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Flaherty v. Guala Pack North America, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

August 29, 2018

CHRISTOPHER FLAHERTY, Plaintiff,
v.
GUALA PACK NORTH AMERICA, INC., et al., Defendants.

          OPINION [DKT. NOS. 31, 37]

          RENÉE MARIE BUMB, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court upon the filing of motions by Defendants GEA Process Engineering, Inc. (“GEA”), [Dkt. No. 31], and Clayton H. Landis, Inc. (“CHL” and collectively with GEA, the “Moving Defendants”), [Dkt. No. 37], seeking the dismissal of Plaintiff Christopher Flaherty's First Amended Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).[1] For the following reasons, the Moving Defendants' motions will be GRANTED, and Plaintiff's claims against the Moving Defendants will be DISMISSED.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, at the time he suffered the injuries that form the basis of this action, was a 52 year-old employee of Shelby Mechanical, Inc. (“Shelby”). (Am. Compl. ¶ 9, 31). Defendant LiDestri Foods, Inc. (“LiDestri”) is a food, drink, and spirit manufacturer. (Id. ¶ 2). Defendant GEA is an engineering company that, among other things, sells and installs aseptic filling systems for beverage manufacturers and bottlers. (Id. ¶ 3). In March 2015, LiDestri purchased an “ECOSpin 2 Aseptic Filler” (the “Filler”), an “extremely large and heavy” piece of equipment, from GEA. (Id. ¶¶ 2, 10).

         In the course of his employment for Shelby, Plaintiff was tasked with assisting with the installation of the Filler at LiDestri's food processing facility at 1550 John Tipton Boulevard, Pennsauken, New Jersey. (Id. ¶ 9). Defendant CHL was hired to provide a project manager to manage the day-to-day responsibilities for the installation of the Filler. (Id. ¶ 12). Two individuals, who Plaintiff only identifies as Luciano and Massimo, and who Plaintiff avers did not speak English, were also part of the crew working on the installation. (Id. ¶¶ 6, 14).[2]

         On August 25, 2015, at the direction of either GEA, CHL, or LiDestri, Plaintiff lifted the Filler, or a one-ton portion thereof, with a hydraulic jack. (Id. ¶ 19). At the same time, portions of the Filler were sitting on dollies on an uneven and sloped surface. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21). Plaintiff was ordered to stop raising the Filler and when he did so the Filler slipped off the dollies and landed on Plaintiff's leg, trapping Plaintiff under it and breaking his leg in multiple places. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 28). Plaintiff underwent an open reduction and hardware fixation surgery to repair the breaks to his leg and was hospitalized for a week. (Id. ¶ 29). He has been unable to work since this occurred. (Id. ¶ 31).

         Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a Complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, on August 24, 2017 (No. L-3318-17).[3] (Notice of Removal ¶ 1)[Dkt. No. 1]. In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleged negligence against LiDestri; Cheer Pack North America, LLC (“Cheer Pack”); Guala Pack North America, Inc. (“GPNA”); Gualapack S.p.A. (“Guala Pack”); Massimo Annaratone; and “Luciano” whose last name was unknown to Plaintiff (collectively, the “Original Defendants”). (Compl. ¶¶ 2-7, 37-83, Notice of Removal, Exhibit I). On October 23, 2017, LiDestri, Cheer Pack, GPNA, and Guala Pack removed this action to this Court on the basis of diversity of citizenship. (Notice of Removal ¶ 1, 4-6); 28 U.S.C. § 1332; 28 U.S.C.§ 1441; 28 U.S.C. § 1446.

         On December 8, 2017, Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint, asserting negligence claims against LiDestri; GEA; CHL; and John Doe Defendants 1-5. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that LiDestri, GEA, and CHL, who all played some role in the installation of the Filler, failed to follow or enforce proper safety precautions during the installation of the Filler. Plaintiff's addition of these new defendants-GEA and CHL-is the basis for the currently pending motions to dismiss.[4]

         On December 29, 2017, in accordance with this Court's Individual Rules and Procedures, GEA filed a letter seeking a pre-motion conference concerning its intention to file a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against it as untimely. [Dkt. No. 21]. On February 7, 2018, the Court held a telephonic conference during which counsel for Defendants GEA and CHL presented their arguments concerning the untimeliness of Plaintiff's claims against them. During this conference, the Court inquired as to whether some limited discovery may be necessary, and whether the questions anticipated to be presented in the Moving Defendants' motions may be better suited for summary judgment. Nevertheless, the Court instructed the Moving Defendants to file their motions to dismiss.

         GEA filed its motion on February 8, 2018. [Dkt. No. 31]. CHL filed its identical motion on February 14, 2018. [Dkt. No. 37].

         II. Legal Standards

         To withstand a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 662. “[A]n unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation” does not suffice to survive a motion to dismiss. Id. at 678. “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).

         In reviewing a plaintiff's allegations, the district court “must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations as well as all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, and construe those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352 n.1 (3d Cir. 2012). When undertaking this review, courts are limited to the allegations found in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and undisputedly authentic documents that form the basis of a claim. See In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997); Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).

         Generally, a statute of limitations defense may only be raised by way of motion under Rule 12(b)(6) where “the time alleged in the statement of a claim shows that the cause of action has not been brought within the statute of limitations.” Schmidt v. Skolas, 770 F.3d 241, 249 (3d Cir. 2014) (internal quotations omitted). If “the bar is not apparent on the face of the complaint, then it may not ...


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