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Kevin Gallagher v. Scm Group North America

January 18, 2012

KEVIN GALLAGHER
v.
SCM GROUP NORTH AMERICA, INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joseph A. DiClerico, Jr. United States District Judge

Opinion No. 2012 DNH 013

ORDER

Kevin Gallagher sued SCM Group North America, Inc., alleging product liability claims arising from injuries he sustained while operating a shaper that was manufactured and sold by SCM. Gallagher moves to amend his complaint to add claims for strict liability based on the shaper's alleged dangerous condition and for enhanced compensatory damages. SCM objects to the motion.

Background

On August 1, 2008, Gallagher severely injured his left hand while operating a shaper, a piece of woodworking equipment manufactured and sold by SCM. Gallagher brought suit against SCM on July 26, 2011, alleging a claim for strict liability based on defective design and a negligence claim for failure to warn.*fn1

On December 1, 2011, Gallagher moved to amend his complaint.*fn2 In his proposed amended complaint, Gallagher's factual allegations remain essentially the same, but he reorganizes claims and adds two new claims. As proposed, the amended complaint includes Count I, alleging strict product liability; Count II, alleging negligent design; Count III, alleging negligent failure to warn; and Count IV, alleging "wanton and reckless conduct" and claiming enhanced compensatory damages.

Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) governs whether a pleading may be amended before trial. When the defendant has filed an answer, "a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave," and such leave should be freely given "when justice so requires." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). Under that standard, leave to amend should be granted absent "undue delay in filing the motion, bad faith or dilatory motive, repeated failure to cure deficiencies, undue prejudice to the opposing party, [or] futility of amendment."

United States ex rel. Gagne v. City of Worcester, 565 F.3d 40, 48 (1st Cir. 2009).

Discussion

SCM objects to Gallagher's motion to amend the complaint on two grounds. SCM argues that the proposed claim for strict liability is time-barred by the applicable statute of limitations. It also argues that the claim for enhanced compensatory damages would be futile.

A. Statute of Limitations

SCM argues that Gallagher's strict liability claim is barred by New Hampshire's three-year statute of limitations. See RSA 508:4. In support of its argument, SCM contends that the accident, which is the basis of Gallagher's claims, occurred on August 1, 2008, and that Gallagher's motion to amend the complaint was filed on December 1, 2011, after the limitations period.

Claims that were not asserted within the applicable statute of limitations are time-barred unless those claims satisfy the relation back doctrine. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c); see also Coons v. Indus. Knife Co., Inc., 620 F.3d 38, 41-42 (1st Cir. 2010). Under the relation back doctrine, amended pleadings may be treated, for purposes of the statute of limitations, as having been filed on the date of the original complaint. Abraham v. Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst., 553 F.3d 114, 118 n.5 (1st Cir. 2009); see also Morel v. DaimlerChrysler AG, 565 F.3d 20, 23 (1st Cir. 2009). Pursuant to Rule 15(c)(1)(B), an amended complaint relates back to a prior complaint ...


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