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Pegley v. Roles

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

April 18, 2018

JOHN PEGLEY, Plaintiff,
JARED ROLES et al., Defendants.


          Hon. Nora Barry Fischer Judge

         I. Introduction

         Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a First Amended Complaint, which has been fully briefed. (Docket Nos. 60, 66, 70, 79). After careful consideration of the parties' submissions, and for the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a First Amended Complaint, (Docket No. 60), is GRANTED, in part, and DENIED, in part. Said motion is denied to extent that Plaintiff seeks to assert claims for the loss of parental consortium and is granted in all other respects.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         This matter arises from a vehicular accident. On March 4, 2017, Plaintiff was operating a 2017 Chevy Sonic automobile, which was fully stopped and stationary, with its four-way flashers blinking, in the right-hand southbound lane on interstate 79 in Franklin Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania. (Docket No. 1 at ¶¶ 11, 12, 17). While operating a tractor-trailer, Defendant Jared Roles “smashed” into the rear of Plaintiff's vehicle, causing severe, permanent, catastrophic, and life threatening personal injuries to Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶¶ 18-19). Roles was operating the tractor-trailer as an employee of Defendant Quantum Environmental Services (“ET360”), and the tractor-trailer, which was owned by Defendant Allied Truck Leasing, LLC, was leased directly to ET360. (Id. at ¶¶ 3, 5, 13). In Counts II and III of his Complaint, Plaintiff asserts claims against ET360 for vicarious liability and for its negligence. (Id. at ¶¶ 29-46).

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on June 5, 2017. (Docket No. 1). Defendants filed their respective answers on August 7, 2017. (Docket Nos. 15, 16, 17). On August 9, 2017, the Court granted the parties' joint motion to dismiss and dismissed claims against Defendants Enterprise Holdings, Inc. d/b/a Enterprise Rent-A-Car and EAN Holdings, LLC, with prejudice. (Docket No. 22). The Court also granted the parties' joint stipulation to amend all references to Richard Pegley, Plaintiff's former guardian ad litem. (Docket No. 26). Specifically, all references to “Plaintiff, John Pegley, as Incapacitated Persons, by and through Richard Pegley, Jr., as Guardian ad Litem” were amended to “John Pegley, ” and the caption was amended accordingly. (Id.). On August 16, 2017, the parties filed their Rule 26(f) report with a proposed deadline of December 8, 2017, for the addition of parties or amendment of pleadings. (Docket No. 28). Following a case management conference, the Court issued a Case Management Order on September 7, 2017, adopting the deadlines set forth in the Rule 26(f) report. (Docket No. 38). Discovery ensued and is set to close on April 27, 2018. (Id.).[1] Plaintiff submitted the instant motion to file a First Amended Complaint on March 8, 2018. (Docket No. 60). This matter has been fully briefed and is now ripe for disposition. (Docket Nos. 60, 66, 70, 79).

         III. Legal Standard

         A party seeking leave to amend the pleadings after the deadline set by the Court's Case Management Order must satisfy the requirements of Rule 16(b)(4) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Race Tires Am., Inc. v. Hoosier Racing Tire Corp., 614 F.3d 57, 84 (3d Cir. 2010). A Case Management Order “may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4). Good cause requires a demonstration of due diligence. Race Tires Am., Inc., 614 F.3d at 84. “Many courts have recognized that ‘[w]here . . . the party knows or is in possession of the information that forms the basis of the later motion to amend at the outset of the litigation, the party is presumptively not diligent.'” Graham v. Progressive Direct Ins. Co., 271 F.R.D. 112, 119 (W.D. Pa. Sep.15, 2015) (quoting Price v. Trans Union, LLC, 737 F.Supp.2d 276, 280 (E.D. Pa. 2010)).

         Only after the moving party demonstrates good cause under Rule 16(b)(4) may the Court consider a Motion to Amend under Rule 15's standard. See Race Tires Am., Inc., 614 F.3d at 84. Rule 15(a)(2) provides that “a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). “The court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Id. “[M]otions to amend pleadings should be liberally granted.” Long v. Wilson, 393 F.3d 390, 400 (3d Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). Indeed, “[l]eave to amend must generally be granted unless equitable considerations render it otherwise unjust.” Arthur v. Maersk, Inc., 434 F.3d 196, 200 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)). “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)). “It is well settled that prejudice to the non-moving party is the touchstone for the denial of [leave to file] an amendment.” Cornell & Co. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Com'n, 573 F.2d 820, 823 (3d Cir. 1978) (citations omitted). “As to prejudice, the Court of Appeals has ‘considered whether allowing an amendment would result in additional discovery, cost, and preparation to defend against new facts or new theories.'” Graham, 271 F.R.D. at 123 (citing Cureton v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 252 F.3d 267, 273 (3d Cir. 2001)). “Given the liberal standard under Rule 15(a), ‘the burden is on the party opposing the amendment to show prejudice, bad faith, undue delay, or futility.'” Id. (citing Chancellor v. Pottsgrove Sch. Dist., 501 F.Supp.2d 695, 700 (E.D. Pa. 2007)). The test under Rule 15(a) “is in the disjunctive, meaning that if [Defendants] meet[ ] [their] burden to prove any one of these elements, the [amendment] should not be permitted.” Id.

         With respect to punitive damages, the same “are awarded for outrageous conduct, that is, for acts done with a bad motive or with a reckless indifference to the interests of others.”[2] Judge Tech. Servs., Inc. v. Clancy, 813 A.2d 879, 889 (Pa. 2002) (quotations omitted). Thus, Pennsylvania law allows for punitive damages to be awarded where an actor's conduct was “malicious, wanton, willful, oppressive or exhibited a reckless indifference to the rights of others.” Johnson v. Hyundai Motor Am., 698 A.2d 631, 639 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1997); see also Feld v. Merriam, 485 A.2d 742 (Pa. 1984) (adopting the Restatement (Second) of Torts as to punitive damages, which allows for punitive damages to be awarded for outrageous conduct or the reckless indifference to the rights of others).

         IV. Discussion

         Plaintiff requests leave to amend to: (1) remove any allegations made by his former guardian ad litem and the former plaintiff in this matter, Richard Pegley, and allegations against former Defendants Enterprise Holdings, Inc. d/b/a Enterprise Rent-A-Car and EAN Holdings, LLC; (2) assert new loss of consortium claims for his two children, a minor and an adult child; (3) supplement allegations based on new information obtained during discovery; and (4) add a request to the ad damnum clause for punitive damages. (Docket No. 60 at 2-3). Defendants do not raise substantial objections to Plaintiff's first request.[3] Accordingly, the Court will address, in turn, Plaintiff's remaining requests.

         A. Plaintiff's Request to Supplement Allegations and Assert a Claim for Punitive Damages in the Ad Damnum Clause

          In support of his request to supplement his allegations based on new information obtained during discovery and to assert a claim for punitive damages in the ad damnum clause, Plaintiff argues that he has uncovered new facts and information through recent depositions and newly produced documents. (Id. at 6-7). Specifically, Plaintiff states that he has learned that Roles tested positive for methamphetamines the day after the accident, that Roles had seen Plaintiff's flashing lights but did not break, and that Roles had been significantly overworked by ET360 prior to the accident. (Id. at 6; see also Docket Nos. 60-3, 60-4, 60-5). Plaintiff also asserts that he has not acted with undue delay, bad faith, or dilatory motive and that Defendants will suffer no prejudice if he is permitted to amend. (Docket No. 60 at 6-7; Docket No. 70 at 2-6). ...

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