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Shawn I. Doland v. Luis Berrios

December 11, 2012

SHAWN I. DOLAND, PLAINTIFF
v.
LUIS BERRIOS, COMSTAR ENTERPRISES, INC., BWAABI AMAJUWON AND FAF, INC., THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFFS/DEFENDANTS
v.
NEW PENN MOTOR EXPRESS, INC.,
THEODORE MRKONJA, TIMOTHY FREDERICK, GAILLARD STROYE, GREATER OMAHA EXPRESS, LLC,
ADONIUS SHORES AND TAYLOR XPRESS LINES, INC. THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Martin C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge

(Magistrate Judge Carlson)

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

This case arises out of a February 26, 2010, snowbound chain reaction multi-vehicle accident on Interstate 76 in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. The meteorological fog of this February snow storm, which may have contributed to the accident, has been paralleled by a litigative fog of uncertainty regarding the number of parties who were allegedly involved in this accident, and should be joined as parties.

Through the discovery process it is now alleged that this litigative fog has cleared somewhat. Thus, on October 3, 2012, the Court entered an order authorizing the filing of the third-party complaint, finding that the third-party plaintiffs had satisfied the requirements of Rule 14(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and that joinder of the third-party defendants, CRST Van Expedited, Inc., and Robert A. Smith--parties who were allegedly involved in this accident and whose identities had been discerned in the course of discovery-- would promote efficiency, avoid circularity, and eliminate the potential for duplicative litigation. (Doc. 57.) The third-party plaintiffs filed the joinder complaint on October 9, 2012. (Doc. 58.)

Now pending in this action is a motion by third-party defendants CRST Van Expedited, Inc., and Robert A. Smith to dismiss the complaint filed by third-party plaintiffs Luis Berris and Comstar Enterprises, Inc. (Doc. 60.) In their motion, the third-party defendants argue that the third-party complaint should be dismissed because it contains allegations that the third-party defendants were directly liable to the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, and because that the third-party plaintiffs delayed unreasonably in bringing this action, which the third-party defendants argue will result in undue prejudice in the third-party defendants are required to defend against the complaint at this stage of the litigation.

The motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition. Upon consideration, the motion will be denied.

II. DISCUSSION

Pursuant to Rule 14(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a defending party may join a nonparty "who is or may be liable to it for all or part of the claim against it." Fed. R. Civ. P. 14(a). The district court has the discretion to permit joinder. See Morris v. Lenihan, 192 F.R.D. 484, 487 n.3 (E.D. Pa. 2000). A third-party plaintiff may use Rule 14(a) to implead a third-party defendant only if the proposed third-party defendant may be liable to the third-party plaintiff derivatively or secondarily. See Naramanian v. Geyhound Lines, Inc., Civ. A. No. 07-CV-4757, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 121145, 2010 WL 4628096, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 15, 2010) (citing FDIC v. Bathgate, 27 F.3d 850, 873 (3d Cir. 1994)). Thus, joinder is not available when a defendant seeks to join a third party who may only be liable to the plaintiff. Id. In order to prevail on a motion to join a third-party defendant, a third-party plaintiff must demonstrate some substantive basis for its claim against the proposed third-party defendant. Pitcavage v. Mastercraft Boat Co., 632 F. Supp. 842, 845 (M.D. Pa. 1985) (citing Robbins v. Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A., 98 F.R.D. 36 (M.D. Pa. 1983)).

If a court finds that the foregoing requirements have been satisfied, "motions for joinder should be freely granted to effectuate the purposes of the impleader rules." Hartford Cas. Ins. Co. v. ACC Meat Co., LLC, Civ. A. No. 1:10-CV-1875, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9945, 2011 WL 398087, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Feb. 2, 2011). As Judge Conner of this Court has explained:

Joinder under Rule 14(a) is meant to avoid circularity of action and eliminate duplication of suits. See Judd, 65 F.R.D. at 615; see also Monarch Life Ins. Co. v. Donahue, 702 F.Supp. 1195, 1197 (E.D.Pa.1989) (stating that the aim of Rule 14 is to "accomplish in one proceeding the adjudication of the rights of all persons concerned in the controversy and to prevent the necessity of trying several related claims in different lawsuits") (internal citations and quotations omitted); 6 Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure 3d § 1443 (2004). In accordance with this broad purpose, Rule 14(a) has been liberally interpreted to allow the joinder of third-party claims despite allegations of different causes of action or different theories of liability from the original complaint. See Judd, 65 F.R.D. at 614; Monarch Life, 702 F.Supp. at 1198. The factors the court should consider include the timeliness of the motion, and whether joinder would introduce an unrelated controversy, unduly complicate the case, or prejudice the plaintiff. See Judd [v. General Motors Corp., 65 F.R.D. 612, 615 (M.D. Pa. 1974)].

Id.

We previously considered whether the requirements of Rule 14 had been met in order to permit the third-party plaintiffs to file the joinder complaint, and we found those requirements were satisfied. (Doc. 57.) Upon reflection, we conclude that our finding in this regard remains unchanged.

Furthermore, with respect to the third-party defendants' argument that the third-party complaint contains legal errors by including allegations that the third-party defendants are liable directly to the plaintiff, the third-party plaintiffs have conceded this error (Doc. 68.), and have ...


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