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Lentz v. Graco Inc.

August 13, 2007

EILEEN LENTZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GRACO INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Tonianne J. Bongiovanni United States Magistrate Judge

OPINION

Currently before the Court is an expansive Motion by Plaintiff, Eileen Lentz ("Plaintiff") filed as a Motion to Amend, but containing a plethora of discovery issues ("Moving Brief"). See Docket Entry No. 19. Defendants Gusmer Corp., et al. ("Defendants") filed a brief in opposition to Plaintiff's numerous requests for relief ("Opposition Brief"). See Docket Entry No. 21. Plaintiff thereafter filed a brief in further support of her motion ("Reply Brief"). See Docket Entry No. 26. The Court considered the Motions without oral argument pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 78. For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's Motions are GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. Background

Plaintiff instituted this action in June 2005 claiming discrimination due to a perceived disability related to a lumbar spine injury. Opposition Brief at 3. Plaintiff was employed by Defendants for 25 years advancing to the position of Senior Engineering Technician. Amended Complaint at ¶ 11 [Docket Entry No. 11] (hereinafter "Compl."). Plaintiff asserts that during her time with Defendants she was "always relegated to a support or assistant position under Electrical Engineering Management." Id. at ¶ 13. In April 1999, Plaintiff suffered a lumbar spine injury as a result of a slip and fall accident in the parking lot of Defendants property in Lakewood, New Jersey. Opposition Brief at 3. Plaintiff asserts that this injury rendered her disabled. See generally Compl. Plaintiff further asserts that her dedicated performance at work was always appreciated by Defendants until after her accident. Id. at ¶ 18. Plaintiff further alleges that following the accident Defendants showed its "true colors" by contesting her workers compensation claim and "not granting reasonable accommodation" to her. Id. at ¶¶ 18-19.

Plaintiff alleges specific conduct by Defendants and Defendants' employees that were discriminatory due to her disability. Eventually Plaintiff filed a 3 count complaint, alleging a hostile work environment, pretext and retaliation for wrongful termination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Id. at ¶¶ 11-103.

The parties appeared for an Initial Rule 16 Conference on October 19, 2005, and a Scheduling Order was issued on October 24, 2005. See Docket Entry No. 8. The parties also exchanged document discovery and completed some depositions. Plaintiff now seeks to 1) amend her complaint to include a cause of action of gender based wage discrimination pursuant to the NJLAD and Equal Protection Act, 2) preclude Defendants from obtaining certain documents from Plaintiff's medical chart in Dr. Phair's office, 3) preclude Defendants from obtaining information from the files of Robert Cretella, Esq., Plaintiff's workers compensation attorney, 4) compel Defendants to produce Plaintiff's schematic drawings from her employment with Defendants, 5) compel Defendants to produce certain records of Michael Bellantoni ("Bellantoni"), and 6) to compel the deposition of Laura Heidel at a convenient location. See generally Moving Brief.

II. Analysis

A. Motion to Amend

1. Standard of Review

Plaintiff seeks leave to file an Amended Complaint to include a cause of action for gender based wage discrimination. Defendants oppose Plaintiff's Motion, asserting that Plaintiff's motion should be denied because the proposed amendment is futile. It is well established that leave to amend the pleadings is generally given freely. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182(1962). Notwithstanding this liberal standard, courts will deny a motion to amend on grounds of dilatoriness or undue delay, prejudice, bad faith or futility. See Alvin v. Suzuki, 227 F.3d 107, 121 (3d Cir. 2000); Hill v. City of Scranton, 411 F.3d 118, 134 (3d Cir. 2005). If there is an absence of undue delay, bad faith, prejudice or futility, a motion for leave to amend a pleading should be liberally granted. Long v. Wilson, 393 F.3d 390, 400 (3d Cir. 2004). In reviewing a motion to amend, the court looks only at the pleadings. Pharm. Sales & Consulting Corp. v. J.W.S. Delavau, Co., Inc., 106 F. Supp. 2d 761, 765 (D.N.J. 2000). The Court finds that there are no allegations of undue delay, bad faith or prejudice, and therefore Plaintiff's Motion shall not be denied on these grounds.

Defendants assert that Plaintiff's Motion should be denied as futile because it is time barred and Plaintiff fails to state a cause of action upon which relief can be granted. The standard of review for futility requires the court to consider whether the complaint, as amended, would survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state claim. Alvin v. Suzuki, 227 F.3d at 121. Simply stated, futility of amendment requires that the pleading as amended does not state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In Re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1434 (3d Cir. 1997). The court must make a determination of "whether the amendment is sufficiently well-grounded in fact or law to demonstrate that it is not a frivolous pursuit." Phillips v. Borough of Keyport, 179 F.R.D. 140, 144 (D.N.J. 1998). However, the "court may properly deny leave to amend where the amendment would not withstand a motion to dismiss." Massarsky v. General Motors Corp., 706 F.2d 111, 125 (3d Cir. 1983), cert. denied 464 U.S. 937 (1983). To make this determination, the court should examine whether each claim would survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6).

A motion to dismiss pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6) should be granted where, accepting the well-pleaded allegations in the complaint, the plaintiff is not entitled to relief. Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996). Accordingly, the "complaint must set forth sufficient information to suggest that there is some recognized legal theory upon which relief may be granted." Eli Lilly v. Roussel Corp., 23 F. Supp. 2d 460, 475 (D.N.J. 1998)(internal citation omitted). Moreover, the court must view all allegations in the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Rocks v. City of Phila., 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989). In other words, the court must accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1280, 1384-85 (3d Cir. 1994). Moreover, a case should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it clearly appears that no relief can be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the plaintiff's allegations. Hishon v. King & Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984).

2. Futility - Statute of Limitations

It is well established that when federal court jurisdiction is based upon diversity of citizenship, the court must apply the substantive law of the state where it sits. Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938). It is also well settled that the applicable statute of limitations period is a substantive issue of law. Guaranty Trust Co. v. York, 326 ...


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