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Montalvan v. Neville

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 27, 2018

ROY MONTALVAN, et al. Plaintiffs
v.
WILLIAM NEVILLE, et al. Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROBERT D. MARIANI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Substitution of Party Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 25(c) (Doc. 41). For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Motion.

         On May 4, 2011, Plaintiffs, Roy Montalvan and Louise Montalvan, initiated the above-captioned action by filing a Complaint against William Neville and Marlene Neville t/d/b/a Neville's Mobile Home Park, alleging Violations of Clean Water Act (Count I), Violations of Clean Streams Law (Count II), Continuing Trespass (Count III), Continuing Private Nuisance (Count IV), and Negligence (Count V).

         On April 24, 2012, a Consent Order and Agreement ("COA"), dated that same day and signed by Roy Montalvan, Louise Montalvan, William Neville, Marlene Neville, and counsel for Plaintiffs and Defendants, as well as the Honorable Richard Conaboy, presiding judge in the action, [1] was filed of record in this case. The COA was accompanied by a Court Order stating that the Court sanctioned the Agreement and directing that the action be "administratively closed without prejudice in the event either party does not comply with the terms of the settlement." (Doc. 24).

         On March 2, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a motion to reopen the case. (Doc. 26). In November of 2017, Plaintiffs also filed a Motion for Substitution of Party Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 25(c), wherein Plaintiffs requested that the Court substitute Neville's Mobile Home Court, LLC, as a named party in the place of William Neville and Marlene Neville t/d/b/a Neville's Mobile Home Park. (Doc. 41).

         On March 22, 2018, the Court held an evidentiary hearing and oral argument with respect to both of Plaintiffs' aforementioned motions.[2] During the evidentiary portion of the hearing to address the motion for substitution, the Court heard oral argument from counsel for the parties as well as testimony from Nancy Neville Haines and Plaintiff Louise Montalvan.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(c), "[i]f an interest is transferred, the action may be continued by or against the original party unless the court, on motion, orders the transferee to be substituted in the action or joined with the original party." Substitution under Rule 25(c) is a procedural device designed to facilitate the conduct of a case and does not generally alter the substantive rights of parties. As a result, the decision to grant a motion to substitute is within the Court's discretion. Luxliner PL. Export, Co. v. RDI/Luxliner, Inc., 13 F.3d 69, 71-72 (3d Cir. 1993). However, when determining "whether an entity is a transferee of interest so as to trigger this discretion, ... a district court's mission is one of applying law to facts." Id. at 72.

         The transfer of interest must take place after the action is commenced in order for a substitution for transfer of interest to be properly made under Rule 25(c). 6 Moore's Federal Practice, § 25.31 (Matthew Bender 3d ed.). Further, "[a]lthough substitution is usually effected during the course of litigation, substitution has been upheld even after litigation has ended as long as the transfer of interest occurred during the pendency of the case." Luxliner PL Export, Co., 13 F.3d at 71.

         III. ANALYSIS

         In the present action, Plaintiffs request that the Court substitute Neville's Mobile Home Court, LLC, as a named party in the place of William Neville and Marlene Neville t/d/b/a Neville's Mobile Home Park.[3] Although Roger Mattes, Jr., Esq., counsel for Neville's Mobile Home Court, LLC, and Nancy Neville Haines, filed an omnibus brief in response (Doc. 49) to Plaintiffs' motions for substitution and to re-open the case, the brief fails to specifically address the motion for substitution. Instead, the brief only raises defenses to the merits of Plaintiffs' claim that the defendants did not comply with the terms of the COA, and asserts that the action is barred by accord and satisfaction, the statute of limitations, and the doctrine of laches, and that the plaintiffs lack standing to pursue this action, and the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear this matter.

         For the reasons stated at the March 22, 2018, hearing, the Court rejects Attorney Mattes' argument with respect to this Court's jurisdiction. Further, Attorney Mattes has not set forth any legal argument in support of his assertion that the Plaintiffs lack standing in the present matter. With respect to the remaining arguments, as the Court explained during the March 22, 2018, hearing, while the defenses raised by Attorney Mattes may ultimately be valid, at this preliminary stage in the proceedings, such arguments are premature.

         The Court thus turns to the only question presently properly before it - whether Neville's Mobile Home Court, LLC, may be substituted as a named party in the place of William Neville ...


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