The opinion of the court was delivered by: HARRY LEINENWEBER, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File Second
Amended Complaint. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' Motion
is granted in part and denied in part.
The circumstances of this case are tragic. On September 1,
2001, Plaintiffs were traveling through Indiana en route to a
family reunion. While driving on Interstate 65 in Hobart,
Indiana, Plaintiffs' car had a flat tire and they pulled onto the
shoulder of the interstate, just past a construction zone.
Unfortunately, for Plaintiffs, Defendant System Transport, Inc.
("System") was transporting two large lifts manufactured by
Defendant Genie Industries, Inc. ("Genie") on a tractor and
flatbed trailer traveling in the same direction on Interstate 65.
Shortly after entering a curve in the construction zone, the
lifts apparently shifted on the bed of the trailer, causing the
tractor-trailer to lose control. As the trailer tilted onto the
roadway, the two lifts came loose and one struck Plaintiffs' car. As a result of
the collision, Plaintiff Allen J. Pierce suffered serious
injuries, including the loss of his leg, and his infant son was
killed in the ensuing fire in the back of the car.
Plaintiffs allege that the lifts were negligently loaded in
Washington State prior to interstate transport. Plaintiffs also
allege that the driver of the truck was negligent in his
operation of the tractor-trailer. Defendants contend that the
construction zone work rendered the interstate unreasonably
Plaintiffs now seek to amend their Complaint in several ways.
Plaintiffs seek to add a survival claim on behalf of Allen M.
Pierce, claims for punitive damages, and a request that
Defendants be held jointly and severally liable.
A. The Court's Prior Ruling That Indiana Law Controls
The initial hurdle facing Plaintiffs' requested amendment is
this Court's prior ruling on April 23, 2002, which held that
Indiana law controls in this case. See Pierce v. System
Transport, Inc., 2002 WL 731136 (N.D. Ill. 2002). The pertinent
portion of this ruling was based on System's Motion for
Declaration of Controlling Law. In its motion, System contended
that Indiana law should control. In their response brief,
Plaintiffs do not quarrel the partial conclusion
reached by with [sic] System Transportation in its
choice of law analysis, but only insofar as the
Negligence Counts are concerned. Plaintiffs do not
dispute that Indiana law will likely govern the negligence claims. However,
this is only a portion of the claims. In the first
instance, System Transport ignores the Counts in
Plaintiff's Complaint that raise claims under
substantial federal law and product liability law.
The products claims may be governed by Washington
State law. More discovery must be provided to
accurately [sic] answer this question.
Pls. Resp. Mem. at 14.
In its April 23, 2002 ruling, the Court specifically noted that
Plaintiffs had not contested that Indiana law should control, at
least with regard to the negligence counts. See Pierce, 2002 WL
731136 at *7-8. Although noting Plaintiffs' apparent concession,
the Court nonetheless engaged in a brief choice of law analysis,
and determined that "Indiana is clearly the state with the most
significant relationship to the events in question." See id. at
*8. The Court's holding, however, depended in part on Plaintiff's
apparent stipulation that Indiana law would control: "[s]ince
both parties appear to agree that Indiana law should control, and
since the situs of the events was in Indiana, System's Motion for
Declaration of Controlling law is granted." Id. Plaintiffs did
not file a motion for reconsideration of this ruling.
B. The Law of the Case Doctrine Bars the Survival Count and the
Claims for Joint and Several Liability
Under the law of the case doctrine, a ruling made in an earlier
phase of a case controls throughout the proceedings. See Tice v.
American Airlines, Inc., 373 F.3d 851
, 853-54 (7th Cir. 2004).
This doctrine is a rule of practice that encourages efficiency,
consistency, and finality of legal decisions made during the life of case. The law of the case doctrine, however,
is not an absolute limit on a court's power: a court retains the
discretion to revise an earlier ruling of law, but generally
should only do so when there are changed circumstances in law or
fact that render application of an earlier ruling manifestly
unjust or clearly wrong. See id.; see also, Avitia v.
Metropolitan Club of Chicago, 49 F.3d 1219
, 1227-28 (7th Cir.
1995); Payne v. Churchich, 161 F.3d 1030
, 1037, n. 8 (7th Cir.
The difficulty Plaintiffs face here is that Indiana law
effectively nullifies their requested amendments. Specifically,
Indiana does not allow concurrent survival and wrongful death
claims, and is a several liability state. (Indiana also has
certain statutory limits on punitive damages, but Plaintiffs are
apparently seeking to add claims within the purview of Indiana
Plaintiffs, of course, argue as they must that this Court's
prior ruling on choice of law is not subject to the law of the
case doctrine because intervening facts allow for an exception.
Plaintiffs initially note that the briefing was completed on
System's Motion for a Declaration of Law before discovery
commenced. Plaintiffs also note that although they did not take
issue with the "initial application of Indiana law at that point
in the proceedings," they subsequently learned in discovery
certain pertinent facts that mitigate against a "rote application
of Indiana law to all issues in this case." Pls. Mem. at 2-3.
Specifically, Plaintiffs point to certain facts that were
"previously unavailable," and now require reconsideration of the
prior ruling. These "new" facts include: (1) Defendants'
principal places of business are either Washington or Oregon; (2)
the major decisions in how to transport the lifts were made in
Washington; (3) the lifts were negligently loaded in Washington;
(4) Market Transport, an Oregon company, played a role in the
arrangement for transporting the lifts; and (5) Allen M. Pierce,
the infant in the back seat, may have survived for some period of
time after the initial collision. See id. at 4-5. According to
Plaintiffs, these facts demonstrate that Washington law should
apply on the issue of joint and several liability, Indiana law on
the issue of negligence and punitive damages, and Illinois law on
the issue of the survival claim and compensatory damages.
Defendants initially argue with substantial persuasive force
that Plaintiffs knew, or should have known, virtually all of
these facts at the time (or shortly thereafter) of System's
Motion for a Declaration of Law. This is significant because
parties cannot evade the law of the case doctrine by relying on
"new" facts that were available at the time of the initial
ruling. See Intergraph Corp. v. Intel Corp., 253 F.3d 695,
697-99 (Fed. Cir. 2001). For instance, Defendants attach a
witness statement taken shortly after the September 2001 accident
that indicates that the infant decedent may have still been alive for some period during
the fire. In addition, Defendants claim that their Rule 26(A)(1)
disclosures contained ...