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Scandale Associated Builders & Engineers, Ltd. v. Bell Justice Facilities Corp.

May 19, 2006

SCANDALE ASSOCIATED BUILDERS & ENGINEERS, LTD., PLAINTIFF
v.
BELL JUSTICE FACILITIES CORP., DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John E. Jones III United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Judge Jones

THE BACKGROUND OF THIS ORDER IS AS FOLLOWS:

Three motions are pending before the Court. First, the plaintiff, Scandale Associated Builders & Engineers, Ltd. ("Plaintiff" or "Scandale") filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 49) on March 31, 2006. Second, the defendant, Bell Justice Facilities Corp. ("Defendant" or "Bell") filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (doc. 47) on March 31, 2006. Finally, Bell filed a Motion for Leave to File an Answer (doc. 56) on April 24, 2006.

For the reasons that follow, Bell's Motion for Leave to File an Answer will be granted to the extent provided herein. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment will be dismissed without prejudice.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This case arises out of a breach of contract dispute between the parties regarding concrete work that Plaintiff performed pursuant to a written fixed-price subcontract with Defendant as part of the construction of the United States Penitentiary/Federal Prison Camp at Canaan, Pennsylvania for the United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons.

On or about September 10, 2003, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant in the Court of Common Pleas of Wayne County, Pennsylvania. On October 6, 2003, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446, Defendant filed a Notice of Removal with this Court. That same day, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss Count III of the complaint which was granted by Order of December 5, 2003. (Rec. Doc. 12). The remaining counts of Plaintiff's complaint assert breach of contract (Count I), "unresolved additional direct cost issues" and delay and impact costs (Count II), and interest and penalties purportedly due under the Pennsylvania Contractors and Subcontractors Payment Act (Count IV).

Defendant did not file an answer to Plaintiff's complaint or raise any affirmative defenses. The time for filing or amending pleadings expired May 31, 2004. Discovery proceeded and closed. On March 31, 2006, Plaintiff and Defendant filed respective Motions for Summary Judgment which have been briefed by the parties. On April 24, 2006, Defendant filed a Motion for Leave to File an Answer, which has been briefed. The Motions are therefore ripe for disposition.

DISCUSSION

We initially note that in the Motion for Leave to File an Answer, Defendant argues that the answer was not filed previously due to excusable neglect, that Plaintiff will not be prejudiced because Defendant previously disclosed the bases for its defenses to Plaintiff's complaint and no additional discovery is necessary, and that Defendant will be prejudiced if leave is not granted because Plaintiff asserts that Defendant may not raise any defenses to Plaintiff's claims except for those set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Fed.R.Civ.P.") 12(h). Defendant accordingly contends that for good cause shown and in the interest of justice, its Motion should be granted. Defendant maintains that it had drafted an answer and intended to file it on October 6, 2003 with other pleadings filed that day; however, despite several conversations between Defendant's local counsel and its out-of-town counsel, the answer was inadvertently not filed at that time. Defendant contends that the Joint Case Management Plan in the above-captioned case contained detailed statements regarding its defenses to the complaint's allegations, as did answers to Plaintiff's first set of interrogatories, as well as further discovery conducted.

In response, Plaintiff opposes Defendant's Motion for Leave to File an Answer and states that contrary to Defendant's assertion, Plaintiff will be greatly prejudiced if the Court grants Defendant's Motion and that Defendant is attempting to raise defenses which were not previously pled. "It is prejudicial and damaging to allow BELL at this late juncture to assert the above stated defenses which were not contemplated by Scandale." (Pl.'s Br. Opp. Def.'s Mot. Leave File Answer at 2). In addition, Plaintiff maintains that it has not had any opportunity to prepare its case to respond to Defendant's proposed answer and affirmative defenses. In that regard, Plaintiff asserts that it cannot be expected to proceed to trial without first having had the opportunity to challenge potential defenses raised by Defendant through discovery.

As accurately submitted by Plaintiff, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b), Defendant was required to file a responsive pleading to Plaintiff's complaint. Federal Rule 8(b) provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

A party shall state in short and plain terms the party's defenses to each claim asserted and shall admit or deny the averments ...


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