United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ANTOINE SAACKS, ET AL.
PRIVILEGE UNDERWRITERS RECIPROCAL EXCHANGE
ORDER & REASONS
the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Appeal the
Magistrate's Decision on Defendant's Motion for Leave
to Amend its Answer and Plaintiff's Motion to Strike. R.
130. Defendant opposes the Motion. R. 186. The Court has
reviewed the parties' arguments and applicable law, and
now issues this Order and Reasons.
case arises from a car accident that occurred on December 30,
2014, on North Causeway Boulevard in Metairie, Louisiana.
According to Plaintiff Antoine Saacks, he was struck by
Jonathan St. Pierre as the two drove along the causeway. R.
1-1 at 1. Mr. St. Pierre was insured by Progressive Security
Insurance Company (“Progressive”), but his policy
was capped at $50, 000. R. 1-1 at 1. Progressive paid to the
limit of the policy, but Mr. Saacks contends that $50, 000 is
insufficient to compensate him and his wife for their losses.
R. 1-1 at 1.
time of the accident, Mr. Saacks carried underinsured
motorist coverage with Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal
Exchange (“Privilege”). Mr. Saacks sought to
collect the balance of his damages from his insurance policy,
PURE Private Fleet Auto Policy Number PA041437901 (“the
policy”). On December 15, 2015, Plaintiffs Antoine
& Kim Saacks brought the instant action in the 24th
Judicial District Court for the Parish of Jefferson. R. 1-1
at 1. Plaintiffs contend that Privilege wrongly failed to
tender a fair sum or to fairly settle the Plaintiffs'
claim within sixty days of receipt of Plaintiffs' medical
documentation, as required by LSA-R.S. 22:1892 and LSA-R.S.
22:1973. R. 1-1 at 2. Plaintiffs seek the balance of their
damages from the December 30, 2014, car accident, as well as
monetary penalties provided for by Louisiana law. R. 1-1 at
removed the suit to this Court on February 8, 2016. R. 1.
Privilege timely Answers and denies Plaintiffs'
allegations. R. 4 at 1-3. Privilege asserts a number of
affirmative defenses, including exclusions to coverage
provided in the policy. R. 4 at 3-6. On December 20, 2016,
Privilege filed a Motion seeking Leave to file an amended
answer. R. 67. In the motion, Privilege explained that
through recent discovery it learned of “suspicious
circumstances” which supported claims of fraud against
Plaintiffs. R. 67 at 3. Privilege argued this information was
only recently discovered, and it would be prejudiced if not
allowed to amend its answer and assert these fraud claims. R.
67 at 4. Plaintiffs opposed the motion, and argued no good
cause existed for such an amendment, and any amendment this
close to trial would prejudice Plaintiffs. R. 70 at 1. In
conjunction with their opposition, Plaintiffs filed a Motion
to Strike Defendant's Motion for Leave. R. 77. The Court
referred the Motions to Magistrate Judge North, R. Doc. 98,
who heard oral argument on the motions. R. 104.
reviewing the parties' motions and their statements
during oral argument, Magistrate North granted the
Defendant's Motion to Amend its Answer, and Denied the
Plaintiff's Motion to Strike. R. 126. The Magistrate held
that Privilege's twelfth affirmative defense encompassed
all exclusions available under the insurance policy at issue,
including fraud. Magistrate North explained the amendment was
not a new defense, but made “solely to conform the
pleadings to the evidence that was revealed through
discovery.” Further, the Magistrate determined that
Plaintiffs failed to demonstrate they would suffer undue
prejudice if the amendment was allowed. R. 126 at 1-2.
Finally, Magistrate North explained that a motion to strike
is a “drastic remedy” and not warranted in this
case. On January 23, 2017, Plaintiffs filed the instant
appeal for review of the order of the Magistrate Court,
raising the same arguments dismissed by Magistrate North. R.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 72(a), a party may serve
and file objections to a magistrate judge's orders
regarding nondispositive pretrial matters if the objection is
filed within ten (10) days after service of the order.
Federal law affords a magistrate judge broad discretion in
the resolution of pretrial disputes. See Fed. R.
Civ.P. 72(a); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). Thus, a district
court reverses a magistrate judge's ruling on
nondispositive pretrial matters only where the court finds
such a ruling to be “clearly erroneous or contrary to
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a); 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(A); In re Combustion, Inc., 161 F.R.D. 54,
55 (W.D. La.1995). A party is not entitled to raise new
theories or arguments in its objections that the party did
not present before a magistrate judge. See Cupit v.
Whitley, 28 F.3d 532, 535 (5th Cir. 1994), cert.
denied, 513 U.S. 1163 (1995). Therefore, Plaintiff must
overcome a high hurdle.
case, Plaintiff seeks to overturn the magistrate's
decision allowing Defendant to amend its answer after the
deadline in the scheduling order. Under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 16(b), once a scheduling order has been entered, it
may only be modified for good cause and with the judge's
consent. S&W Enters., LLC v. Southtrust Bank of
Ala., NA, 315 F.3d 533, 535 (5th Cir. 2003);
Fed. R.Civ. P. 16(b). To determine if good cause exists, the
Court should consider “(1) the explanation for the
failure to timely move for leave to amend; (2) the importance
of the amendment; (3) potential prejudice in allowing the
amendment; and (4) the availability of a continuance to cure
such prejudice.” E.E.O.C. v. Serv. Temps Inc.,
679 F.3d 323, 334 (5th Cir. 2012), citing, Fahim v.
Marriott Hotel Servs., Inc., 551 F.3d 344, 348 (5th Cir.
2008); S & W Enters., LLC, 315 F.3d at 536.
appeal, Plaintiffs argue that the Magistrate Court erred in
granting Privilege's motion to amend for three reasons:
1) there is no reason Privilege could not have amended its
answer earlier; 2) an amendment this close to trial is
prejudicial; and 3) Privilege fabricated the fraud
allegations as there are no suspicious circumstances in this
case. However, the Court finds Magistrate North's Order
was correct and Plaintiff's objections are without merit.
reviewing the parties' briefs and statements at oral
argument, Magistrate North determined that Plaintiffs failed
to show they would be prejudiced by the amendment. Further,
he determined that Privilege's proposed amendment merely
sought to “conform the pleadings to the evidence that
had been revealed through discovery.” Contrary to
Plaintiff's argument that Privilege could have amended
its answer earlier, the Magistrate explained this information
was uncovered through discovery, and thus good cause existed
for a late amendment. The Court finds that Magistrate North
did not err in granting Defendant's Motion. See Serv.
Temps Inc., 679 F.3d at 334.
foregoing reasons, IT IS ORDERED that the Plaintiffs Motion
to Review and Appeal the Magistrate ...