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Ford Motor Company, et al v. Edgewood Properties

April 4, 2011

FORD MOTOR COMPANY, ET AL.,
PLAINTIFFS/COUNTERCLAIM DEFENDANTS,
v.
EDGEWOOD PROPERTIES, INC., DEFENDANT/COUNTERCLAIMANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. William J. Martini

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.:

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant-Counterclaimant/Third-Party Plaintiff Edgewood Properties, Inc.'s ("Edgewood") (1) appeal of Magistrate Judge Salas' September 28, 2010 Letter Order ("September 28 Letter Order," Docket Entry No. 361) denying Edgewood's motion for leave to file an amended complaint asserting claims against an additional party, Alberici Constructors, Inc. ("ACI"); and (2) appeal of Magistrate Judge Salas' December 10, 2010 Opinion and Order ("December 10 Opinion and Order," Docket Entry Nos.395, 396) granting Defendant Golder Associates, Inc.'s ("Golder") motion for reconsideration of the September 28, 2010 Letter Order granting Edgewood's motion to amend its pleading to add a claim for violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act ("NJCFA") against Golder. There was no oral argument. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs' appeals are both DENIED, and both (1) Judge Salas' September 28, 2010 Letter Order denying Edgewood's motion for leave to file an amended complaint asserting claims against ACI, and (2) Judge Salas' December 10, 2010 Order granting Defendant Golder's motion for reconsideration, are AFFIRMED.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This case arises out of the distribution of contaminated concrete from the demolition of a Ford Motor Company ("Ford") assembly plant in Edison, New Jersey in 2004. Ford contracted with MIG/Alberici, LLC ("MIG/Alberici") to conduct the demolition and properly dispose of the concrete. Ford then entered into an agreement with Edgewood Properties, Inc. ("Edgewood"), whereby Ford agreed to provide 50,000 cubic yards of concrete to Edgewood in exchange for Edgewood hauling it off the site. Edgewood then used the concrete as backfill on seven commercial property sites that they were developing (the "Seven Properties"). The parties later determined that the concrete was contaminated. As such, Ford brought claims against Edgewood under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 9601 et seq. ("CERCLA"), and Section 58:10-23, 11f (a)(2) of the New Jersey Spill Act for contribution and indemnification for all costs as provided under the contract. Edgewood, in turn, asserted cross-claims, counterclaims and a third-party complaint against Ford and other involved parties, which include claims for breach of contract, contribution, negligent misrepresentation, and civil conspiracy.

On March 12, 2010, and again on June 14, 2010, Edgewood filed motions for leave to file its First Consolidated Amended Counterclaims, Cross-claims, Third-Party Complaint and First Amended Complaint (Docket Entry Nos. 299, 327.) Among other amendments requested, Edgewood moved to: (1) add a claim against Defendant Golder for violations of the NJCFA, claiming that recent fact discovery had indicated the presence of such a claim; and (2) add ACI as a third party defendant to the claims it has asserted against Third-Party Defendant MIG/Alberici, LLC ("MIG/Alberici").*fn1

Judge Salas heard oral argument on September 17, 2010 on the motion to amend, and on September 28, 2010 issued a Letter Order (1) granting Edgewood's motion to amend the complaint to include a claim against Defendant Golder for violations of the NJCFA, and

(2) denying Edgewood's motion to amend the complaint to add ACI as a third-party defendant.

On October 13, 2010, Edgewood filed the first of the instant appeals (the "First Appeal," Docket Entry No. 366), challenging Judge Salas' decision denying the addition of ACI. Also on October 13, 2010, Golder filed a motion for reconsideration (Docket Entry No. 367), challenging Judge Salas' decision regarding the NJCFA claim. On December 10, 2010, Judge Salas granted Golder's motion to reconsider and, reversing her earlier decision, denied Edgewood's motion to include a claim against Golder for violations of the NJCFA. Edgewood then filed the other instant appeal (the "Second Appeal," Docket Entry No. 402) on December 28, 2010, challenging Judge Salas' December 10 Opinion and Order.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review A district court may reverse a Magistrate Judge's order if it finds the ruling to be clearly erroneous or contrary to law.*fn2 See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a); L. Civ. R. 72.1(c)(1)(A). The district court is bound by the clearly erroneous rule as to findings of fact, while the phrase "contrary to law" indicates plenary review as to matters of law. Haines v. Liggett Group Inc., 975 F.2d 81, 91 (3d Cir. 1992). A finding is considered "clearly erroneous" 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." United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948). A decision is considered contrary to law if the magistrate judge has "misinterpreted or misapplied applicable law." Doe v. Hartford Life Acc. Ins. Co., 237 F.R.D. 545, 548 (D.N.J. 2006).

B. Rule 15(a) Standard for Amending a Pleading

Both appeals are of Judge Salas' denials of particular portions of Edgewood's motion to amend its pleading. Also in both appeals, Edgewood argues that Judge Salas' erred in finding that it failed to meet Rule 15's standard for amending a pleading. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), a party may amend its pleadings by leave of court, which should be freely given when justice so requires. Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). The decision to grant leave to amend rests within the discretion of the court, but should only be denied on the basis of: (1) undue delay; (2) bad faith or dilatory motive; (3) undue prejudice to the opposing party; or (4) futility of amendment. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). "Only when these factors suggest that amendment would be 'unjust' should the court deny leave." Arthur v. Maersk, Inc., 434 F.3d 196, 203 (3d Cir. ...


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