Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Barone v. Public Service Electric and Gas Co.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

July 22, 2019

JOSEPH BARONE, Plaintiff,
v.
PUBLIC SERVICE ELECTRIC AND GAS COMPANY; PUBLIC SERVICE ENTERPRISE GROUP, INC.; and JOHN AND JANE DOES (1-10), Defendants.

          OPINION

          KEVIN McNULTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on motions of both parties. Defendants Public Service Electric and Gas Company, and Public Service Enterprise Group, Inc. (collectively, "PSE&G") removed this action from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Essex County, on the basis that seven counts of Barone's nine-count complaint are preempted by § 301 of the Labor-Management Relations Act ("LMRA"). PSE&G then filed a motion for partial dismissal of the original complaint based on preemption under §301 and under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. (DE 9). Plaintiff Joseph Barone responded by moving to amend his complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) to remove all federal questions, and to remand the case to state court. (DE 15).

         For the reasons provided below, Barone's motion to amend the complaint and to remand this action to the Superior Court of New Jersey, Essex County is granted. (DE 15). PSE&G's motion to dismiss the original complaint is terminated as moot. (DE 9).

         I. Background[1]

         Barone worked for PSE&G as a substation operator from 2004 until his termination on October 25, 2016. (AC ¶¶8, 69, 66). At the time of his employment, Barone was a member of Local Union 94 of the International Brotherhood of Electric Engineers ("Local 94"). (DE 9-2, ¶2 (Certification of Joan Wentura)). Local 94 had a collective bargaining agreement with PSE&G that was effective May 1, 2013 through April 30, 2017. (Id. at ¶3).

         Barone suffered a work-related injury on November 30, 2013, when he turned a breaker control handle to restore power to customers in a particular area. (AC ¶¶ 14-23). He immediately went out on medical leave, and never returned to work. (AC ¶¶23» 65-69). After he went out on leave, Barone filed a workers' compensation claim on June 5, 2014, and underwent three separate spinal surgeries for injuries related to his workplace accident. (AC ¶¶ 24-47).

         In or around September of 2016, another PSE&G employee, Richard Archer "made slanderous statements and spread false rumors about Barone to other PSE&G employees, including supervisors." (AC ¶¶48-49). Archer made comments "the Barone had domestic disputes with his mother and wife, that he had been arrested, and that he had a criminal history." (AC ¶51). Upon learning about Archer's statements, Barone filed an internal complaint with PSE&G on September 22, 2016. (AC ¶¶52-54). PSE&G determined that Barone's complaint was unsubstantiated. (AC ¶61)-

         On October 20, 2016, three years after Barone's initial accident, Barone's doctor cleared him to return to work, with certain limitations. (AC ¶¶65, 67, 70). Barone, however, was unable to work in his previous position. (AC ¶66). Five days later, PSE&G terminated Barone's employment, claiming that there were no other positions available for which Barone was qualified with his medical restrictions. (AC ¶69). Barone's doctor, thereafter, requested an extension of his medical leave, which PSE&G refused. (AC ¶¶71-74).

         On October 25, 2018, Barone filed a nine-count complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Essex County. (DE 1-1). The first four counts of the complaint alleged violations of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD").[2] (AC ¶¶75-104). The complaint also alleged wrongful discharge in violation of public policy (fifth count); wrongful discharge in violation of company policies (sixth count); breach of an express and implied employment contract (seventh count); breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing (eighth count); and tortious interference with express and implied employment contract (ninth count). (AC ¶¶ 105-138).

         On November 29, 2018, PSE&G removed the case to this Court, contending that the CBA governs the parties' relationship and that Barone's contract claims for breach of an express and implied employment contract (seventh count) and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing (eight count) were preempted under the LMRA. (DE 1, ¶9). PSE&G also asserted that "the other claims . . . plainly implicate the terms and conditions of Plaintiffs employment, which are matters addressed in the CBA." (DE 1, ¶10).

         On December 20, 2018, PSE&G filed a motion for partial dismissal of the complaint based on §301 preemption and Rule 12(b)(6). Thereafter, Barone requested a stay of PSE&G's motion to dismiss and indicated that he intended to file a motion to amend the complaint to remove the preempted claims. (DE 12).

         On January 22, 2019, Barone filed a motion to amend the complaint and to remand this action to state court. (DE 15). Barone removed the sixth (wrongful discharge in violation of company policies), seventh (breach of express and implied employment contract), and eighth (breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing) counts from the complaint. The rest of the state law claims, he says, are not preempted. Barone argues that remand is appropriate because removal of these three claims from the complaint deprives the Court of subject matter jurisdiction. PSE&G has opposed Barone's motion. (DE 16).

         II. Motion to Amend the Complaint

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) provides that "a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave." The Third Circuit has adopted a liberal approach in applying Rule 15 to ensure that "a particular claim will be decided on the merits rather than on technicalities." Dole v. Arco Chem. Co., 921 F.2d 484, 487 (3d Cir. 1990).

         "Leave to amend is to be freely granted unless there is a reason for denial, 'such as 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.™ Conception v. CFG Health Sys. LLC, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 159134, at *3-4 (D.N.J. Nov. 6, 2013) (quoting Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182, 83 S.Ct. 227, 9 L.Ed.2d 222, (1962)); see also Arthur u. Maersk, 434 F.3d 196, 204 (3d. Cir. 2006) ("Among the factors that may justify denial of leave to amend are undue delay, bad faith, and futility.").

         "The passage of time, without more, does not require that a motion to amend a complaint be denied; however, at some point, the delay will become 'undue,' placing an unwarranted burden on the court, or will become 'prejudicial,' placing an unfair burden on the opposing party." Adams v. Gould Inc., 739 F.2d 858, 868 (3d Cir. 1984). Where no prejudice to defendants has been demonstrated, the Court should exercise its discretion to grant the motion to amend the complaint. See Lorenz v. CSX Corp., 1 F.3d 1406, 1414 (3d Cir. 1993) (holding that prejudice to non-moving parry is the "touchstone for the denial of the amendment."). "The burden is generally on the party opposing the amendment to demonstrate why the amendment should not be permitted." Luppino v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, 2012 WL 850743, at *2 (D.N.J. Mar. 8, 2012).

         "'Prejudice,' for purposes of determining whether to allow the proposed amendments, involves serious impairment of the non-movant's ability to present its case." Dente v. Saxon Mortg., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 66588, at *6 (D.N.J. May 11, 2012) (citation omitted) ("Incidental prejudice to the non-moving party is not a sufficient basis for denial of an amendment; prejudice becomes "undue' only when the non-moving party shows that it would be unfairly disadvantaged or deprived of the opportunity to present facts or evidence that it would have offered."); see also McRobie v. Credit Prot. Ass'n, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 185419, at *5 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 29, 2018) ("Specifically, courts consider whether the amendment would force the opponent to expend significant additional resources to conduct discovery and prepare for trial, as well as whether it would significantly delay resolution of the action." (citation omitted)).

         PSE&G has not argued or otherwise suggested that the proposed amendments would impair its ability to present its case or that it will be foreclosed from advancing certain arguments as a result of permitting the proposed amendment. Notably, at no point has PSE&G argued that it will be prejudiced by the filing of the Amended Complaint. Moreover, this case is at the earliest stages. The parties have not yet had a Rule 16 conference or engaged in any discovery.

         This Circuit has adopted a liberal approach in granting motions to amend. Barone's motion to amend the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.