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Faiella v. Sunbelt Rentals, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage

August 5, 2019

DOMINIC FAIELLA, Plaintiff,
v.
SUNBELT RENTALS, INC., Defendant. SUNBELT RENTALS, INC., Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
LIVE NATION WORLDWIDE, INC., Individually and d/b/a LIVE NATION BB&T PAVILION, Third-Party Defendant.

          Anthony J. Leonard, Esq. Leonard, Sciolla, Hutchison, Leonard & Tinari, LLP Counsel for Dominic Faiella

          Thomas J. Wagner, Esq. Amy Lynn Wynkoop, Esq. Law Offices of Thomas J. Wagner, LLC Counsel for Sunbelt Rentals, Inc.

          Drew J. Parker, Esq. Deborah Halpern, Esq. Parker Young & Antinoff, LLC Counsel for Live Nation Worldwide, Inc., Individually and d/b/a Live Nation BB&T Pavilion

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ANN MARIE DONIO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court by way of Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint to add Third-Party Defendant Live Nation Worldwide, Inc. (hereinafter, “Live Nation”) as a direct defendant in this litigation, to assert an intentional tort claim against Live Nation, and to amend the claims against Defendant Sunbelt Rentals, Inc. (hereinafter, “Sunbelt”) to assert an implied warranty count. (See Pl.'s Mot. [D.I. 83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83], p. 5');">p. 5, June 7, 2019; Proposed Am. Compl. [D.I. 83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83], p. 1');">p. 14');">p. 1');">p. 14.) Defendant Sunbelt consents to the proposed amendments. (Pl.'s Mot. [D.I. 83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83], p. 5');">p. 5.) Live Nation opposes the motion as untimely, prejudicial, and futile. (Live Nation's Opp'n [D.I. 85');">85], June 11, 2019.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Plaintiff's motion to amend.

         This matter arises out of alleged injuries to Plaintiff that occurred when an off-road utility vehicle (hereinafter, “Ranger Polaris, ” “Ranger, ” or “Polaris”), owned by Defendant Sunbelt and leased to Live Nation, purportedly rolled over while Plaintiff was operating the vehicle. Plaintiff asserts severe and permanent injuries and sets forth a number of state law claims against Defendant Sunbelt. (Pl.'s Mot. [D.I. 83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83]; Proposed Am. Compl. [D.I. 83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83].) By way of Order dated October 23, 2018, the Court granted Defendant Sunbelt leave to file a third-party complaint against Live Nation. (Order [D.I. 31], Oct. 23, 2018.) On November 2, 2018, Defendant Sunbelt filed its Third-Party Complaint against Live Nation. (Third-Party Complaint [D.I. 33], Nov. 2, 2018.) On December 2, 2018, Live Nation filed its Answer to the Third-Party Complaint. (Answer [D.I. 36], Dec. 2, 2018.) On March 21, 2019, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion to amend to dismiss Defendant Polaris Industries, Inc. from the case, [D.I. 43], and dismissed as moot Defendant Sunbelt's motion to amend, [D.I. 44]. (See Order [D.I. 57], Mar. 21, 2019.) On June 7, 2019, Plaintiff filed the present motion seeking to add Live Nation as a direct defendant and to assert an intentional tort claim. (Pl.'s Mot. [D.I. 83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83].) On June 26, 2019, the Court conducted oral argument on the present motion. (Minute Entry [D.I. 94], June 27, 2019.)

         “Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), leave to amend pleadings shall be ‘freely give[n]' when ‘justice so requires.'” Custom Pak Brokerage, LLC v. Dandrea Produce, Inc., No. 13-5592, 2014 WL 988829, *1 (D.N.J. Feb. 27, 2014). A court may, however, deny a motion to amend “where it is apparent from the record that ‘(1) the moving party has demonstrated undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motives, (2) the amendment would be futile, or (3) the amendment would prejudice the other party.'” U.S. ex rel. Schumann v. Astrazeneca Pharm. L.P., 83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">837');">769 F.3d 83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">837, 849 (3d Cir. 2014) (citing Lake v. Arnold, 232 F.3d 360, 373 (3d Cir. 2000)).[1]

         The present motion also implicates Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16. “Where deadlines for amending pleadings are the subject of a scheduling order and the deadlines have passed, the moving party must meet Rule 16's good cause standard in order to amend.” Stolinski v. Pennypacker, No. 07-3174, 2011 WL 132385');">8545, at *7 (D.N.J. June 23, 2011) (citing Stallings ex. rel. Estate of Stallings v. IBM Corp., No. 08-3121, 2009 WL 2905471, at *16 (D.N.J. Sept. 8, 2009)). See also Fed. R. Civ. p. 1');">p. 16(b)(4) (providing that a scheduling order “may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent.”) “[W]here a party seeks to amend the pleadings after the expiration of the Rule 16 deadline, a party must first demonstrate good cause, ” and only after the party has demonstrated good cause will a court “evaluate the proposed amendment under Rule 15(a).” Stolinski, 2011 WL 132385');">8545, at *7 (citation omitted) (noting that “establishing good cause to extend the deadline for amendment under Rule 16 merely removes a procedural bar for [a party] which then permits the [c]ourt to consider the motion to amend under Rule 15.”). See also Ewing v. Cumberland Cnty., No. 09-5432, 2014 WL 3974159, at *4 (D.N.J. July 16, 2014) (“[P]rior to evaluating a proposed amendment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), the court must evaluate whether the party seeking leave has affirmatively demonstrated ‘good cause' to modify the scheduling order.”). Further, good cause “‘hinges on [the] diligence of the movant[.]'” Id. (citations omitted). However, “‘knowledge of the potential claim' prior to the expiration of the deadline to amend constitutes the ‘most common basis' for finding the absence of good cause.” Id. at *4.

         The motion to amend was filed on June 7, 2019 after the February 28, 2019 deadline set forth by the Court's Scheduling Order of January 28, 2019. (See Scheduling Order [D.I. 42], p. 2');">p. 2');">p. 2');">p. 2.) Accordingly, the Court first addresses whether Plaintiff has demonstrated good cause under Rule 16.

         Live Nation asserts that Plaintiff's motion should be denied on timeliness grounds since on the date of Plaintiff's accident, “he was fully aware of the identify of his employer and whether there was any potential claim beyond worker's compensation[.]” (Live Nation's Opp'n [D.I. 85');">85], p. 1');">p. 1.) Live Nation further contends that while Plaintiff was aware of any claim against Live Nation at the time of his injury, Plaintiff seeks to assert a claim near the end of fact discovery. (Id., p. 2');">p. 2');">p. 2');">p. 2.) Consequently, Live Nation argues, since “Plaintiff has not diligently prosecuted this matter[, ]” the Court should deny Plaintiff's motion.[2] (Id.)

         In response, Plaintiff asserts that “[i]n the interest of judicial economy, and to avoid a fishing expedition from the outset, Plaintiff waited to file for leave to amend his complaint until after he had a sufficient foundation for his claims.” (Pl.'s Reply [D.I. 87');">87], June 21, 2019, p. 2.) Plaintiff further argues that “[i]t is not Plaintiff's fault that this evidence was not produced until the eleventh hour.” (Id.) Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Sunbelt, in its discovery responses, contends that the safety netting was present on the vehicle when delivered to Live Nation. (Pl.'s Mot. [D.I. 83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83');">83], p. 3 (citing Defendant Sunbelt's Answers and Objections to Plaintiff's Interrogatories, Ex. B, dated May 6, 2019).) Plaintiff further argues that Live Nation has averred in its discovery responses that “the Ranger at issue was provided by Sunbelt Rentals without the mandatory cab nets.” (Id. (citing Live Nation's Responses to Sunbelt Rentals, Inc.'s Request for Admissions, Ex. A).) Further, Plaintiff asserts that Live Nation's corporate representative, Curtis Voss, was deposed on June 5, 2019, and at his deposition, Mr. Voss testified that Live Nation does not allow its employees to remove safety netting, and further, that “he does not know whether the Ranger at issue came with safety cab nets when it was leased from Defendant Sunbelt[, but] that Live Nation relies on Sunbelt to provide appropriate equipment with all safety features.” (Id., p. 4.) Accordingly, Plaintiff argues that “[t]he positions of Live Nation and Sunbelt Rentals regarding the cab nets are irreconcilable[, ]” and “Plaintiff is forced to request leave to file a Fourth Amended Complaint to preserve all claims in this matter[, ]” including an intentional tort claim against Live Nation.[3] (Id., pp. 4-5.)

         The Court finds that Plaintiff has demonstrated good cause under Rule 16 sufficient to permit the filing of the motion to amend beyond the February 28, 2019 deadline set forth in the Scheduling Order of January 28, 2019. Specifically, the Court accepts Plaintiff's argument that the recent production of written discovery responses and deposition of Mr. Voss presented additional information upon which Plaintiff could rely to support the proposed new claim against Live Nation. Further, the Court does not find that Plaintiff failed to act diligently to explore these issues related to the safety netting and the alleged removal of the netting. Given the recent production and deposition, the Court finds that Plaintiff acted diligently in seeking to amend the complaint after the applicable deadline and that Plaintiff has demonstrated good cause under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16.

         The Court next addresses Live Nation's arguments under Rule 15 that the motion should be denied on prejudice and futility grounds. “[S]ubstantial or undue prejudice to the non-moving party is a sufficient ground for denial of leave to amend.” Cureton v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 252 F.3d 267, 273 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Lorenz v. CSX Corp., 1 F.3d 1406, 1414 (3d Cir. 1993). “In determining whether amendment of a complaint will cause undue prejudice, the Court must ‘focus on the hardship to the defendants if the amendment were permitted.'” Stolinski, 2011 WL 132385');">8545, at *6 (citing Cureton, 252 F.3d at 273 (citing Adams v. Gould, Inc., 85');">858');">739 F.2d 85');">858, 868 (3d Cir. 1984))). Consequently, undue prejudice suffices to deny leave to amend, where “if amendment were permitted, the [defendant] would be prejudiced by having to engage in burdensome new discovery and significant trial preparation.” Cureton, 252 F.3d at 274 (finding that district court did not abuse its discretion in denying motion to amend where the district court determined that the “‘proposed amendment would essentially force the [defendant] to begin litigating this case again.'”) However, “incidental prejudice to the opponent is not a sufficient basis for denial of an amendment; such prejudice becomes ‘undue' when the opponent shows it would be ‘unfairly disadvantaged or deprived of the opportunity to present facts or evidence which it would have offered[.]'” Harrison Beverage Co. v. Dribeck Importers, Inc., 133 F.R.D. 463, 468 (D.N.J. 1990) (citing Heyl & Patterson Int'l, Inc. v. F.D. Rich Housing of the Virgin Islands, Inc., 663 F.2d 419, 425 (3d Cir. 1981), cert. denied sub nom. F.D. Rich Housing of the Virgin Islands, Inc. v. Gov't of the Virgin Islands, 455 U.S. 1018 (1982) (denying in part motion to amend to add affirmative defenses where discovery was complete and amendment to add the defenses would cause discovery to be reopened and a postponement of trial).

         Live Nation asserts that the fact discovery deadline is approaching, and Live Nation will be “severely and irreparably prejudiced if it [has] to conduct discovery, including re-deposing Plaintiff and obtaining an IME in the next [twenty] days.” (Live Nation's Opp'n [D.I. 85');">85], p. 2');">p. 2');">p. 2');">p. 2.) Live Nation also asserts that it did not conduct discovery as to damages and/or liability on the intentional tort claim. (Id.) The Court rejects Live Nation's arguments. The Court recently extended discovery deadlines. (See Scheduling Order [D.I. 91], June 25, 2019.) Further, Live Nation, as the third-party defendant, has participated in this litigation and discovery to date. Moreover, there has been no showing that Live Nation has ...


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