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Cronce v. Tristate Erosion Control Co., Inc.

United States District Court, District of New Jersey

November 3, 2014

JAMES CRONCE, Plaintiff,
v.
TRISTATE EROSION CONTROL COMPANY INC., et al, Defendants

For Plaintiff: Keith J. Gentes, Esq., LIEBLING MALAMUT LLC, Cherry Hill, NJ.

For Defendant: Kevin M. McKeon, Esq., MARSHALL DENNEY WARNER COLEMAN & GOGGIN, Cherry Hill, NJ.

OPINION

HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief United States District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

In this products liability action, Defendant Mack Trucks, Inc. (hereinafter, " Defendant") moves to dismiss Plaintiff James Cronce's (hereinafter, " Plaintiff") Complaint on statute of limitations grounds. [Docket Item 3.] In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that a faulty step collapsed when he attempted to exit his truck. Plaintiff therefore asserts product defect and failure to warn claims against Defendant, the truck's manufacturer. Plaintiff also names as a defendant " for discovery purposes only[, ]" his employer, Tristate Erosion Control Co., Inc. (hereinafter, " Tristate").

For the reasons set forth below, the Court will convert Defendant's Rule 12(b)(6) motion to a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment, and the parties will have fourteen (14) days to adduce any additional evidence concerning the statute of limitations issue.

II. BACKGROUND

For purposes of the pending motion, the Court accepts Plaintiff's allegations as true and draws the facts from the Complaint and its exhibits. Plaintiff drove a " Mack R Series heavy-duty" truck in connection with his employment as a truck driver for Tristate. (Compl. at ¶ ¶ 2, 4.) On April 13, 2012, Plaintiff attempted to exit his truck when a " faulty" step broke, causing him to fall to the ground. ( Id. at ¶ 4.)

Plaintiff initiated a products liability action in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Camden County. Defendant thereafter removed this action, and now moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint with prejudice, asserting that Plaintiff filed the initial Complaint four (4) days after the expiration of the applicable limitations period. (Def.'s Br. at 1-2.) In so asserting, Defendant relies upon two exhibits appended to its motion: one being a copy of Plaintiff's Complaint marked " Filed" by the Superior Court on April 17, 2014 (Ex. A); the other being a screenshot of the New Jersey Courts Public Access website, which identifies the filing date for Plaintiff's Complaint as April 17, 2014. (Ex. B.)

Plaintiff asserts in opposition that he submitted a complaint to the Superior Court on April 11, 2014, but inadvertently omitted the requisite case information statement. (Pl.'s Br. at 1). Notwithstanding the initial defect, Plaintiff argues that application of a state court rule enabled him to preserve his original submission date by curing the defect within ten (10) days of initial submission. ( Id. at 5, 6). Consequently, though initially " filed" on April 17, 2014, Plaintiff asserts that the curative effect of the state court rule rendered his Complaint timely filed on April 11, 2014. ( Id.) In support of this position, Plaintiff attaches several exhibits, namely, a copy of the Complaint stamped " Received" by the state court on April 11, 2014 (Ex. A); a letter from New Jersey Civil Case Management directing Plaintiff to submit a completed case information statement (Ex. B); a case information statement stamped " Filed" by the Superior Court on April 17, 2014 (Ex. C); and a screenshot of the New Jersey Courts Public Access website, which identifies the filing date for Plaintiff's Complaint as April 11, 2014. (Ex. D.)

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must " 'accept all factual allegations as true, construe the Complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the Complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.'" Fleisher v. Standard Ins. Co., 679 F.3d 116, 120 (3d Cir. 2012) (citations omitted).

IV. DISCUSSION

Defendant seeks dismissal solely on the grounds that the expiration of the applicable limitations period precludes Plaintiff's claims. Though certain statute of limitations questions can be resolved at the Rule 12(b)(6) stage, the statute of limitations dispute in this instance squarely requires consideration of facts extraneous to the pleadings and, therefore, the ...


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