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Stephen Ladyansky and Barbara Ladyansky v. Cooper Wheelock

March 29, 2012

STEPHEN LADYANSKY AND BARBARA LADYANSKY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COOPER WHEELOCK, INC. AND SIMPLEX GRINNELL, LP, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sitarski, M.J.

MEMORANDUM

Currently pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend the Complaint to Conform to the Evidence (Doc. No. 49), SimplexGrinnell's Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend the Complaint to Conform to the Evidence (Doc. No. 50), and Plaintiffs' Rebuttal to SimplexGrinnell's Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend the Complaint to Conform to the Evidence (Doc. No. 53). Also before the Court is SimplexGrinnell's Motion for Entry of Final Judgment (Doc. Nos. 51-52) and SimplexGrinnell's Reply in Support of its Motion for Entry of Final Judgment (Doc. No. 54). As more fully set forth herein, Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend is DENIED, and Simplex's Motion for Entry of Final Judgment is GRANTED.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiffs Stephen and Barbara Ladyansky ("Plaintiffs") initiated this action by filing a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County on April 13, 2010, against Defendant Cooper Wheelock, Inc. ("Cooper"). See Simplex's Am. Notice of Removal ¶1, Ex. A. While in state court, Plaintiffs twice amended the complaint against Cooper. See id. at ¶2, Ex. B & C. Plaintiffs asserted that Cooper is liable under various legal theories for injuries sustained by Plaintiff Stephen Ladyansky when he was exposed to sound emitted from a fire alarm.*fn1 See Pls.' Mot. to Amend ¶¶1-2. On June 23, 2010, Cooper filed an Answer to Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint. See Simplex's Am. Notice of Removal ¶3, Ex. D. On December 10, 2010, Cooper filed a Joinder Complaint against SimplexGrinnell LP ("Simplex"), asserting that if Plaintiffs succeeded at trial, Simplex "is jointly and severally liable with Cooper on [P]laintiffs' causes of action and/or are liable over to defendant Cooper for contribution and/or indemnity." See Simplex's Am. Notice of Removal, Ex. E.

This case arrived in federal court after Simplex filed a Notice of Removal (Doc. No. 1) on January 6, 2011, and an Amended Notice of Removal (Doc. No. 4) on January 13, 2011, to which Cooper consented. See Simplex's Am. Notice of Removal, Ex. F. On January 13, 2011, Simplex filed its Answer to Cooper's Joinder Complaint, which included a counterclaim against Cooper. (Doc. No. 5). Cooper filed a reply to the counterclaim on February 2, 2011. (Doc. No. 15). On March 1, 2011, upon the parties consent, the Honorable Juan R. Sanchez ordered this Court to conduct all proceedings and enter final judgment, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73. (Doc. No. 24).

On January 12, 2012, Cooper filed a Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiffs' claims against it. (Doc. No. 47). Plaintiffs did not oppose the entry of summary judgment because, as Plaintiffs state, it became apparent during discovery that Cooper was not responsible for their injuries. See Pls.' Mot. to Amend ¶7. Accordingly, this Court granted the motion as unopposed. (Doc. No. 48).

On February 16, 2012, Plaintiffs filed the instant motion to amend their complaint, seeking to add Simplex as a defendant to the current action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2). (Doc. No. 49). On February 28, 2012, Simplex filed its response in opposition to Plaintiffs' motion (Doc. No. 50), as well as a Motion for Entry of Final Judgment and accompanying memorandum of law (Doc. Nos. 51-52).*fn2 Plaintiffs filed a reply on March 2, 2012 -- which addressed both the Motion to Amend and the Motion for Entry of Final Judgment. (Doc. No. 53). Simplex filed a reply on March 8, 2012. (Doc. No. 54). This Court held oral argument on March 22, 2012. Accordingly, this matter is now ripe for disposition.

II. DISCUSSION

(A) Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend the Complaint.

In general, "Rule 15(a) declares that leave to amend 'shall be freely given when justice so requires.'" Bivings v. Wakefield, 316 Fed. Appx. 177, 180 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)). "Leave to amend must generally be granted unless equitable considerations render it otherwise unjust." Arthur v. Maersk, Inc., 434 F.3d 196, 204 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Foman, 371 U.S. at 182). "Among the factors that may justify denial of leave to amend are undue delay, bad faith, and futility." Id. (citing Lorenz v. CSX Corp., 1 F.3d 1406, 1414 (3d Cir. 1993)). However, prejudice to the non-movant is the "'touchstone for the denial of an amendment.'" Id. (quoting Lorenz, 1 F.3d at 1414).The decision to grant or deny an opportunity to amend is ultimately within the discretion of the Court. Bivings, 316 Fed. Appx. at 180 (quoting Foman, 371 U.S. at 182).

Here, Plaintiffs seek "leave to amend the Complaint to conform to the evidence and specifically, to have a direct claim against [Simplex]" pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2). Pls.' Mot. to Amend ¶9. Plaintiffs concede that they have heretofore "not undertaken the formality of moving the Court to amend the Complaint to incorporate allegations originally made against [Cooper] to apply to the acts and omissions of [Simplex], despite having proceeded with the understanding that [Simplex] was responsible for such actions." Id. at ¶8. Plaintiffs argue that the motion should be granted because "there is no prejudice to [Simplex], as they have fully defended the instant matter as if the allegation have been brought directly against them by the Plaintiff, and will be unable to state any additional step or action that would have been taken had such Defendant been directly named in the initial Complaint." Id. at ¶19.

In opposition, Simplex argues that the motion should be denied for the following reasons:

(1) Plaintiffs did not attach a draft Amended Complaint;*fn3 (2) the proposed claims are futile because the applicable statutes of limitations have expired; (3) the proposed claims are futile because Plaintiffs have not offered any expert testimony to support their claims; and (4) Simplex would be substantially prejudiced if the amendment were permitted so close to trial. See Simplex's Resp. 2-11.

The Court concludes that Simplex's second and fourth arguments are determinative, and addresses each ...


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