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Finnerman v. Daimler Chrysler Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

October 23, 2017

SCOTT FINNERMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
DAIMLER CHRYSLER CORPORATION; CHRYSLER CORPORATION; CHRYSLER LLC; CHRYSLER GROUP, LLC; and DAIMLER CHRYSLER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBERT M. DOW, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's motion for leave to file a first amended complaint [29] and Defendant's motion for a protective order or to strike Plaintiff's First Request for Admissions [37]. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's motion [29] is granted in part and denied in part, and Defendant's motion [37] is granted. Plaintiff may file an amended complaint that includes a claim for strict liability, includes allegations regarding the Jeep's clock-spring mechanism, and names FCA U.S. LLC, formerly known as Chrysler Group, LLC, as the Defendant. Defendant does not need to provide a response to Plaintiff's First Request for Admissions. Furthermore, as a housekeeping matter, Defendant's motion to strike Plaintiff's motion for leave to file a first amended complaint [35] is denied as moot because it appears duplicative of Defendant's response [36] to Plaintiff's motion [29].

         I. Factual Background

         On May 15, 2010, Plaintiff Scott Finnerman (“Plaintiff”) was involved in a motor vehicle accident while driving a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee. [1, Ex. A ¶ 7.] Plaintiff alleges that the driver's side airbag in the car failed to deploy at the time of the collision, causing significant injuries. [Id. ¶ 9.]

         Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois on May 11, 2012, bringing claims for negligence against the Jeep's manufacturer. [See 36, Ex. A.] Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the complaint on September 29, 2014. [Id. at 4.] Plaintiff then re-filed the complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County on September 23, 2015, which Defendant FCA U.S. LLC (“Defendant”)[1] removed to this Court on January 13, 2016. [See 1.] This complaint similarly brings a claim for negligence against Defendant in relation to the failure of the Jeep's driver's side airbag to deploy. [Id., Ex. A.]

         Fact discovery, including depositions and inspection of the Jeep, has ensued both during the state court action and in the instant case. [36 at 4; 40 at 5.] Fact discovery closed on June 2, 2017. [See 28.] Plaintiff filed a further motion [32] to extend time to complete fact discovery beyond the June 2, 2017 cut-off, which the Court denied. [See 34.]

         Before the Court are (1) Plaintiff's motion [29] for leave to file a first amended complaint, and (2) Defendant's motion [37] for a protective order or to strike Plaintiff's First Request for Admissions.

         II. Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a First Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff seeks to amend his complaint in three ways. First, Plaintiff seeks to add a claim for strict product liability in addition to the claim for negligence against Defendant. [29 at 2.] Second, Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint adds additional allegations concerning the Jeep's lap-and-shoulder seatbelt system, alleging that this seatbelt system failed to stop Plaintiff's torso from moving forward at the time of the collision and therefore also caused Plaintiff significant injuries. [Id., Ex. A ¶¶ 11-12, 14.] Third, Plaintiff seeks to amend the complaint to identify the correct defendant as FCA U.S. LLC, formerly known as Chrysler Group, LLC. [Id. at 1.]

         A. Legal Standard

         A motion for leave to file an amended complaint should “freely” be granted “when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). “This liberal policy of granting amendments is based in part on the belief that decisions on the merits should be made whenever possible, absent countervailing considerations.” Olech v. Vill. of Willowbrook, 138 F.Supp.2d 1036, 1040 (N.D. Ill. 2000) (citation omitted). Leave to amend should be freely given “‘[i]n the absence of any apparent or declared reason-such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, [or] futility of amendment.'” Barry Aviation, Inc. v. Land O'Lakes Mun. Airport Comm'n, 377 F.3d 682, 687 (7th Cir. 2004) (quoting Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)). Ultimately, “‘[t]he decision to grant or deny a motion to file an amended pleading is a matter purely within the sound discretion of the district court.'” Soltys v. Costello, 520 F.3d 737, 743 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Brunt v. Serv. Emps. Int'l Union, 284 F.3d 715, 720 (7th Cir. 2002)).

         B. Analysis

         1. Strict Liability Claim Amendment

         Defendant argues that Plaintiff's proposed amendment to add a claim for strict product liability is futile because this claim is barred by the Illinois product liability statute of repose. See 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/13-213. This statute provides that strict product liability claims must be commenced “within 12 years from the date of first sale, lease or delivery of possession by a seller or 10 years from the date of first sale, lease or delivery of possession to its initial user, consumer, or other non-seller, whichever period expires earlier.” 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/13-213(b).[2] A statute of repose is meant to be “a legislatively designated time limit.” Daubach v. Honda Motor Co., Ltd., 707 N.E.2d 746, 748 (Ill.App.Ct. 1999). It serves to ‚Äúterminate ...


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