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Kincaid Coach Lines, Inc. v. Transarctic of North Carolina, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

June 28, 2018

KINCAID COACH LINES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
TRANSARCTIC OF NORTH CAROLINA, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Daniel D. Crabtree United States District Judge

         In this action, plaintiff Kincaid Coach Lines, Inc. (“Kincaid”) asserts claims against defendants TransArctic of North Carolina, Inc., Spheros North America, Inc. (“Spheros”), and Spal USA, Inc. (“Spal USA”). Plaintiff's claims arise from an alleged fire originating in an air conditioning system mounted to the rooftop of a bus that plaintiff operated. Plaintiff asserts that Spal USA “manufactured, sold or otherwise distributed the fans that were integrated as product components into the air conditioning system installed on the Bus.” Doc. 19 at 3. And plaintiff asserts claims for strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty against Spal USA.

         On February 23, 2018, Spal USA filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 51), arguing that plaintiff cannot establish that it sold or manufactured the allegedly defective fan. Plaintiff does not oppose this motion. Doc. 56 at 2. Accordingly, the court grants as uncontested Spal USA's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 51) against all claims asserted against Spal USA.[1]

         This Order also rules on plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint (Doc. 55). For the reasons discussed in Part II, the court grants plaintiff's motion, but-on the current record-declines to conclude that the proposed Amended Complaint “relates back.”

         I. Background

         On October 13, 2017, three months after plaintiff commenced this action, plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint joining Spal USA as a defendant. It asserts strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty claims against Spal USA for property damage and business income losses arising from the alleged October 18, 2015 fire on plaintiff's bus. Plaintiff asserts that it joined Spal USA as a party based upon its good-faith belief that Spal USA had manufactured, sold, or distributed the fans (also called “blowers”) integrated into the Spheros rooftop-mounted air conditioning system installed on plaintiff's bus. Doc. 56-1 (Aff. of Lauren Nuffort) at 2 ¶¶ 6-9.

         On November 6, 2017, Spal USA filed its Answer to plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. See Doc. 24. In this Answer, Spal USA stated “that it possibly sold the fans that were installed on the bus described in plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint.” Id. at 4 ¶ 20.

         On December 27, 2017, plaintiff served written interrogatories on Spal USA. Interrogatory No. 2 asked Spal USA to: “Identify with specificity all components, parts, products, systems, equipment, and/or materials [Spal USA, its predecessors, affiliated companies, and parent companies] manufactured, designed, assembled, sold, or provided to others that were incorporated in or became part of the Subject Air Conditioning Unit.” Doc. 56-1 (Ex. D to Nuffort Aff.) at 12. On January 26, 2018, Spal USA responded that “although it does sell blowers of the same model as contained in the Subject Air Conditioning Unit, it did not design, manufacture, sell or provide the blowers that were installed in the Subject Air Conditioning Unit.” Doc. 56-1 (Ex. E to Nuffort Aff.) at 21. The Scheduling Order set January 30, 2018, as the deadline for motions to amend. See Doc. 33 at 2.

         In early February 2018, plaintiff requested that Spal USA supplement its answers to interrogatory numbers 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 11. Counsel for both parties exchanged correspondence about plaintiff's request for supplementation and counsel discussed the discovery dispute by telephone. Doc. 56-1 (Exs. F & G to Nuffort Aff.) at 32-37. On February 19, 2018, Spal USA filed a First Amended Answer to plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. There, Spal USA again asserted “that it possibly sold the fans that were installed on the bus described in Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint.” Doc. 49 at 4 ¶ 20.

         Three days later, on February 22, 2018, Spal USA served supplemental answers and responses to plaintiff's interrogatories and request for production of documents. In its supplemental answers, Spal USA identified, for the first time, that its parent company, Spal Automotive, Srl (“Spal Auto”) had manufactured and sold the blowers in the relevant air conditioning unit. Doc. 56-1 (Ex. H to Nuffort Aff.) at 39. The next day, on February 23, 2018, Spal USA filed its Motion for Summary Judgment.

         Spal USA submitted an attestation by Spal USA's Quality Manager Dan McNeal with its Motion for Summary Judgment. Mr. McNeal attests that he contacted Spal Auto and was advised that Spal Auto sold the specific blowers with the orange wires connected to the 3-speed resistor pack that were part of the air conditioning unit. Doc. 52-1 (McNeal Aff.) at 3. To its credit, plaintiff concedes that it has no basis to oppose Spal USA's assertion that it did not manufacture, sell, or install the blowers that were part of the air conditioning unit based on the documents and information Spal USA recently produced in this case.

         Plaintiff asserts that, from the outset, it intended to commence these strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty claims against the manufacturer-seller of the blowers. Plaintiff also asserts that it mistakenly believed Spal USA was the proper entity that manufactured and sold the blowers. Finally, plaintiff asserts that when it received Spal USA's supplemental discovery responses on February 22, 2018 and learned of Spal USA's assertion about Spal Auto, plaintiff promptly reviewed supplemental documents, conferred with counsel, and discerned the meaning of this new information so then it promptly could file a Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint. Doc. 56-1 (Nuffort Aff.) at 3.

         II. Analysis

         Because plaintiff filed its Motion for Leave to Amend the Complaint after January 30, 2018, the court must analyze the motion under the two-step test used in this district to decide motions to amend pleadings after the scheduling order deadline. E.g., Capital Sols., LLC v. Konica Minolta Bus. ...


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