguing that Koch itself breached their contract before the time of repudiation, Shore Slurry subsequently sought reconsideration of the June 12, 2002 decision. See Koch, 209 F. Supp. 2d at 420. Shore Slurry's motion for reconsideration was denied, id. at 421, because Shore Slurry never argued Koch's alleged breach in opposition to Koch's motion for summary judgment, id. at 420.

In an Order dated December 6, 2002, Judge Rosen granted Shore Slurry's motion to amend its counterclaim *fn1 to include:

a claim for breach of the October, 2000 Settlement Agreement and Mutual Release, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, N.J.S.A. § 56:8-19, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, as to both the February 18, 1998 Exclusive Supply Agreement and related agreements, and the October, 2000 Settlement Agreement and Mutual Release, and a violation of Section 43(b) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(b). Additionally, . . . a claim for punitive damages, because of the evidence of [egregious] and wanton conduct of the plaintiff, uncovered in discovery taken to date.

See Order, Koch Materials Co. v. Shore Slurry Seal, Inc., Civ. A. No. 01-2059 (D.N.J. Dec. 6, 2002). In doing so, Judge Rosen explicitly rejected Koch's arguments that permitting the amendment would cause undue prejudice and delay, and that Shore Slurry was aware of the facts associated with the application for at least two-and-a-half years. Id. The December 6, 2002 Order, however, did not reference Judge Rosen's previous Order of May 10, 2002, in which he granted Defendant Asphalt Paving Systems, Inc.'s ("Asphalt Paving") motion to file an amended answer and counterclaim, but also ordered, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 16, that no further amendments to the pleadings would be permitted. See Order, Koch Materials Co. v. Shore Slurry Seal, Inc., Civ. A. No. 01-2059 (D.N.J. May 10, 2002).

As the parties are completely diverse, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs, I have jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Additionally, I may consider a party's objections to the orders of the Magistrate Judge pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 72 and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b).

II. THE LEGAL STANDARD GOVERNING APPEALS OF THE DECISIONS OF MAGISTRATE JUDGES

The Federal Magistrates Act of 1968 provides that a District Court may reverse a Magistrate Judge's pre-trial determination only if it is "clearly erroneous or contrary to law." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) (West 2003); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a); Local Civ. R. 72.1(c)(1); see also Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., 785 F.2d 1108, 1113 (3d Cir. 1986); Cooper Hosp./Univ. Med. Ctr. v. Sullivan, 183 F.R.D. 119, 127 (D.N.J. 1998) (Orlofsky, J.).

A finding is clearly erroneous only "when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." Lo Bosco v. Kure Eng'g Ltd., 891 F. Supp. 1035, 1037 (D.N.J. 1995) (quoting United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948)); see also Bobian v. CSA Czech Airlines, 222 F. Supp. 2d 598, 601 (D.N.J. 2002); Cooper Hosp., 183 F.R.D. at 127. In reviewing a Magistrate Judge's factual determinations, however, a District Court may not consider any evidence which was not presented to the Magistrate Judge. See Haines v. Liggett Group, Inc., 975 F.2d 81, 92-93 (3d Cir. 1992); Cooper Hosp., 183 F.R.D. at 127.

A ruling is contrary to law if the Magistrate Judge has misinterpreted or misapplied applicable law. See ...


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