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Acadia Insurance Co. v. Fluid Management. Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maine

January 5, 2016

ACADIA INSURANCE COMPANY, as subrogee of ELDREDGE LUMBER AND HARDWARE, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
FLUID MANAGEMENT, INC., et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT

JOHN A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Now that both parties are satisfied that a plastic wire nut caused a paint mixer to catch fire and burn down a hardware store, the Plaintiff, the hardware store’s insurer, seeks a late amendment to its Complaint to add an allegation that the Defendant, the seller and servicer of the paint machine, improperly serviced the machine by installing the defective wire nut. Even though the Plaintiff’s motion to amend the complaint is untimely, the Court concludes there is good cause to grant it because the Plaintiff acted with due diligence in seeking information that should have revealed the existence of the Defendant’s service contract and maintenance records and because the prejudice to the Defendant from a focused and brief period of discovery is justified to determine who is responsible for the wire nut that caused the fire.

I. BACKGROUND

On November 20, 2014, Acadia Insurance Company (Acadia) filed a complaint in York County Superior Court for the state of Maine against Fluid Management, Inc. (Fluid Management) and Merkle-Korff Industries (Merkle-Korff), alleging that they were civilly liable for damages to Eldredge Lumber and Hardware (Eldredge), an Acadia insured, resulting from a fire on March 18, 2012. State Ct. R. Attach. 1 Docket R. York Superior Ct., Attach. 2 Compl. (ECF No. 2). Acadia claimed that the fire started in a paint mixer sold by Fluid Management and containing a motor manufactured by Merkle-Korff. Compl. at 1-6. On January 7, 2015, Fluid Management removed the case to this Court. Notice of Removal (ECF No. 1). On November 2, 2015, the parties filed a stipulation of dismissal, dismissing Merkle-Korff with prejudice from the case. Stip. of Dismissal of Def. Merkle-Korff Indus., Inc., Only (ECF No. 39).

On January 20, 2015, the Court through the Magistrate Judge issued a Scheduling Order. Sch. Order (ECF No. 11) (January Sch. Order). The Order set February 17, 2015 as the deadline for initial disclosure; April 7, 2015 as the deadline for amendment of the pleadings and the deadline for expert designation for Acadia; May 12, 2015 as the deadline for expert designation for Fluid Management; June 23, 2015 as the deadline to complete discovery; June 30, 2015 as the deadline to file a notice of intent to file summary judgment; and July 14, 2015 as the deadline for all dispositive motions and Daubert[1] and Kumho[2] motions. Id. at 2-3. An October 2015 trial date was anticipated. Id. at 3.

On June 23, 2015, the parties filed a joint motion to amend the scheduling order. Joint Pet. to Modify the Sch. Order (ECF No. 23). On June 29, 2015, the Magistrate Judge granted the motion and extended the discovery deadline to September 30, 2015 but warned the parties that he expected all the discovery to be completed by the new September 30, 2015 deadline. Order (ECF No. 27). He also extended certain other deadlines: the notice of summary judgment deadline was extended to October 7, 2015; the dispositive/Daubert/Kumho motion deadline was extended to October 21, 2015; and the trial-ready date was extended to November 30, 2015, with an anticipated trial date during the month of December 2015. Id.

On October 1, 2015, the parties again moved for scheduling extensions. Joint Mot. to Modify the Sch. Order (ECF No. 33). On October 20, 2015, the Magistrate Judge expressly allowed some additional discovery to be undertaken within specific deadlines but rejected the parties’ request to extend the discovery, summary judgment notice, and dispositive motion deadlines. Report of Hr’g and Order Re: Mot. to Modify Sch. Order (ECF No. 37). The Magistrate Judge indicated he would revisit the deadlines once the parties had completed the authorized discovery. Id.

On November 5, 2015, the Magistrate Judge held a further telephone hearing on the status of the case. Report of Hr’g and Order Re: Status (ECF No. 44). He reset the deadlines as follows: (1) December 15, 2015, the deadline to complete discovery; (2) December 15, 2015, the deadline to produce Local Rule 44 records; (3) December 18, 2015, the deadline to file a notice of intent to file summary judgment; (4) December 18, 2015, the deadline to file dispositive and Daubert/Kumho motions; and he set February 2016 as the expected trial date. Id. at 1-2.

On November 13, 2015, Attorney Hopkins, representing Acadia, wrote the Court on behalf of both parties, stating that they had been unable to schedule the depositions of Fluid Management’s experts before the expiration of the December 15, 2015 discovery deadline and requesting a status conference. Letter from Att’y Michael J. Hopkins to the Hon. John H. Rich, II (Nov. 13, 2015) (ECF No. 48). Magistrate Judge Rich held a telephone conference on November 23, 2015. Min. Entry (ECF No. 50). Magistrate Judge Rich fashioned an order to move the case along. Report of Hr’g and Order Re: Sch. (ECF No. 51). He ordered counsel to file any notice of intent to file motions under Daubert and/or Kumho by December 18, 2015, the same day the notice of intent to file a motion for summary judgment was due. Id. at 1. He noted that if a notice of intent to file a motion for summary judgment is filed, the case will be scheduled for a Local Rule 56(h) conference and the Court would discuss both the motion for summary judgment and any Daubert/Kumho motions at the conference. Id. at 1-2. However, if no summary judgment notice were filed, the Magistrate Judge set deadlines for any Daubert/Kumho motions. Id. He noted that absent filed motions, the case would remain on the February 2016 trial list. At the close of the Order, the Magistrate Judge noted: “Attorney Hopkins intends to file a motion for leave to amend the complaint to add an additional claim in the very near future. The usual responsive filing deadlines will apply if and when that motion is filed.” Id. at 2.

On November 25, 2015, Acadia filed a motion for leave to amend the complaint. Pl.’s Mot. for Leave to File an Am. Compl. (ECF No. 53) (Pl.’s Mot.). Acadia contended that it recently discovered that Fluid Management not only sold the paint mixing machine but also serviced the machine; this fact led to Acadia’s argument that Fluid Management’s faulty preventative maintenance and repairs of the paint mixing machine contributed to the fire. Id. at 5-6. Acadia wished to amend its Complaint to broaden the allegation against Fluid Management to include negligent service, repair, inspection and/or maintenance of the paint mixer. Id. Attach. 1 Am. Compl. (ECF No. 53).

Fluid Management filed a response on December 16, 2015. Def. Fluid Mgmt., Inc.’s Opp’n to Pl.’s Mot. to Am. Compl. (ECF No. 57) (Def.’s Opp’n). Fluid Management revealed that:

After his deposition and after reading the report of Fluid Management’s experts, Plaintiff’s expert realized for the first [time] that rather than being caused by a defect in the motor[, ] the fire was caused by a plastic wire nut that an unknown person improperly installed on a wire at some unknown point after the machine was sold. . . . Experts for both sides now agree that fire was caused by the wire nut.

Id. at 1. Fluid Management argued that Acadia’s motion is untimely and that the amendment would be futile. Id. at 2-6.

On December 28, 2015, Acadia filed a reply, urging the Court to reject Fluid Management’s contentions. Pl.’s Reply in Supp. of its Mot. for Leave to File an ...


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