United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
H. RODRIGEZ U.S.D.J.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' motion for
leave to file a Second Amended Complaint. Essentially,
Plaintiffs allege that they purchased a machine from
Defendants for the intended use of shredding and sorting
automobile parts. Shortly after installation of the custom
machine, it malfunctioned and a fire ensued, disabling the
machine and resulting in loss of profitability, revenue, and
filed the original Complaint against Defendants American
Pulverizer Company (“Pulverizer”), Cooper &
Associates LLC (“Cooper”), Eriez Manufacturing
Company (“Eriez”), Hustler Conveyor Company
(“Hustler”), and Pinnacle Engineering, Inc.
(“Pinnacle”) on February 9, 2016. On March 27,
2017, after hearing oral argument, the Court granted
Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' claim of
fraudulent concealment, which asserted that Defendants
“intentionally, willfully, and maliciously”
concealed material defects from Plaintiffs. Further, the
Court denied Plaintiffs discovery to ferret out the facts of
this claim. The Court also dismissed any claim for punitive
damages with prejudice and granted leave to file an Amended
Complaint, which Plaintiffs did on April 13, 2017. Plaintiffs
were represented by predecessor counsel from the initiation
of this action through the filing of Plaintiffs' Amended
Complaint, and until July 19, 2017. On December 7, 2017,
Plaintiffs' new counsel sought leave to file a Second
Amended Complaint “to both clarify the scope of their
existing pleading, and to add claims against Defendants based
upon information learned during discovery.” (Pl. Br.,
Count One (Products Liability) of the First Amended Complaint
has been reorganized into Counts I, II, and III of the
proposed Second Amended Complaint to clarify Plaintiffs'
intention to pursue strict product liability claims against
the named Defendants for each of three similar causes of
action, including manufacturing defect, design defect, and
failure to warn. Count Two (Negligence) of the First Amended
Complaint has been divided into two negligence counts in the
Second Amended Complaint (Counts IV and V) to differentiate
more clearly between the nature of the negligence claims
alleged against each of the Defendants. Similarly, Count
Three (Breach of Contract) in the First Amended Complaint has
been reorganized into Counts VIII, IX, and X in the Second
Amended Complaint to clarify that Plaintiffs intend to pursue
claims for breach of express contracts, implied-in fact
contracts, and implied-in-law contracts [as alternative
claims], respectively. In each of these reorganized Counts,
Plaintiffs have also amended their pleadings to reflect their
current understanding of the relevant facts as developed
during the course of discovery.
(Id. p. 4-5.)
Rule of Civil Procedure 15 provides that leave to amend shall
be freely given when justice so requires. Fed.R.Civ.P.
15(a)(2). Thus, leave should generally be granted absent
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
amendment. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).
The decision as to whether leave to amend a complaint should
be granted “is a matter committed to the sound
discretion of the district court.” Arab African
Int'l Bank v. Epstein, 10 F.3d 168, 174 (3d Cir.
determining whether a proposed amendment would be futile, the
Court applies the same standard of legal sufficiency that
applies to a motion to dismiss filed under Rule 12(b)(6).
Travelers Indemnity Co. v. Dammann & Co., 594
F.3d 238, 243 (3d Cir. 2010). When deciding a 12(b)(6) motion
to dismiss, “courts 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.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d
203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Phillips v. Cnty. of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008));
discussing prejudice in the context of Rule 15, the Third
Circuit stated that “the non-moving party must do more
than merely claim prejudice; ‘it must show that it was
unfairly disadvantaged or deprived of the opportunity to
present facts or evidence . . . .'” Bechtel v.
Robinson, 886 F.2d 644, 652 (3d Cir. 1989).
“Prejudice under Rule 15 means undue difficulty in
prosecuting [or defending] a lawsuit as a result of a change
of tactics or theories on the part of the party.” W
S Int'l, LLC v. M. Simon Zook, Co., 566 Fed.Appx.
192, 200 (3d Cir. 2014) (citing Lundy v. Adamar of New
Jersey, Inc., 34 F.3d 1173, 1189 n.8 (3d Cir. 1994)).
Plaintiffs have attempted to amend their products liability
claims to pursue strict product liability claims against
Defendants under “the Missouri product liability
statutes, Mo. Ann. Stat. § 537.760, or the strict
product liability laws of any other applicable
jurisdiction.” This would prejudice the Defendants
because it requires re-opening written discovery to defend
the suit as a result of a change in theory presented by
Missouri, or other, law, as well as under the umbrella of
language that Defendants “knew or should have
known” about product defects.
addition, Plaintiffs seek to add four new Counts in their
Second Amended Complaint in general terms: Count VI (Gross
Negligence), Count VII (Recklessness/Willful Misconduct),
Count XIV (Violations of Consumer Protection Statutes), and
Count XV (Negligent Misrepresentation). However, the Court
has ruled that Plaintiffs' claim of fraudulent
concealment, which asserted that Defendants
“intentionally, willfully, and maliciously”
concealed material defects from Plaintiffs was dismissed
without an opportunity for “discovery to ferret out the
facts of this claim.” The Court also dismissed any
claim for punitive damages with prejudice, precluding any new
claims that are punitive in nature. The new claims outlined
here will not be allowed, as allowing them as amendments
would be futile.
and most troubling, Plaintiffs attempt to incorporate a
second fire into their basis for liability against
Defendants. The December 2012 fire at Plaintiffs'
facility has always been known to Plaintiffs; it cannot be
characterized as new information obtained through the course
vast majority of Plaintiffs' proposed edits are comprised
of unnecessary alterations to the language of the pleading
asserting details known to Plaintiffs at the time they filed
the original Complaint. Exercising its discretion, the Court
will not allow leave to file a Second Amended Complaint. The
Defendants will be prejudiced by the delay in seeking to
include the new information in the present case, especially
in light of the failure to do so in the previous amendment.
Further, it would be futile to allow Plaintiffs to attempt to
resuscitate the allegations of fraudulent or willful conduct
already ruled on by this Court.
these reasons, IT IS ORDERED this 7th day of March, 2019 that
Plaintiffs' motion for leave to file a Second ...