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White v. Date Trucking, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 21, 2018

GARTH WHITE, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
DATE TRUCKING, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          ELLEN LIPTON HOLLANDER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This tort case was filed on December 11, 2016, in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, by plaintiff Garth White, Jr. ECF 2. It pertains to an incident that occurred on December 19, 2013. Id. Defendant Date Trucking, LLC removed the case to this Court on April 28, 2017, based on diversity jurisdiction. ECF 1. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Several motions are pending, and no hearing is needed to resolve them. See Local Rule 105.6.

         I.

         Defendant has moved (ECF 33, “Motion”) to modify the Court's current Scheduling Order. See ECF 30. On the same date that defendant filed the Motion, it also filed a motion to shorten plaintiff's time to respond to the Motion. ECF 34. In particular, both motions were submitted on February 17, 2018, the Saturday of a three-day holiday weekend. The Motion seeks to extend by four months the Scheduling Order's current deadlines, one of which is February 22, 2018. On that date, defendant's Rule 26(a)(2) disclosures are due. ECF 30. Defendant seeks to give plaintiff, who opposes the Motion (see ECF 33, ¶ 13), only until February 21, 2018, to respond. ECF 34 at 2.

         At the outset, plaintiff's opposition to an extension is difficult to understand, given that this Court has, at plaintiff's request, previously modified the original Scheduling Order (ECF 13) by a comparable amount of time, following plaintiff counsel's entry of appearance in the case in October 2017, several months after suit was filed. See ECF 20; ECF 21. Still, the additional four month extension requested by defendant seems excessive. Defendant asserts, among other things, that “the neuropsychologist select [sic] by the Defendant cannot schedule evaluation and testing until June 2018.” ECF 33, ¶ 9. But, defendant offers no explanation for this delay, or for why this specific neuropsychologist is essential to its case.

         Accordingly, by March 2, 2018, counsel are directed either to submit a proposed revised Scheduling Order reflecting an extension of three months for discovery, or show cause why such an extension would be (a) improper, or (b) inadequate. Until then, I shall stay the current Scheduling Order (ECF 30), and I shall deny ECF 34, as moot.

         II.

         Also pending is plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint, filed December 6, 2017. ECF 31 (“Motion to Amend”). The proposed Amended Complaint adds two new defendants: Kevin Grantland, a truck driver, and Kevin Grantland, Inc., Grantland's corporate alter ego. See ECF 31-4. Defendant opposes the Motion to Amend (ECF 32), with exhibits. Plaintiff did not reply.

         In tort cases, Maryland applies the doctrine of lex loci delecti, i.e., the law of the jurisdiction where the alleged wrong occurred. Lewis v. Waletzky, 422 Md. 647, 657, 31 A.3d 123, 129 (2011); Erie Ins. Exch. v. Heffernan, 399 Md. 598, 620, 925 A.2d 636, 648 (2007); Kortobi v. Kass, 182 Md.App. 424, 443, 957 A.2d 1128, 1139 (2008), aff'd, 410 Md. 168, 978 A.2d 247 (2009). As the underlying incident occurred in Maryland (see ECF 2, ¶ 2), it is Maryland's substantive law that applies here.

         Under Maryland law, the statute of limitations for a negligence action is generally three years. See Md. Code (2013 Repl. Vol.), § 5-101 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article (“C.J.”). C.J. § 5-101 provides, in part: “A civil action at law shall be filed within three years from the date it accrues unless another provision of the Code provides a different period. . . .” Plaintiff alleges that he was harmed on December 19, 2013, when a load bar fell on him. ECF 2, ¶ 3. Accordingly, his claim accrued at that time. Given that the three-year statute of limitations has therefore expired, the question is whether the addition of two new defendants would relate back to the initial filing of the Complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c).

         Under certain circumstances, a court must treat an amended complaint as if it were filed on the date of the initial complaint. This convention is known as “relation back.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c). If the amendment relates back, it should be allowed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). If it does not, the claims against the new defendants are barred, as untimely.

         Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c)(1)(A), an amendment can relate back if “the law that provides the applicable statute of limitations allows relation back.” Because this is a diversity case, and Maryland law applies, plaintiff's new claims may relate back if Maryland's statute of limitations so allows. But, under Maryland law, “[a] plaintiff is not permitted to add a new defendant to a case after the limitations period has expired except to correct the name of a defendant.” Hansberger v. Smith, 229 Md.App. 1, 23, 142 A.3d 679, 692, cert. denied, 450 Md. 430, 149 A.3d 552 (2016) (citations omitted); see also Poole v. Coakley & Williams Const., Inc., 423 Md. 91, 130 n.18, 31 A.3d 212, 235 (2011). Here, plaintiff seeks not just to correct a name, but to add two entirely new parties. Therefore, Rule 15(c)(1)(A) does not allow the amendment.

         Alternatively, under Rule 15(C)(1)(c), an amendment that “changes the party or the naming of the party” to a suit relates back “to the date of the original pleading, ” if:

Rule 15(c)(1)(B) is satisfied and if, within the period provided by Rule 4(m) for serving summons and complaint, the party to be brought in by amendment: (i) received such notice of the action that it will not be prejudiced in defending on the merits; and (ii) knew or should have known that the action would have been ...

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