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Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. v. Hurricane Logistics Company

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA


June 19, 2003

LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE CO., PLAINTIFF,
v.
HURRICANE LOGISTICS COMPANY ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

Document Nos. 22, 29

MEMORANDUM ORDER GRANTING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO AMEND ITS FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

This action comes before the court on the plaintiff's motion to amend its first amended complaint. In October 2001, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company ("LMIC") issued a $10,000 surety bond on behalf of Hurricane Logistics Company ("Hurricane"), a licensed"broker of transportation." Am. Compl. ¶¶ 25 (citing Compl. Ex. A), 29. LMIC issued the bond for the benefit of motor carriers or shippers to whom Hurricane may be legally liable for damages described in the bond. Id. ¶¶ 25-26. Pursuant to the bond, several claimants filed claims with LMIC for alleged damages that Hurricane caused to motor carriers or shippers during the time period covered by the bond. Id. ¶¶ 9-24, 28-29. The claims, which range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, exceed the $10,000 amount of the bond. Id. ¶ 30.

On April 23, 2002, to resolve the conflicting claims, LMIC filed a complaint in interpleader under the federal interpleader statute against Hurricane and eight claimant-defendants.*fn1 Compl.¶¶ 2, 9-16. LMIC also sought indemnity from Hurricane. Id. ¶¶ 26-34. On July 19, 2002, LMIC amended its complaint as of right, adding another eight claimant-defendants.*fn2 Am. Compl. ¶¶ 17-24. In August 2002, three claimant-defendants – Stewart Transport, Inc. ("Stewart"), L.J. Kidd Transportation ("L.J. Kidd"), and Royal Trucking ("Royal") – filed an answer.*fn3 By March 2003, however, the Clerk of the Court had entered default against Hurricane and most of the remaining claimant-defendants. On November 26, 2002 and April 23, 2003, LMIC moved the court for leave to amend its first amended complaint to add an additional eight claimant-defendants.*fn4 Pl.'s Mot. to Am. Hurricane, the claimantdefendants, and the proposed claimant-defendants have not filed a response thereto.

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), a party may amend its pleading to add a party.*fn5 FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a); Wiggins v. Dist. Cablevision, Inc., 853 F. Supp. 484, 499 (D.D.C. 1994); 6 FED. PRAC. & PROC. CIV.2d § 1474. Once a responsive pleading is filed, a party may amend its complaint only by leave of the court or by written consent of the adverse party. FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a).; Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). The grant or denial of leave is committed to the discretion of the district court, but the court must heed Rule 15's mandate that leave is to be"freely given when justice so requires." FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a); Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1208 (D.C. Cir. 1996); Foman, 371 U.S. at 182; Caribbean Broad. Sys., Ltd. v. Cable & Wireless P.L.C., 148 F.3d 1080, 1083 (D.C. Cir. 1998). Denial of leave to amend therefore constitutes an abuse of discretion unless the court gives sufficient reason, such as futility of amendment, undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, undue prejudice, or repeated failure to cure deficiencies by previous amendments. Foman, 371 U.S. at 182; Caribbean Broad. Sys., 148 F.3d at 1083.

In this case, LMIC contends that the proposed amendment would not prejudice claimantdefendants Stewart, L.J. Kidd, or Royal, as it does not assert additional allegations or claims against them or impact their defenses or ability to proceed. Pl.'s Mot. to Am. at 2. LMIC also states that"justice requires that [the proposed additional claimant-defendants] have the opportunity to present their claims and participate in any distribution of the Bond proceeds." Id. After considering the record, the court finds no reason to deny the plaintiff leave to amend: LMIC's proposed amendment is not futile, and there is no evidence of undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, undue prejudice, or failure to cure deficiencies.*fn6 Foman, 371 U.S. at 182; Caribbean Broad. Sys., 148 F.3d at 1083. Following Rule 15(a)'s mandate, therefore, the court grants the plaintiff's motion to amend. FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a); Foman, 371 U.S. at 182.

Accordingly, it is this 19th day of June, 2003, hereby ORDERED that the plaintiff's motion to amend its first amended complaint is GRANTED;

and it is

FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk file the second amended complaint that accompanied the plaintiff's motion; and it is

ORDERED that by July 10, 2003, claimant-defendants L.J. Kidd and Royal submit to the court a notice indicating whether they have retained counsel. If they have not retained counsel, the court will strike their answers.

SO ORDERED.

Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge


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