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Fields v. Dollar Tree Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

September 30, 2019

ELAINE FIELDS PLAINTIFF
v.
DOLLAR TREE STORES, INC. D/B/A DOLLAR TREE AND AWESOME PRODUCTS, INC. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          HENRY T. WINGATE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         BEFORE THIS COURT are the following motions: Defendant Awesome Products, Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint [Docket no. 11]; Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend Complaint [Docket no. 27]; and Defendant Awesome Products, Inc’s Motion to Strike Plaintiff’s Untimely Rebuttal to the Memorandum Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend Complaint [Docket no. 34].

         I. BACKGROUND

         On July 25, 2018, Plaintiff Elaine Fields (“Plaintiff”) filed this action against Defendants Dollar Tree Stores, Inc[1]. (“Dollar Tree”) and Awesome Products Inc. (“Awesome Products”) in the Circuit Court of Hinds County, Mississippi, seeking monetary damages for personal injuries sustained by Plaintiff while shopping at a Dollar Tree Store. Plaintiff’s Complaint alleged two causes of action: negligence and res ipsa loquitur[2].

         On August 20, 2018, Dollar Tree removed this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332[3] on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. [Docket no. 1]. Awesome Products consented to the removal of this action. [Docket no. 9].

         On September 14, 2018, Awesome Products filed its motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint under Rule 12(b)(6)[4] of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [Docket no. 26]. Specifically, Awesome Products asserted that Plaintiff’s common-law negligence claims were barred by the Mississippi Products Liability Act (“MPLA”), and that Plaintiff had failed to plead specific facts that would allow recovery against Awesome Products under the MPLA.

         On September 28, 2018, Plaintiff, instead of filing a response to Awesome Products’ motion to dismiss, filed a motion to amend her Complaint to include causes of action under the MPLA. [Docket no.27]. Plaintiff’s motion also sought to reduce the amount of damages sought in her Complaint to less than $75, 000. Plaintiff’s request to reduce her monetary demand, if granted, would have stripped this Court of diversity jurisdiction[5]. Awesome Products opposed Plaintiff’s motion to amend [Docket no. 28], asserting that Plaintiff’s proposed Amended Complaint still failed to establish a right to recovery against Awesome Products, and that Plaintiff’s post-removal reduction of her damages demand was “too late”. Id. Awesome Products filed its opposition motion and brief on October 4, 2018.

         On October 31, 2018, Plaintiff filed an untimely Reply [Docket no. 32] to Awesome Products’ memorandum opposing her motion to amend[6]. Plaintiff, in her Reply, withdrew her request to reduce the amount of damages sought.

         Awesome Products now petitions this Court to strike Plaintiff’s Reply as untimely. [Docket no. 32].

         II. DISCUSSION

         a. Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend Complaint

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) directs that leave to amend “shall be freely given when justice so requires.” Dussoy v. Gulf Coast Investment Corp., 660 F.2d. 594, 598 (5th Cir. 1981). The Fifth Circuit explains that “unless there is substantial reason to deny leave to amend, the discretion of the district court is not broad enough to permit denial.” Id. Plaintiff, in the present case, states that she “inadvertently failed to expressly assert an MPLA claim against Awesome Products.” [Docket no. 27, p. 3]. Plaintiff seeks to remedy this inadvertence by asserting a MPLA claim against Awesome Products in her Amended Complaint. Id.

         Plaintiff points to Forman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 83, S.Ct. 227, 9 L.Ed.2d 222 (1962), wherein the United States Supreme Court allowed a plaintiff to amend his complaint even though the proposed amendment changed the theory of that plaintiff’s case. This Court is persuaded that like the Forman plaintiff, Plaintiff herein should be granted leave to amend her Complaint to include a MPLA claim against Awesome Products.

         This Court further finds that Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend Complaint should be granted because this case is still in its infancy; no discovery has been conducted in the matter and Awesome Products has ...


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