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Elezovic v. Toyota Motor North America, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 7, 2017

GJON ELEZOVIC, Plaintiff,
v.
TOYOTA MOTOR NORTH AMERICA, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          John Corbett O'Meara, United States District Judge.

         Before the court are Defendant's motion for summary judgment and Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend the complaint. Pursuant to L.R. 7.1, the court did not hear oral argument.

         BACKGROUND FACTS

         Plaintiff Gjon Elezovic brought this action against Toyota Motor North America, Inc., alleging that Toyota designed and manufactured a vehicle that was defective. Plaintiff contends that he was injured in September 2013 after his 2005 Toyota Scion unintentionally accelerated, causing an accident. On July 26, 2016, Plaintiff submitted his claim to the Intensive Settlement Process established by the court presiding over multi-district litigation: In re: Toyota Motor Corp. Unintended Acceleration Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation, No. 2010-ML-2151 (C.D. Cal.).[1] Because the settlement administrator was unable to schedule this matter for a settlement conference prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations (September 4, 2016), Plaintiff filed this action to preserve his claims.

         Counsel for the parties participated in a telephone conference on November 1, 2016. Plaintiff's counsel requested a stay of proceedings pending the outcome of the settlement process. According to Plaintiff, attorney David Ayers represented that he was Toyota's attorney for purposes of the unintended acceleration claims. Mr. Ayers informed Plaintiff that Defendant would not stipulate to a stay and that Defendant intended to file a motion to dismiss because Plaintiff had named the incorrect Toyota entity. Plaintiff requested that Defendant stipulate to the amendment of the complaint, which Defendant denied.

         Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on November 11, 2016, arguing that it was not a proper party to this case because it did not design, manufacture or sell Plaintiff's vehicle. Plaintiff responded and filed a motion to amend his complaint. Plaintiff seeks to add Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., and Toyota Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc., and to clarify his claims against Toyota Motor North America, Inc. Each of these Toyota entities are alleged to be wholly owned subsidiaries of Toyota Motor Corporation. See Proposed Amended Compl. at ¶¶ 2-4. Plaintiff alleges that Toyota Motor North America, Inc. is a holding company for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. and Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America, Inc. According to the amended complaint, Plaintiff's 2005 Scion was designed, manufactured, and sold by Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., and Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America, Inc. Plaintiff alleges that Toyota Motor North America, Inc., represented all Toyota entities in dealing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and was responsible for advertising and marketing Toyota vehicles in the United States. See Amended Compl. at 3. Plaintiff's amended complaint alleges three counts: negligence, breach of warranty, and fraud.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Defendant argues that the court should not permit Plaintiff to amend his complaint because the statute of limitations has expired and the amendments do not “relate back” to the filing of the original complaint.

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), the court “should freely give leave” to amend “when justice so requires.” An amendment to a complaint relates back to the date of the original filing when

(A) the law that provides the applicable statute of limitations allows relation back;
(B) the amendment asserts a claim or defense that arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out - or attempted to be set out - in the original pleading; or
(C) the amendment changes the party or the naming of the party against whom a claim is asserted, if Rule 15(c)(1)(B) is satisfied, and if, within the period provided by Rule 4(m) for serving the summons and complaint, the party to be brought in by amendment:
(i) received such notice of the action that it will not be prejudiced in defending on the merits; and
(ii) knew or should have known that the action would have been brought against it, but for a mistake concerning the ...

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