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Foye v. Moran Foods Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 13, 2019

HELEN FOYE, et. al, Plaintiffs,
v.
MORAN FOODS, INC., et. al, Defendants.

          OPINION

          HON. JOSEPH H. RODRIGUEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Hon. Joseph H. Rodriguez Civil Action This matter comes before the Court on Motion of Defendant RAJ Maintenance, Inc. to dismiss Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint [Dkt. No. 50] pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12 (b)(6) on the ground that the statute of limitations precludes liability. The Court has considered the written submissions of the parties without oral argument pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78 (b). For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion is denied.

         Background and Procedural History

         Plaintiff Helen Foye was injured on May 10, 2014 when a shopping cart malfunctioned during her visit to Defendant Moran Foods' grocery store known as Save-A-Lot. Foye filed a Complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey on May 10, 2016 against defendants Moran Foods, Inc. d/b/a/ Save-A-Lot and/or ABC Corporation (1-100) (a fictitious name for a presently unknown and unidentified corporation), Supervalu, Inc. d/b/a Save-A-Lot and/or DEF Corporation (1-100) (a fictitious name for a presently unknown and unidentified corporation), JOHN DOES and GHI Corporation (1-100) (a fictitious name for a presently unknown and unidentified corporation).

         The case was removed to this Court on June 21, 2016. On August 17, 2017, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint to add additional Defendant Gatekeeper Systems, Inc., but did not include RAJ Maintenance, Inc. (“RAJ), as a defendant at that time. Approximately ten months later on March 3, 2018, Plaintiff moved to filed a Second Amended Complaint to substitute RAJ Maintenance, Inc. for that of DEF Corporation (2) as a direct defendant. Plaintiff filed the Second Amended Complaint on August 8, 2018.

         Defendant RAJ moves for dismissal on the ground that Plaintiff failed to move against it within the statute of limitations period and/or acted without the requisite diligence to avail herself to the tolling provisions of the fictitious pleading rule. Plaintiff may have known identity of RAJ before expiration of the limitations period. Even if Plaintiff did not know before the limitations period expired, Plaintiff cannot toll the statute of limitations by invoking New Jersey's fictitious pleading rule, R. 4:26-4 because Plaintiff significantly delayed amending her complaint to include RAJ after she learned of RAJ's identity. For the reasons that follow, the Court agrees and grants Defendant's motion to dismiss.

         Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a party to move for dismissal of a claim based on “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A complaint should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) if the alleged facts, taken as true, fail to state a claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), ordinarily only the allegations in the complaint, matters of public record, orders, and exhibits attached to the complaint, are taken into consideration.[1] See Chester County Intermediate Unit v. Pa. Blue Shield, 896 F.2d 808, 812 (3d Cir. 1990). It is not necessary for the plaintiff to plead evidence. Bogosian v. Gulf Oil Corp., 561 F.2d 434, 446 (3d Cir. 1977). The question before the Court is not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail. Watson v. Abington Twp., 478 F.3d 144, 150 (2007). Instead, the Court simply asks whether the plaintiff has articulated “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         “A claim has facial plausibility[2] 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). “Where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         Thus, a motion to dismiss should be granted unless the plaintiff's factual allegations are “enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the complaint's allegations are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (internal citations omitted). “[W]here 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 ‘shown'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Analysis

         The question confronting the Court is whether subject matter jurisdiction exists as to the claims against RAJ because Plaintiffs' claims are barred by the statute of limitations. To answer this question, the Court must determine whether Plaintiffs tolled the statute of limitations by properly invoking New Jersey's fictitious pleading rule, N.J. R. 4:26-4.

         Plaintiffs claim against RAJ were filed beyond the limitations period but may relate back to the date of the filing of the original complaint. Federal Civil Procedure Rule 15(c) governs whether an amendment can “relate back” to the filing date of the original complaint. Rule 15(c) provides that an amendment to a pleading relates back to the date of the original pleading in three instances:

the law that provides the applicable statute of limitations allows relation back; (B) the amendment asserts a claim or defense that arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out-or attempted to be set out-in the original pleading; or (C) the amendment changes the party or the naming of the party against whom a claim is asserted, if Rule 15(c)(1)(B) is satisfied and if, within the period provided by Rule 4(m) for serving the summons and complaint, the party to be brought in by amendment: (i) received such notice of the action that it will not be prejudiced in defending on the ...

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