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Cyr v. General Motors, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maine

March 14, 2019

LINDA M. CYR, Plaintiff
v.
GENERAL MOTORS, LLC, Defendant

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE THIRD-PARTY COMPLAINT

          John C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge

         In this products liability action, Plaintiff seeks to recover for injuries resulting from an automobile collision, which she claims was caused by the Defendant's design, manufacture, and marketing of an unsafe automobile. (Complaint ¶¶ 29 - 30.)

         The matter is before the Court on Defendant's motion for leave to file a third-party complaint against the driver of another vehicle involved in the collision. (ECF No. 15, hereinafter “Motion”)

         Following a review of the record and after consideration of the parties' arguments, I grant Defendant's motion.

         Background [1]

         On July 19, 2016, Plaintiff was a passenger in a 2014 Chevrolet Impala operated by Plaintiff's husband and traveling southbound on Main Street/Route 1 in Van Buren, Maine. (Complaint ¶ 6.) Linda Emond was driving a 2013 GMC Terrain northbound and crossed into the southbound lane. (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff's husband attempted to avoid a collision, but the vehicles collided in the northbound lane. (Id.) Plaintiff was injured in the collision. (Id. ¶¶ 55 - 57.)

         On August 31, 2018, Plaintiff commenced this action against Defendant, alleging negligence and strict liability claims for the design, manufacture, marketing, assembly, and testing of the Impala. (Id. ¶¶ 27 - 53.) On December 19, 2018, Defendant filed the motion, seeking to join Ms. Emond as a third-party defendant. Plaintiff did not join Ms. Emond as a defendant because Plaintiff settled her claim against Ms. Emond on July 26, 2018. (Motion ¶ 6; Release of All Claims, ECF No. 22-1.)

         Discussion

         “A defending party may, as third-party plaintiff, serve a summons and complaint on a nonparty who is or may be liable to it for all or part of the claim against it.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 14(a)(1). The defending party seeking to assert a claim against a third-party must obtain leave of the court “if it files the third-party complaint more than 14 days after serving its original answer.” Id. “In that event, the determination is left to the informed discretion of the district court, which should allow impleader on any colorable claim of derivative liability that will not unduly delay or otherwise prejudice the ongoing proceedings.” Lehman v. Revolution Portfolio L.L.C., 166 F.3d 389, 393 (1st Cir. 1999).

         Because more than 14 days have elapsed, Defendant requires an order granting leave to file the proposed third-party complaint. Plaintiff argues that joining Ms. Emond as a third-party defendant is unnecessary because if the motion is granted, Ms. Emond would be entitled to a dismissal of the claim pursuant to Maine's statutes governing tort claims involving multiple responsible parties, 14 M.R.S. §§ 156 and 163.

         The Maine Law Court described the operation of Maine's comparative negligence statute, 14 M.R.S. § 156 as follows:

Under the Maine Comparative Negligence Act, 14 M.R.S.A. § 156, a claimant whose injuries result partly from his own and partly from another's causative fault is not, by reason of the fact that the claimant's own fault contributed to his own injury, excluded from the recovery of some damages, unless such claimant is found by the jury to be equally at fault. But, if the claimant's causative fault is found to be less than the causative fault of the other party, then the damages recoverable in respect to the claimant's injury under such circumstances shall be reduced, so the statute says, from the total damages which would have been recoverable if the claimant had not been at fault “to such extent as the jury thinks just and equitable having regard to the claimant's share in the responsibility for the damage.”

Jackson v. Frederick's Motor Inn, 418 A.2d 168, 172 (Me. 1980).

         Maine's comparative negligence statute also grants certain rights and procedures for “case[s] involving multiparty defendants.” 14 M.R.S. § 156. “[E]ach defendant is jointly and severally liable . . . for the full amount of the plaintiff's damages, ” but “any defendant has the right . . . to request of the jury the percentage of fault contributed by each defendant.” Id. “The comparative negligence statute, 14 M.R.S. § 156, requires the fact-finder to make two separate and distinct decisions: first, to determine liability, and second, to apportion ...


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