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Centrella v. Ritz-craft Corporation of Pennsylvania, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Vermont

October 13, 2016

Carmine Centrella and Mary Brennan-Centrella, Plaintiffs,
v.
Ritz-Craft Corporation of Pennsylvania, Inc. And Mountain View Modular Homes, Inc., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER (Doc. 71)

          John M. Conroy, United States Magistrate Judge

         Presently before the Court is the motion of Plaintiffs Carmine Centrella and Mary Brennan-Centrella (the Centrellas) for leave to file an amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15. (Doc. 71.) The original Complaint named Ritz-Craft Corporation of Pennsylvania, Inc. (Ritz-Craft), and Mountain View Modular Homes, Inc. (Mountain View), as defendants. (Doc. 1.) The Clerk of Court entered default against Mountain View pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a) on June 17, 2015. (Doc. 55.)

         The original Complaint alleged that Defendants Ritz-Craft and Mountain View (1) violated the Vermont Consumer Protection Act (VCPA), 9 V.S.A. §§ 2451-2480; (2) breached express warranties made pursuant to 9A V.S.A. § 2-313; and (3) breached the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose made pursuant to 9A V.S.A. § 2-315. (Doc. 1 at 8-16.) For relief under the VCPA claim the Centrellas seek the $246, 673 purchase price of their home, “or the damages attributable to [Ritz-Craft], if greater.” (Id. at 10.) They also seek “a reasonable sum for the loss of enjoyment . . . of the home and [the] time and expense in prosecuting this action, ” as well as attorney fees, costs, and “an award of treble damages if found available.” (Id.) For relief under the breach-of-warranty claims, the Centrellas seek damages “in an amount sufficient to cover the repairs required to bring the home to warranted condition, and to compensate [them] for any diminution [in] the value of the home after repairs, [and] for incidental and consequential damages.” (Id. at 13; see Id. at 15-16.)

         In their proposed Amended Complaint, the Centrellas bring no new claims. Rather, they seek to allege additional facts in support of the existing legal claims. (Doc. 71 at 5.) Ritz-Craft filed an Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint[1] on August 29, 2016. (Doc. 74.) For the reasons stated below, the Centrellas' Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint is GRANTED.

         Background

         In the proposed Amended Complaint it is generally alleged that the Centrellas entered into a Sales Agreement with Mountain View for the purchase and installation of a Ritz-Craft modular home on January 18, 2013. (Doc. 71-2 at 3-4, ¶ 13; see also Doc. 66-2 at 4; Doc. 63-3 at 2.) The purchase price eventually agreed on was $246, 673. (Id.) Most of the home was constructed by Ritz-Craft at its factory in Pennsylvania and then it was assembled by Mountain View here in Vermont. (Doc. 63-1 at 2, ¶ 5; Doc. 1 at 3, ¶ 13.) The Centrellas allege that various problems with the home arose once the modules arrived in Vermont and Mountain View began putting the modules together. (Doc. 1 at 4-5.) Problems continued to arise after construction was completed in July 2013. (Id. at 5-6.)

         Ritz-Craft modular homes come with “a one-year limited warranty and a 10-year structural warranty.” (Doc. 63-1 at 4, ¶ 15; Doc. 66-2 at 8, ¶ 15.) The Centrellas filed suit on June 6, 2014 alleging breach of these and other express warranties, breach of the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose, and violation of the VCPA. (Doc. 1.)

         The Court set the original Discovery Schedule/Order on December 12, 2014. (Doc. 28.) That Order required all “[m]otions for . . . amendments to the pleadings . . . be filed on or before April 22, 2015.” (Doc. 28 at 2, ¶ 9.) The deadlines in the original Discovery Schedule/Order were revised on June 16, 2015 (Doc. 54), following the parties' Joint Motion to Modify the Discovery Schedule/Order (Doc. 53). The new Discovery Schedule/Order required all amendments to the pleadings be submitted by July 15, 2015. (Doc. 54 at 2, ¶ 9.) The Clerk of Court entered default against Mountain View on June 17, 2015. (Doc. 55; see also Doc. 47.)

         While Ritz-Craft and the Centrellas sought and obtained two extensions of time in which to complete discovery (Docs. 59, 61), neither extension modified the July 15, 2015 deadline to amend the pleadings. On February 16, 2016, Ritz-Craft filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on each count. (Doc. 63.) The Centrellas responded to the Motion on April 18, 2016. (Doc. 66.) Ritz-Craft filed a Reply to the Centrellas' Response on May 5, 2016. (Doc. 67.) On August 3, 2016, the Court heard oral argument on Ritz-Craft's pending Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 70.) Seven days later, on August 10, the Centrellas filed the pending Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint. (Doc. 71.) The Court issued its Opinion and Order denying Ritz-Craft's Motion for Summary Judgment on August 23. (Doc. 73.)

         Analysis

         I. Modification of the Discovery Schedule/Order

         All motions to amend the pleadings were due by July 15, 2015. (Doc. 54.) The Centrellas filed their Motion for Leave to Amend over a year after the expiration of that deadline on August 10, 2016. (Doc. 71.) The Centrellas' Motion for Leave to Amend, therefore, constitutes a modification to the Court's Discovery Schedule/Order. A modification to a scheduling order may be accepted “only for good cause and with the judge's consent.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4); see also Crowell v. Kirkpatrick, 262 F.R.D. 401, 402 (D. Vt. 2009) (citing Parker v. Columbia Pictures Indus., 204 F.3d 326, 340 (2d Cir. 2000)) (“[W]hen a motion to amend is brought after the Scheduling Order's deadline for amending the pleadings, as it was here, the moving party must establish good cause for modifying the scheduling order pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b)(4).” (footnote omitted)). Therefore, as a threshold matter, the Centrellas must show good cause for seeking leave to amend their complaint over a year after the expiration of the Discovery Schedule/Order deadline. Benefitvision Inc. v. Gentiva Health Servs., Inc., 2015 WL 1034543, at *7 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 9, 2015) (“The standards of Rule 16(b) must be met first and cannot be short-circuited by an appeal to those of Rule 15.” (quoting Sokol Holdings, Inc. v. BMB Munai, Inc., No. 05 cv 3749(KMW)(DCF), 2009 WL 3467756, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 28, 2009))).

         The “good cause” requirement “‘is designed to offer a measure of certainty in pretrial proceedings, ensuring that at some point both the parties and pleadings will be fixed.'” Davis v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Civil No. 3:12cv1102 (JBA), 2016 WL 543029, at *2 (D. Conn. Feb. 10, 2016) (quoting Parker, 204 F.3d at 340). “‘Good cause in this context depends on the diligence of the moving party, and, to satisfy the standard, the movant must demonstrate that it . . . has been diligent in its effort to meet the Court's deadlines.'” Benefitvision Inc., 2015 WL 1034543, at *7 (quoting Sokol Holdings, Inc. v. BMB Munai, Inc., No. 05 Civ. 3749(KMW)(DF), 2009 WL 2524611, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 14, 2009)). In determining whether the moving party has shown good cause, the Court may also “‘consider other relevant factors including, in particular, whether allowing the amendment of the pleading at this stage of the litigation will prejudice defendants.'” Id. (quoting Kassner v. 2nd Ave. Delicatessen Inc., 496 F.3d 229, 244 (2d Cir. 2007)). Furthermore, “[a] party is not considered to have acted diligently where the proposed amendment is based on information that the party knew, or should have known, in advance of the motion deadline.” Guity v. Uniondale Union Free Sch. Dist., No. 12- CV-1482 (SJF)(AKT), 2014 WL 795576, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 27, 2014) (citing Parker, 204 F.3d at 340-41).

         The Court concludes that the Centrellas have established good cause for three reasons. First, the Centrellas have diligently prosecuted their claims. With the exception of missing the deadline for seeking leave to amend the pleadings, the Centrellas have met the deadlines imposed by this Court. Second, the Court accepts their representation that the allegations added to the proposed Amended Complaint were not known by the Centrellas at the time they filed their original Complaint. (Doc. 71 at 5; Doc. 75 at 2-3.) They persuasively assert that these new allegations were gleaned from discovery after Ritz-Craft had filed its Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 71 at 5, n.5 (“Facts concerning the limitations on [Ritz-Craft's] warranties were in the hands of the defendant and uncovered during depositions ...


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