Federal Court in East Texas Denies Leave to Amend Answer in Multiple Vehicle Accident Case – Walters v. FedEx Corp.

The majority of car accident lawsuits are filed in state court, but occasionally such matters are litigated in federal court. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), the federal courts have jurisdiction over cases in which there is diversity of citizenship (i.e., the parties are citizens of different states) and at least $75,000 in controversy. If there is diversity jurisdiction, the plaintiff may choose to file suit in federal court, or the defendant may ask that the case be removed there after receiving service of process of the plaintiff’s state court complaint.

Typically, the federal court system is more exacting when it comes to procedural matters. For instance, Federal R. Civ. Proc. 16 provides for pretrial conferences, scheduling, and other case management in order to move cases along at a certain pace. Under this rule, the parties’ respective pleadings (the plaintiff’s complaint, the defendant’s answer, etc.) may only be modified after the time set forth in a scheduling order upon a showing of good cause.

Motion Filed in Federal District Court

In the case of Walters v. FedEx Corp., the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas was presented with a motion for leave to file an amended answer to the plaintiffs’ complaint, which arose as a result of a car accident in 2012. Although the details of the accident were not discussed at length in the court’s opinion, apparently there were two separate motor vehicle collisions, one allegedly caused by the other. The defendants sought to amend their answer in order to plead certain affirmative defenses. According to their motion, the information upon which these defenses was based was not initially known to the defendants but instead was discovered by them during the progression of the litigation.

Ruling of the Federal District Court

The court first set forth the factors to be considered in determining whether a party has met the burden of establishing good cause for modification:  an explanation for the failure to file a motion to amend in a timely fashion, the relative importance of the sought-for amendment, the potential prejudice if the motion is granted, and the availability of a continuance in order to cure the prejudice caused by the amendment.

In denying the defendants’ motion to amend their complaint, the court noted that the defendants did not have an explanation for their failure to seek leave to amend sooner. The case being less than a month before pretrial, the court ruled that forcing the plaintiffs to prepare for the affirmative defenses in the defendants’ would-be amended complaint would be unfair and prejudicial. A continuance was found to be unlikely to cure the prejudice and likely to only increase the expense to the parties and delay the resolution of the case.

Get Help with an East Texas Car Accident Case

If you have been hurt in a wreck and need to talk to a lawyer, the Law Office of Earl Drott, P.C. is here to help. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced and dedicated East Texas truck accident attorney, simply call 903-531-9300. Do not delay in talking to an attorney about your case, since the Texas statute of limitations restricts the time an injured person has to file a lawsuit. Other procedural deadlines may serve to further limit this time. Our office is located in Tyler, and we assist clients throughout East Texas.

Related Blog Posts

Texas State Court, and Consequently Federal Court After Removal, Lacked Jurisdiction in Negligence Case Involving Federal Employee – Colonial County Mutual Insurance Company v. United States

Texas Court Upholds Statute of Limitations Defense in Car Accident Case

Contact Information