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Lasermaster International Inc. v. The Netherlands Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 28, 2018

LASERMASTER INTERNATIONAL INC., Plaintiff,
v.
THE NETHERLANDS INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          HONORABLE JAMES B. CLARK, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on a motion by Defendant the Netherlands Insurance Company (“Defendant” or the “Netherlands”) for leave to file an Amended Answer asserting three additional separate defenses [ECF No. 52-1]. Plaintiff Lasermaster International Inc. (“Plaintiff” or “Lasermaster”) opposes Defendant's motion [ECF No. 58-1]. The Court fully reviewed the parties' written submissions and considers Defendant's motion without oral argument pursuant to L. Civ. R. 78.1(b). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion to Amend is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background and Procedural History

          Because the Court's previous Opinion and Order in this matter lays forth the full background and procedural history of this case, the Court recites only the relevant facts pertaining to the present motion.[1] On October 20, 2015, Lasermaster filed its Complaint in this matter alleging, inter alia, that Defendant had constructively denied its insurance claim. See Compl. ¶ 25. In its Complaint, Lasermaster alleges breach of contract for business income loss (Count I), and breach of contract for business personal property (Count II). See generally Compl. After multiple extensions [ECF Nos. 5, 11], Defendant filed its answer on December 18, 2015. ECF No. 13. The Court then convened a case management conference on February 25, 2016.

         In its original Pretrial Scheduling Order (“Scheduling Order”), the Court ordered that “[a]ny motion to amend the pleadings must be filed [no] later than 5/13/2016.” ECF No. 16 ¶ 15 (emphasis in original). On four occasions, at the parties' request, the Court amended deadlines in the Pretrial Scheduling Order See ECF Nos. 26, 28, 30, 34. While certain dates were amended based on the Court's Order, the Court did not modify the deadline for filing motions to amend pleadings and no request for such a modification was ever submitted by the parties.

         On April 20, 2018, the Court filed its Opinion and Order denying Plaintiff's motion to amend its Complaint for failure to demonstrate “good cause.” See ECF No. 50. Plaintiff's appealed the Order which is currently pending before the Honorable Claire C. Cecchi. ECF No. 55. On April 27, 2018, almost two years after the deadline to amend, Defendant filed the instant motion to amend its pleading. ECF No. 52. Plaintiff filed its response to the instant motion, [ECF No. 58-1], and Defendant filed its reply [ECF No. 61].

         A. The Parties' Arguments

         Defendant seeks leave to file an Amended Answer pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) and 16(b) to assert additional policy-based separate defenses. ECF No. 52-1. Defendant claims there is good cause to amend its pleading beyond the Court's deadline because there have been significant discovery developments that have refined Defendant's understanding of Plaintiff's case. Id. at 9. To this point, Defendant contends that Plaintiff's written discovery and initial document production were inadequate. Id. at 10-11. Plaintiff supplemented its document production on November 3, 2017, and again on April 16, 2018. Id. at 11-12. According to Defendant, this additional discovery has “refined” its understanding of Plaintiff's claims.

         Plaintiff responds with three points. First, Plaintiff argues that Defendant cannot establish good cause because Defendant failed to exercise reasonable diligence and act upon knowledge within its possession at an earlier time. ECF No. 58-1 at 10. Second, Plaintiff argues that it will be prejudiced because “Plaintiff would be forced to question witnesses on memories that are six to seven years out of date . . ..” Id. at 12. Finally, Plaintiff argues that the proposed amendment is futile because it fails as a matter of law. Id. at 15.

         In its reply, Defendant explains that third-party Muir Lake's and Plaintiff's supplemental productions provide “crucial context on the nature of the loss of [Plaintiff's] business personal property claim . . ..” ECF No. 61 at 6. Defendant contends that “without this additional information, the items which comprise Lasermaster's business personal property claim have been difficult to understand.” Id. Defendant further asserts that it has been diligent in seeking this additional information. As such, Defendant argues that the Court should find that good cause exists to grant its amendments.

         II. DISCUSSION

         “The threshold issue in resolving a motion to amend is the determination of whether the motion is governed by Rule 15 or Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” Karlo v. Pittsburgh Glass Works, LLC, 2011 WL 5170445, at *2 (W.D.Pa. Oct. 31, 2011). Rule 15 states, in pertinent part, “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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). “Rule 16, on the other hand, requires a party to demonstrate ‘good cause' prior to the Court amending its scheduling order.” Karlo, 2011 WL 5170445, at *2 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4)). In situations such as the present, where a party seeks to amend “after the deadline for doing so set by the Court, the movant must satisfy the [good cause standard] of Rule 16 before the Court will turn to Rule 15.” Id. at *2; see also Dimensional Commc'n, Inc. v. OZ Optics, Ltd., 148 Fed.Appx. 82, 85 (3d Cir. 2005) (instructing that the Third Circuit has adopted a good cause standard when determining the propriety of a motion to amend after the deadline has elapsed).

         A. ...


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