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County of Northampton v. Ram Construction

March 11, 2013

COUNTY OF NORTHAMPTON,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
RAM CONSTRUCTION SERVICES OF CLEVELAND, LLC,
DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM RE: MOTION FOR LEAVE TO JOIN THIRD PARTY DEFENDANT AND/OR DISMISSAL OF THE ACTION

Plaintiff County of Northampton moves for an order allowing the joinder of an additional defendant, Pennoni Associates Inc., or in the alternative, for an order granting voluntary dismissal of the action. (ECF 13). For the reasons below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion for joinder. As a result, subject matter jurisdiction no longer exists and the case will be remanded to state court.

I.Factual Background

Plaintiff, the County of Northampton, is a Pennsylvania county. Defendant, RAM Construction Services of Cleveland, is a limited liability company with its principal place of business in Ohio.

Plaintiff and RAM signed a written contract on May 13, 2010, under which RAM agreed to resurface of an upper parking deck at Northampton County's "Courthouse Campus." The final price was $2.2 million, and the contract provided Plaintiff a one-year maintenance bond. RAM completed the resurfacing work around February 11, 2011 and represented to Plaintiff the work was complete on April 23, 2011. At that time and through the present, Plaintiff has been holding onto a claimed retention amount of $44,000.

Plaintiff alleges that "[s]oon after taking possession of the completed Project, Plaintiff became aware that the new surface installed by Defendant pursuant to [the contract] was exhibiting" defects.

These defects included "substantial cracks in the topping slab," the misalignment of "T-Joints" and "control joints," and patches of overhead that had "failed and fallen." (ECF 1, Attachment). Plaintiff claims these defects were "the result of improper concrete finishing and curing . . . improper installation of joints . . . [and] other deficiencies on the part of the Defendant which failed to perform in a proper and workmanlike fashion." (Id.).

II.Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed a Complaint against RAM in the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Pennsylvania, on September 20, 2012. (ECF 1, Attachment). Plaintiff's cause of action was material breach of contract. It requested $700,000 in damages.

On October 19, 2012, RAM filed a Notice of Removal, seeking to remove the case to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. (ECF 1). RAM filed an Answer on October 26, 2012. (ECF 4). In its Answer, RAM contended it had performed all work in a construction-like manner and in accordance with the "design specifications prepared by the third-party design professional(s) responsible for the design and/or redesign of the parking garage structure." (Id.). It claimed any defects "were the direct and proximate result of actions and/or inactions of third party(ies) over which RAM had no control, including but not limited to the design professional(s) responsible for the design and redesign of the parking garage structure." (Id.). RAM also filed three Counterclaims -- Violation of the Procurement Code, Breach of Contract, and Unjust Enrichment -- all of which pertained to Plaintiff's retaining of the $44,000 dollars.

The Court held a pretrial telephone conference with the parties on November 7, 2012, after which a Scheduling Order was issued. (ECF 5).

III.Plaintiff's Arguments for Joinder

On February 11, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to Join Third Party Defendant and/or Dismissal of the Action (ECF 13) as well as an Amended Complaint (ECF 12). For reasons that are unclear, Plaintiff re-filed these same two documents on February 19. (ECF 16 & 17).

In the motion requesting joinder, Plaintiff sought to add Pennoni Associates Inc., a Pennsylvania corporation with its principal place of business in Philadelphia, as a third-party defendant under Fed. R. Civ. P. 14. Plaintiff had hired Pennoni to design the garage reconstruction about two months before hiring RAM to ...


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