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Fireman's Fund Insurance Co v. 360 Steel Erector's, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 26, 2018



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

         Plaintiff Fireman's Fund Insurance Company brings this action against 360 Steel Erectors, Inc. (“360 Steel”), Monmouth Equipment Sales Company, Inc. (“Monmouth”), BlueScope Buildings North America, Inc. (“BlueScope”) and an unincorporated division of BlueScope, Varco Pruden Buildings (“VP”), alleging negligence and breach of contract claims, in connection with Defendants' purported faulty construction of an airport hangar. This matter comes before the Court on Defendant BlueScope's motions to dismiss Defendants 360 Steel and Monmouth's (collectively “Co-Defendants”) crossclaims for contribution and indemnification, and on Co-Defendants' motions to amend their pleadings. There was no oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, BlueScope's motions to dismiss are GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. Co-Defendants' motions to amend are also GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is an insurance company incorporated in Illinois and is the subrogee of S.L. Management Group, LLC (“SL”) and 6 Airport Road, LLC (“the insureds”). Second Am. Compl. (“2AC”) ¶ 1, ECF No. 59. 360 Steel and Monmouth are construction businesses incorporated in New Jersey. Id. ¶¶ 2-3. BlueScope is a Missouri corporation that produces unassembled, pre-engineered building components. Id. ¶ 4. VP is an unincorporated subdivision of BlueScope that furnished building components to SL. See BlueScope's Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss 360 Steel's Crossclaim (“BlueScope's 360 Mem.”) 1 n.1, ECF No. 69-1.

         This matter arises out of the collapse of an airport hangar in Morristown, New Jersey. In December 2013, Plaintiff's insureds contracted with Monmouth to construct an airport hangar at 6 Airport Road. 2AC ¶ 9. Monmouth, in turn, subcontracted with 360 Steel to perform the steel erection of the hangar. Id. ¶ 10. The insureds purchased pre-engineered metal components from BlueScope for the construction of the hangar. See Op. 2, ECF No. 86. On January 16, 2015, the hangar's steel framework collapsed during construction, causing substantial damage, including severe injuries to one worker. See id.; 2AC ¶ 12. Plaintiff paid its insureds $1, 379, 511.95 in claims, representing the insureds' damages caused by the collapse. 2AC ¶ 15.

         Plaintiff filed suit against 360 Steel and Monmouth, alleging negligence against both in their participation of the hangar's faulty construction. Id. ¶¶ 17-23. Plaintiff also alleged a breach of contract claim against BlueScope for failing to pay its share of costs incurred by the parties in preserving evidence of the collapse. Id. ¶¶ 24-30. In its answer, Monmouth filed crossclaims against 360 Steel and BlueScope for contribution and common law indemnification. See Monmouth's Cross-Claims 9-10, ECF No. 60. 360 Steel filed similar crossclaims against Monmouth and BlueScope, with an additional claim for contractual indemnification. See 360 Steel's Cross-Claims ¶¶ 16-23, ECF No. 63.

         BlueScope now moves to dismiss all of Co-Defendants' crossclaims, arguing that their common law indemnification claims fail because their pleadings do not allege a special legal relationship between BlueScope and either 360 Steel or Monmouth. See BlueScope's 360 Mem. 10-12; BlueScope's Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss Monmouth's Crossclaims (“BlueScope's Mon. Mem.”) 6-9, ECF No. 70-1. BlueScope argues that 360 Steel's contractual indemnification claim fails because it does not allege the existence of a contract between it and BlueScope. See BlueScope's 360 Mem. at 7-10. BlueScope further argues that Co-Defendants' crossclaims for contribution fail because they do not allege facts sufficient to establish how BlueScope is jointly liable with Co-Defendants for Plaintiff's damages. See BlueScope's 360 Mem. at 12-15; BlueScope's Mon. Mem. at 9-11.

         Both Co-Defendants respond by submitting that discovery undertaken by the parties in a related state-court personal injury case, in which a 360 Steel employee filed suit for injuries suffered from the hangar's collapse, establishes BlueScope's liability. See Monmouth's Mem. of Law in Opp'n to BlueScope's Mot. to Dismiss (“Mon. Opp'n”) 2- 6, ECF No. 74-1; Br. in Supp. of 360 Steel's Opp'n to BlueScope's Mot. to Dismiss (“360 Opp'n”) 7-13, ECF No. 77-2.[1] Specifically, deposition testimony from the personal injury case suggests that the hangar components produced by BlueScope potentially contained design defects. See Mon. Opp'n at 1-2, 6; 360 Opp'n at 6-7. Both Co-Defendants submit that their crossclaims plead sufficient facts to survive BlueScope's motion to dismiss; however, both also seek to amend their pleadings with more facts revealed during discovery in the personal injury case. See Mon. Opp'n at 6-8; 360 Opp'n at 14-17. Monmouth attached to its moving papers a proposed amended answer and crossclaim, specifically alleging design defects in BlueScope's components. See Am. Answer to Second Am. Compl. & Cross-Claims (“Mon.'s Proposed Am.”) 11-12, ¶¶ 13-16, ECF No. 74-6. 360 Steel seeks leave from the Court to file an amended pleading, but did not include a proposed amendment with its filing. See 360 Opp'n at 17.

         In its reply briefs, BlueScope opposes Co-Defendants' motions to amend, arguing that any such amendments would be futile. See BlueScope's Reply in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss 360 Steel's Crossclaim (“BlueScope's 360 Reply”) 19-22, ECF No. 80; BlueScope's Reply in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss Monmouth's Crossclaim (“BlueScope's Mon. Reply”) 12-13, ECF No. 81. BlueScope also argues that the Court should not consider certain factual allegations advanced by Co-Defendants for the first time in their opposition briefs because they are extraneous to their pleadings. See BlueScope's 360 Reply at 1-2; BlueScope's Mon. Reply at 1-4.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, if the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The moving party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated. Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must take all allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501 (1975); Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. v. Mirage Resorts Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998).

         Although a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, the factual allegations must be sufficient to raise a plaintiff's right to relief above a speculative level, such that it is “plausible on its face.” See Id. at 570; see also Umland v. PLANCO Fin. Serv., Inc., 542 F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008). A claim has “facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). While “[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement' . . . it asks for more than a sheer possibility.” Id.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) provides, “[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.” Local Civil Rule 7.1(f) for the District of New Jersey provides, “Upon filing a motion for leave to file an amended complaint or answer . . ., the moving party shall attach to the motion a copy of the proposed pleading or amendments and retain the original until the Court has ruled. If leave to file is granted, the moving party shall file the original forthwith.” The Third Circuit applies a “liberal amendment philosophy.” See Adams v. Gould, Inc., 739 F.2d 858, 864 (3d Cir. 1984). District courts considers the following factors: (1) undue delay on the part of the party seeking to amend; (2) bad faith or dilatory motive behind the amendment; (3) repeated failure to cure deficiencies through multiple prior amendments; (4) undue prejudice on the opposing party; and (5) futility of the amendment. See Great W. Mining & Mineral Co. v. Fox Rothschild LLP, 615 F.3d 159, 174 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Forman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)).

         III. ...

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