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Aljalham v. American Steamship Co.

April 29, 2010

NASSER ALJALHAM, PLAINTIFF,
v.
AMERICAN STEAMSHIP COMPANY, DEFENDANT AND THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALLOUEZ MARINE SUPPLY, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gerald E. Rosen Chief Judge, United States District Court

Mag. Donald A. Scheer

OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING ALLOUEZ MARINE SUPPLY'S MOTION TO STRIKE AMERICAN STEAMSHIP'S THIRD PARTY COMPLAINT

At a session of said Court, held in the U.S. Courthouse, Detroit, Michigan on April 29, 2010 PRESENT: Honorable Gerald E. Rosen Chief Judge, United States District Court

I. INTRODUCTION

This Jones Act case is before the Court on Third-Party Defendant Allouez Marine Supply's Motion to Strike Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff American Steamship Company's Amended Third-Party Complaint. American Steamship Company has filed a response in opposition. Having reviewed the parties' written submissions in support of and opposition to Allouez Marine Supply's motion, the accompanying exhibits, and the record as a whole, the Court finds that the pertinent facts and legal contentions are sufficiently presented in these materials, and that oral argument would not assist in the resolution of this motion. Accordingly, the Court will decide Defendants' motions "on the briefs." See Local Rule 7.1(e)(2), U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan. This opinion and order sets forth the Court's rulings on the motion.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This otherwise unremarkable case has the dubious distinction of having a remarkably protracted procedural history. Because the Court has detailed the salient facts in prior orders, it will simply summarize them here. Plaintiff Nasser Aljalham filed this suit on September 19, 2008 against his employer, American Steamship Company (ASC). He claims that the back injury he suffered on an ASC ship on September 27, 2005, while employed as a crewmember and second cook, was a result of ASC's negligent acts or omissions. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that he was injured while unloading a box of groceries because the box was too heavy and/or he was not properly warned or provided sufficient aid in moving it.

After the close of discovery, ASC sought to join Allouez Marine Supply (AMS) as a third-party defendant. AMS was the supplier of the boxed groceries. ASC alleges that, because AMS failed to either pack the groceries under recommended weight guidelines or label the box as heavy, it was partly or wholly responsible for Plaintiff's injury. After denying ASC's requests twice, the Court eventually permitted ASC to file a third-party complaint in the context of a re-opened discovery period. ASC filed a Third-Party Complaint, impleading AMS on August 18, 2009. The Court extended the re-opened discovery to December 14, 2009. In January 2010, AMS and ASC filed motions for summary judgment. Upon reviewing the motions, the Court found that ASC's Third-Party Complaint was procedurally defective insofar as it was filed pursuant to Rule 14(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. As the Court explained in its March 4, 2010 Order and Opinion, Rule 14(c) applies exclusively to claims that have been formally designated as sounding in admiralty or maritime law under Rule 9(h) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Because Plaintiff's Complaint, which raised both Jones Act and maritime law claims, did not formally designate the claims as sounding in admiralty or maritime law, the Court concluded that impleader was only appropriate under Rule 14(a), which governs general impleader. Based on this finding, the Court ordered the Third-Party Complaint dismissed, but granted ASC leave to file an Amended Third-Party Complaint, reformulating its claims under Rule 14(a) "to cure the procedural defect." (Dkt. # 55.) ASC filed the Amended Third-party Complaint on March 12, 2010. Through the present motion filed on March 22, 2010, AMS seeks to have the Amended Third-Party Complaint stricken.*fn1

III. ANALYSIS

A. Standards Applicable to Third-Party Defendant's Motion

Under Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "[t]he court may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f). Although the action of striking a pleading should be used sparingly by the courts, motions to strike are generally granted where the allegations are clearly immaterial to the controversy or would prejudice the movant. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. United States, 201 F.2d 819, 822 (6th Cir. 1953). Ultimately, the decision to strike a pleading is firmly within the discretion of the court. Ameriwood Industries Intern. Corp. v. Arthur Andersen & Co., 961 F. Supp. 1078, 1083 (W.D. Mich. 1997) (citing cases). Furthermore, pursuant to Rule 14(a)(4) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "[a]ny party may move to strike the third-party claim, to sever it, or to try it separately." Fed. R. Civ. P. 14(a)(4).

B. The Amended Third-Party Complaint Shall Not Be Stricken Because It Restates Allegations Made in the Original Complaint, Albeit in Greater Detail

The original Third-Party Complaint in this action was seven paragraphs long. It alleged, inter alia, that: if the Plaintiff has suffered any loss or injury as a result of the incident of September 27, 2005, the loss was proximately caused by the failure of the agents, representatives, and employees of Third-Party Defendant to properly perform the duties and obligations imposed upon it, and said loss, if any was proximately caused by conditions or circumstances for which the Third-Party Defendant is liable and responsible.

(Third-Party Compl. ΒΆ 5.) ASC also sought contribution and/or indemnification. The First Amended Third-Party Complaint, filed after this Court found the original Third-Party Complaint procedurally defective, is twenty-seven paragraphs long and sets out in greater detail three separate counts for negligence, contribution and Ryan indemnity. AMS claims that the Amended Complaint exceeds the scope of the Court's leave "to cure the procedural defect." While ASC has clearly exploited its own procedural misstep to ...


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