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Van De Wiele v. ACME Supermarkets

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

July 24, 2015

DAWN VAN DE WIELE, Plaintiff,
v.
ACME SUPERMARKETS, et al., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES B. CLARK, III, Magistrate Judge.

This matter has been opened to the Court upon Plaintiff Dawn Van De Wiele's ("Plaintiff") motion for leave to file an amended complaint to add a claim for spoliation or fraudulent concealment of evidence. [Docket Entry No. 19.] Defendant Acme Supermarkets ("Defendant") opposes Plaintiff's motion. [Docket Entry No. 21.] The Court has fully reviewed and considered all arguments made in support of, and in opposition to, Plaintiff's motion. The Court considers Plaintiff's motion without oral argument pursuant to L.Civ.R. 78.1(b). For the reasons set forth more fully below, Plaintiff's Motion to Amend is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff claims that, on July 8, 2012, she tripped and injured her right foot while shopping at the Acme Supermarket in Middlesex Borough, New Jersey. See generally Compl.; Docket Entry No. 1. Approximately one year later, Plaintiff initiated the instant action in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Middlesex County. Defendant removed the matter to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction on October 4, 2013, and thereafter filed its answer on October 23, 2013. The parties appeared before the Honorable Mark Falk, U.S.M.J on December 4, 2013 for an initial scheduling conference pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P 16. A Pretrial Scheduling Order was issued and the parties commenced discovery. During discovery, Plaintiff requested production of any relevant photos or videos depicting the incident and Defendant responded that it was not currently in possession of any such items. See generally Plaintiff's Brief in Support; Docket Entry No. 19-1. However, during the deposition of Rebecca Rodgers, the assistant Store Manager on duty when Plaintiff reported the incident, it was revealed that a potentially relevant surveillance video previously existed, but had been taped over. Id. Plaintiff now seeks to amend the complaint and add a cause of action against Defendant for intentional spoliation of evidence.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1), "[a] party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within: (A) 21 days after serving it; or (B) if the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is required, 21 days after service of a responsive pleading or 21 days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f), whichever is earlier." Otherwise, pursuant to Rule 15(a)(2) "a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave. The Court should freely give leave when justice so requires." See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Alvin v. Suzuki, 227 F.3d 107, 121 (3d Cir. 2000).

Nevertheless, the Court may deny a motion to amend where there is "undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, [or] futility of the amendment." Id. However, where 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). "Futility' means that the complaint, as amended, would fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted." In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1434 (3d Cir. 1997). To evaluate futility, the District Court uses "the same standard of legal sufficiency" as applied for a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 115 (3d Cir. 2000).

The Supreme Court refined the standard for summary dismissal of a complaint that fails to state a claim in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009). The Court examined Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED.R.CIV.P. 8(a)(2).[1] Citing its opinion in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), for the proposition that "[a] pleading that offers labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do, " Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555), the Supreme Court identified two working principles underlying the failure to state a claim standard.

First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.... Rule 8... does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions. Second, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not "show[n]" - "that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-1950 (citations omitted). The Court further explained that:

a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement of relief.

Id. at 1950.

Thus, to prevent a summary dismissal, a civil complaint must allege "sufficient factual matter" to show that the claim is facially plausible. Id. at 1949. This then "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. The Supreme Court's ruling in Iqbal emphasizes that a ...


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