United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFFS'
AMENDED MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT (DKT. NO. 114)
KATHERINE A. ROBERTSON, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the court on the motion on behalf of the
estate of Junior Williams for leave to file a fourth
complaint (“the Motion”) which would add wrongful
death claims and a survival action on behalf of the estate of
Junior Williams through Treslan Williams, who has been duly
appointed the representative of Junior Williams's estate.
The proposed amended complaint would also add loss of
consortium claims on behalf of Junior Williams's daughter
through her mother, Tierra Sherman, who has been appointed
her conservator. Finally, the proposed complaint would
substitute as plaintiff Treslan Williams as personal
representative of the estate of Junior Williams (Dkt. No.
114-1). Defendants Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A., and
Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. (collectively, Kawasaki or
Kawasaki defendants) oppose so much of the Motion as seeks to
add a wrongful death claim on behalf of Junior Williams's
estate and loss of consortium claims on behalf of his
daughter and assert that Tierra Sherman would be an improper
plaintiff in a wrongful death or survival action because
Junior Williams's daughter is not an administrator or
representative of his estate. Kawasaki does not oppose the
addition of the survival action in Count V of the proposed
complaint or the substitution of Treslan Williams as
plaintiff on behalf of the estate of Junior Williams.
Defendant Springfield Motor Sports LLC opposes so much of the
Motion as seeks to add a wrongful death claim to the
complaint. For the reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS
so much of the Motion as seeks to add Count IV for wrongful
death to the extent the claim is asserted on behalf of Junior
Williams's estate, DENIES so much of the Motion as seeks
to add loss of consortium claims through Tierra Sherman on
behalf of Junior Williams's daughter in Counts I-V, and
GRANTS so much of the Motion as seeks to substitute as
plaintiff Treslan Williams as personal representative of the
estate of Junior Williams and to add a Survival Action on
behalf of the estate of Junior Williams.
Williams filed his initial complaint in the Hampden County
Superior Court on July 26, 2016 (Dkt. No. 10 at 1). He filed
an amended complaint on September 17, 2016, and a second
amended complaint on December 12, 2016 (Dkt. Nos. 17, 44).
The initial and amended complaints asserted that Junior
Williams was severely injured in a July 30, 2013 accident
that occurred while he was riding a Kawasaki motorcycle in
Springfield (e.g., Dkt. No. 44 at 2, ¶ 5). His second
amended complaint stated claims against all defendants of
strict products liability (Count I); negligence (Count II);
and breach of warranty (Count III) (Dkt. No. 44). The Motion
represents that Junior Williams “passed away on or
about July 27, 2018” (Dkt. No. 114 at 1). It is
alleged, in the proposed amended complaint, that the death of
Junior Williams was “directly related” to the
motorcycle accident that occurred five years earlier and that
he “took his own life as a result of his severe burn,
emotional and psychological injuries” (Dkt. No. 114-1
at 3, ¶ 6). Documents submitted to the court show that
Treslan Williams has been duly appointed as personal
representative of the estate of Junior Williams (Dkt. No.
114-2) and that Tierra Sherman has been duly appointed a
conservator of Junior Williams's minor daughter (Dkt. No.
there is no dispute that Treslan Williams as representative
of the estate of Junior Williams should be substituted as the
plaintiff in this action, the court refers to Treslan
Williams as Plaintiff hereinafter.
A motion to amend a complaint will be treated differently
depending on its timing and the context in which it is filed.
. . . The default rule mandates that leave to amend is to be
“freely given when justice so requires” . . .
unless the amendment “would be futile, or reward,
inter alia, undue or intended delay.” As a
case progresses, and the issues are joined, the burden on a
plaintiff seeking to amend a complaint becomes more exacting.
. . . Once a scheduling order is in place [if leave to amend
is sought after the cut-off date established in the order],
the liberal default rule is replaced by the more demanding
“good cause” standard of Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b).
Steir v. Girl Scouts of the USA, 383 F.3d 7, 11-12
(2004) (internal citations omitted).
‘spirit of the rule' dictates a preference for
decisions ‘on the merits, not because of missteps by
counsel in pleading.'” J.S. McCarthy Co. v.
Braus Diecutting & Converting Equip., Inc.,
226 F.R.D. 14, 17 (D. Me. 2005) (quoting Allendale Mut.
Ins. Co. v. Rutherford, 178 F.R.D. 1, 3 (D. Me. 1998)
(quoting Sweeney v. Keystone Provident Life Ins.
Co., 578 F.Supp. 31, 34 (D. Mass. 1983))); see also
Torres-Alamo v. Puerto Rico, 502 F.3d 20, 25 (1st Cir.
2007) (Rule 15(a) embodies a liberal standard for judging a
motion for leave to file an amended complaint). “In
considering a motion for leave to amend . . . the trial court
must first consider whether the proposed new claims are
futile[.] . . . If the claims are not futile, then the trial
court must consider whether, given the timing of the motion
for leave to amend, such prejudice to the defendant would
arise from granting the motion that the motion should be
denied on that ground.” Smith v. Mitre
Corp., 949 F.Supp. 943, 945 (D. Mass. 1997) (citations
omitted). “In determining whether the plaintiffs unduly
delayed in filing their motion to amend, the focus . . . is
on whether allowing the amendment would unfairly prejudice
the defendants.” Bond Opportunity Fund II, LLC v.
Heffernan, 340 F.Supp.2d 146, 155-56 (D.R.I. 2004);
see Mitre Corp., 949 F.Supp. at 945.
“Amendment of pleadings is largely a matter within the
discretion of the district court.” Guest-Tek
Interactive Entm't Inc. v. Pullen, 731 F.Supp.2d 80,
92 (D. Mass. 2010).
Wrongful Death Claims
defendants oppose Plaintiff's quest to add wrongful death
claims following Junior Williams's suicide on grounds of
futility. “If leave to amend is sought before discovery
is complete and neither party has moved for summary judgment,
the accuracy of the ‘futility' label is gauged by
reference to the liberal criteria of Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6).” Hatch v. Dept. for Children,
Youth & Their Families, 274 F.3d 12, 19 (1st Cir.
2001); see Adorno v. Crowley Towing & Transp.
Co., 443 F.3d 122, 126 (1st Cir. 2006) (“In
assessing futility, the district court must apply the
standard which applies to motions to dismiss under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).”). Thus, in this context,
“[f]utility means that the complaint, as amended, would
fail to state a claim upon which relief could be
granted.” Glassman v. Computervision Corp., 90
F.3d 617, 623 (1st Cir. 1996); see also Rose v. Hartford
Underwriters Ins. Co., 203 F.3d 417, 421 (6th Cir. 2000)
(“a proposed amendment is futile only if it could not
withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss”).
survive a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a
“'complaint must contain enough factual material to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level …
and state a facially plausible legal claim, '”
Guerra-Delgado v. Popular, Inc., 774 F.3d 776, 780
(1st Cir. 2014) (quoting Ocasio-Hernández v.
Fortuño-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011)),
“accept[ing] as true well-pleaded facts in the
complaint and draw[ing] all reasonable inferences in the
pleader's favor. Id. (citing Tasker v. DHL
Rev. Sav. Plan, 621 F.3d 34, 38 (1st Cir. 2010)). In
resolving a motion to dismiss, the court employs a two-step
approach. Medina-Velázquez v.
Hernández-Gregorat, 767 F.3d 103, 108 (1st Cir.
2014) (citing Ocasio-Hernández, 640 F.3d at
First, [the court] “must separate the complaint's
factual allegations (which must be accepted as true) from its
conclusory legal allegations (which need not be
credited).” A.G. ex. rel. Maddox v. Elsevier,
Inc., 732 F.3d 77, 80 (1st Cir. 2013) (internal
quotation marks omitted). Second, [the court] “must
determine whether the remaining factual content allows a
reasonable inference that ...