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Munoz v. FCA U.S. LLC

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

July 10, 2019

ROY MUNOZ, Plaintiff,
FCA U.S. LLC, et al., Defendants.


         THIS MATTER is before the Court upon Plaintiff's Motion to Amend Complaint, filed May 13, 2019 (Doc. 97), and Defendants' Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Expert Disclosures and Expert Report, filed May 30, 2019 (Doc. 117). Having reviewed the parties' pleadings and applicable law, the Court finds that Plaintiff's motion to amend is not well-taken and, therefore, is DENIED. As for Defendants' Motion to Strike, the Court finds that it is generally not well taken and, therefore, is GRANTED IN PART IN AND DENIED IN PART.


         This is a products liability case arising from the apparent failure of an airbag to deploy during a car accident. This case was filed on August 25, 2017. Plaintiff seeks permission to file a fourth amended complaint. See Docs. 1, 9, 10, 43, 97.

         In his original complaint, Plaintiff alleged that on November 1, 2016, he was driving a 2012 Dodge Ram. He was driving at the posted speed limit and hit two elk head on. He alleges the airbag did not deploy despite heavy damage to the front of his vehicle caused by the collision.

         Plaintiff seeks to amend his complaint to allege that he was in fact traveling in excess of the posted speed limit at 75 or 80 mph when he struck a large bull elk and female elk. The bull elk was struck head on, while the female elk was struck with a glancing blow. He did not have time to apply his brakes or slow the vehicle before the collision. Plaintiff estimates the bull elk weighed at least 800 pounds. Therefore, Plaintiff appears to change his allegation as to his speed and add more details as to two elk he hit.


         I. Motion to Amend Complaint (Doc. 97).

         Plaintiff seeks leave to file a fourth amended complaint. The Court should freely give leave to amend when justice so requires. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). “The purpose of the Rule is to provide litigants the maximum opportunity for each claim to be decided on the merits rather than procedural niceties.” Minter v. Prime Equip. Co., 451 F.3d 1196, 1204 (10th Cir. 2006). That said, “[a] district court should refuse leave to amend only upon a showing of undue delay, undue prejudice to the opposing party, bad faith or dilatory motive, failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, or futility of amendment.” Wilkerson v. Shinseki, 606 F.3d 1256, 1267 (10th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). Determining whether to grant leave to amend a pleading is an exercise in the Court's discretion. State Distributor's, Inc. v. Glenmore Distilleries, Co., 738 F.2d 405, 416 (10th Cir. 1984); see also Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).

         Untimeliness of a plaintiff's motion can be a sufficient reason to deny leave to amend, particularly when the movant provides no adequate explanation for the delay. Panis v. Mission Hills Bank, N.A., 60 F.3d 1486, 1495 (10th Cir. 1995). No. finding of a prejudice to the opposing party is required. Woolsey v. Marion Lab., Inc., 934 F.2d 1452, 1462 (10th Cir. 1991). “The longer the delay, the more likely the motion to amend will be denied, as protracted delay, with its attendant burdens on the opponent and the court, is itself a sufficient reason for the court to withhold permission to amend.” Minter v. Prime Equipment Co., 451 F.3d 1196, 1205 (10th Cir. 2006) (need not show prejudice); see also First City Bank, N.A. v. Air Capitol Aircraft Sales, Inc., 820 F.2d 1127, 1133 (10th Cir. 1987) (undue delay may be sufficient ground to deny motion to amend, even without evidence of prejudice to defendants). The Tenth Circuit “focuses primarily on the reasons for the delay.” Minter v. Prime Equip. Co., 451 F.3d 1196, 1206 (10th Cir. 2006). “[D]enial of leave to amend is appropriate when the party filing the motion has no adequate explanation for the delay.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); see also Durham v. Xerox Corp., 18 F.3d 836, 840 (10th Cir.1994) (“[U]nexplained delay alone justifies the district court's discretionary decision.”).

         Here, Plaintiff argued that he remembered these facts late because he is recovering from a brain injury caused by the crash. Defendants in their response presented evidence that Plaintiff reported to his doctor on February 27, 2017 that he was driving at 70 miles per hour and hit a male elk and a female elk. Doc. 101-1. Plaintiff reported this to his doctor before the original complaint was filed on August 25, 2017. Therefore, Plaintiff knew about these facts before the case was filed, and yet the apparent wrong allegations made it into the first complaint. Plaintiff did not file a reply or give an explanation for failing to include these allegations in his complaint, when he already knew about them. Moreover, it is unclear why this proposed amendment is late, or when Plaintiff discovered the doctor's report in discovery. The Court concludes that the failure to plausibly explain the undue delay justifies denying the motion to amend. See, e.g., McKnight v. Kimberly Clark Corp., 149 F.3d 1125, 1130 (10th Cir.1998) (Denying motion to amend where “plaintiff was aware of all the information on which his proposed amended complaint was based prior to filing the original complaint.”); see also Las Vegas Ice & Cold Storage Co. v. Far W. Bank, 893 F.2d 1182, 1185 (10th Cir. 1990) (“Untimeliness alone may be sufficient basis for denial of leave to amend, ” particularly “[w]here the party seeking amendment knows or should have known of the facts upon which the proposed amendment is based but fails to include them in the original complaint.”) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         II. Defendants' Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Expert Report and Disclosures (Doc. 117).

         A. Dr. Jahan Rasty's Expert Report.

         Defendant argues that Plaintiff's expert report from Dr. Jahan Rasty should be stricken, because it is incomplete. Rule 26(a)(2) provides that expert reports must “contain a complete statement of all opinions to be expressed.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(a)(2)(B). “If a party fails to provide information … as required by Rule 26(a)… the party is not allowed to use that information … to supply evidence on a motion, at a hearing, or at a trial, unless the failure was substantially justified or is harmless.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(c)(1). see ClearOne Commc'ns, Inc. v. Biamp Sys., 653 F.3d 1163, 1176 (10th Cir. 2011) (“As a general rule, when a party fails to comply with Rule 26(a)'s disclosure requirements, that party is not allowed to introduce the expert witness's testimony… at trial”) (internal quotations omitted).

         Defendants argue that the expert report should be stricken because it does not address “(1) whether and how the subject vehicle and/or its component parts are defective, and (2) how those alleged defects are ...

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