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Zurich North American Ins. Co. v. Rodriguez

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 6, 2017

ZURICH NORTH AMERICAN INS. CO., et al., Plaintiffs
v.
JOSE A. RODRIGUEZ, et al., Defendants

          OPINION & ORDER ON MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT (DOC. 13)

          RBUCKLE, M.J.

         I. BACKGROUND & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This case arises from a chain reaction collision on Interstate 80 during a snow storm on March 29, 2015. On March 17, 2017, twelve days before the expiration of the statute of limitations, Plaintiffs Zurich North American Insurance Company, ao Minuteman Spill Response, LLC a/k/a and d/b/a Minuteman Environmental Services and Minuteman Spill Response, Inc. a/k/a and d/b/a Minuteman Environmental Services filed a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Clinton County against Defendants Jose A. Rodriguez, Hunanyan Garik, and Norayr Vardanyan, d/b/a VV Trucking.

         Defendant, Norayr Vardanyan d/b/a VV Trucking filed a notice of removal on April 13, 2017, (Doc. 1) alleging diversity of citizenship (Doc. 1, ¶¶1, 15). Answers were filed by Defendant Norayr Vardanyan on April 20, 2017 (Doc. 3) and Defendant Rodriquez on July 6, 2017 (Doc. 9).[1] On August 3, 2017 Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint with a proposed amended complaint attached (Doc. 13).[2]

         The short version of the crash as gleaned from the proposed amended complaint (Doc. 13-1, ¶8) is that Vehicle #1 (Minuteman, insured by Zurich) was stopped on the side of the road during a snow squall. Vehicle #2 (owned by Rodriguez) crashed into Vehicle #1. Then Vehicle #3 (Owned by Norayr Vardanyan dba VV Trucking, and driven by either Garik Hunanyan or Vardan Vardanyan) crashed into Vehicle #2, pushing it again into Vehicle #1. According to the Motion to Amend (Doc. 13, ¶7) the police report of the accident states that Hunanyan Garik was the driver and sole occupant of vehicle #3. According to the Motion to Amend (Doc. 13, ¶6) “Defendant's [sic] only disclosed that Hunanyan Garik was not the driver of the truck that caused the damage to Plaintiff's insured's vehicle in its [sic] 26a disclosures.”

         The Motion to Amend the Complaint does not comply with Local Rule 15.1(b)(2) which directs that:

The party filing the motion requesting leave to file an amended pleading shall provide: (1) the proposed amended pleading as set forth in subsection (a) of this rule, and (2) a copy of the original pleading in which stricken material has been lined through and any new material has been inserted and underlined or set forth in boldfaced type (emphasis added).

         This failure, and the lack of specificity in Plaintiffs' motion (Doc. 13, pp. 1-2) and supporting brief (Doc. 13, pp. 3-5), required the court to search the Original Complaint (Doc. 1), the Proposed Amended Complaint (Doc. 13-1), and the Joint Case Management Plan (Doc. 7) to determine what changes were proposed. The Motion to Amend the Complaint states that Plaintiffs intend to “add parties [sic] that were not named in the Original Complaint.” (Doc. 13, ¶5). My review of the Proposed Amended Complaint however can only find one additional party, Vardan Vardanyan (alleging that he might be the driver of vehicle #3). I also note that, in the Joint Case Management Plan, Defendant Rodriguez denies being the driver of vehicle #2 but apparently does not deny being the owner.[3] In both their Original Complaint (Doc. 1-1, p. 7, ¶11) and proposed Amended Complaint (Doc. 13-1, ¶8), Plaintiffs claim that Defendant Rodriguez was both the owner and driver of vehicle #2.[4]

         In their Motion to Amend (Doc. 13), Plaintiffs have proffered that the police report filed after this accident names Hunanyan Garik as the sole occupant and also the driver of vehicle #3; and that despite two years of discussions between the insurance carriers for the parties, Plaintiffs first learned of the existence of the proposed additional defendant Vardan Vardanyan (the probable driver of vehicle #3) when the Rule 26 disclosure was filed by Defendant Norayr Vardanyan (the owner of vehicle #3). Plaintiffs allege that they promptly filed the Motion for Leave to Amend on August 10, 2017 but do not disclose when the Rule 26(a) Disclosure was received. Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend is more than two years from the occurrence of the incident that gives rise to this litigation.

         In response to Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend Defendant Norayr Vardanyan d/b/a VV Trucking filed a Brief in Opposition raising only one objection - that Plaintiffs are barred from adding a new defendant based on the statute of limitations. (Doc.16). Defendant Rodriguez then filed a letter joining in the objection for the same reason. (Doc.17).

         II. DISCUSSION

         Every discussion of a procedural question should begin with and be guided by Rule 1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 1 provides that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “should be construed, administered, and employed by the court and the parties to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding. (emphasis added)”

         Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs amended pleadings. Pursuant to this rule, “a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave. (emphasis added)” Furthermore, this rule expressly provides that, “[t]he court should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires.” (emphasis added). However, upon review of Plaintiffs' motion, and Defendants' response, I find that I need not conduct a merits analysis of whether justice requires an amended complaint because Defendants do not have standing to object to the addition of a new defendant by raising a statute of limitations defense.

         A. DEFENDANT SLACK STANDING TO RAISE AN AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE ...


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