Bits & Pieces

Buck v. Sekhon


Buck v. Karamjit S. Sekhon
United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
November 5, 2019, Decided; November 5, 2019, Filed
No. 4:19-CV-00134

2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 191630 *
IRA A. BUCK, II and WYDITTE L. BUCK, individually and as parents and natural guardians of R.R.B., a minor, Plaintiffs, v. KARAMJIT S. SEKHON and LALLY TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendants.

This is a negligence action arising from a tractor-trailer collision premised on this Court’s diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiffs request leave to amend their complaint to include a claim for punitive damages. Defendants oppose this request on the grounds that the proposed amendment would be futile and unduly prejudicial.
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15, courts should freely grant leave to amend unless at least one enumerated ground for denying leave, such as futility or undue prejudice, applies. “‘Futility’ means that the complaint, as amended, would fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.”1 “In assessing ‘futility,’ the District Court applies the same standard of legal sufficiency as applies under Rule 12(b)(6).”2 The prejudice inquiry focuses [*2] on the hardship to the Defendants if the amendment were permitted, including “whether allowing an amendment would result in additional discovery, cost, and preparation to defend against new facts or new theories.”3
Plaintiffs’ proposed complaint alleges that Defendant Karamjit Sekhon drove a commercial truck at an unsafe speed on a dangerous road, followed the Plaintiffs’ vehicle too closely, and was inattentive to traffic conditions around him. A jury could award punitive damages if these allegations are proven, and the facts already discovered do not render the allegations implausible. The Defendants will not be unduly prejudiced by this amendment because adding a claim for punitive damages “will not significantly change the substance of the underlying allegations” and “will not cause Defendants to substantially alter their trial strategy.”4 Further, courts have consistently held that it is premature to dismiss demands for punitive damages.5
Because I find that Plaintiffs’ proposed amendment is not futile and will not unduly prejudice Defendants, Plaintiffs’ motion for leave to file a first amended complaint is GRANTED.
An appropriate [*3] Order follows.
/s/ Matthew W. Brann
Matthew W. Brann
United States District Judge

AND NOW, this 5th day of November 2019, in accordance with the accompanying memorandum opinion, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiffs’ Motion for Leave to File First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 14) is GRANTED. Plaintiffs are directed to file their First Amended Complaint by November 15, 2019.
/s/ Matthew W. Brann
Matthew W. Brann
United States District Judge

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