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Suzuki v. Helicopter Consultants of Maui, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

April 28, 2016

VERNON SUZUKI, Plaintiff,
v.
HELICOPTER CONSULTANTS OF MAUI, INC., ET AL., Defendants.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND COMPLAINT AND MOTION TO EXTEND DEADLINE FOR DISCLOSURE OF EXPERT REPORTS OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, TO RESET TRIAL AND PRETRIAL DEADLINES

BARRY M. KURREN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE

Before the Court are Plaintiff Vernon Suzuki’s (1) Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint (Doc. 47) and (2) Motion to Extend Deadline for Disclosure of Expert Reports or, in the Alternative, to Reset Trial and Pretrial Deadlines (Doc. 49). The Court heard these Motions on March 23, 2016 and received supplemental briefing on April 6 and April 14, 2016 (Docs. 66 and 68). After careful consideration of the Motions, the supporting and opposing memoranda, and the arguments of counsel, the Court DENIES both Motions.

BACKGROUND

On November 10, 2011, a tour helicopter crashed into a mountain ridge in Molokai, killing the pilot and all four passengers on board. (Complaint ¶ 9.) Debris, jet fuel, and human remains were scattered over the land. (Id. ¶ 11.) A National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) Report issued in May 2013 noted that the debris path was approximately 1, 330 feet long, extending west-northwest from the main wreckage. (Id. ¶ 23.) According to the Complaint, Plaintiff owns the land where the crash occurred and the debris was scattered. (Id. ¶ 10-11.)

The helicopter was owned by Defendant Nevada Helicopter Leasing LLC (“NHL”) and was leased by Helicopter Consultants of Maui, Inc. dba Blue Hawaiian Helicopters (“Blue Hawaiian”). (Id. ¶ 12.)

On October 30, 2013, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit against Defendants, asserting claims for negligence, gross negligence, trespass, nuisance, negligent hiring/training/retention and/or supervision, and willful/wanton conduct and reckless disregard. (Complaint.) Plaintiffs prayed for various types of damages and “[i]njunctive relief requiring Defendants to clean up, remediate, and/or restore Plaintiff’s Land.” (Complaint Prayer for Relief.)

In the Spring of 2015, more than a year after Plaintiff commenced this action, he hired a surveyor to “confirm and/or pinpoint the specific TMK parcel on which the crash occurred.” (Tannenbaum 3/9/2016 Decl’n ¶ 9.) Plaintiff received the survey in mid-August 2015. (Id. ¶ 10.) “The survey revealed that the parcel of land on which the helicopter crashed was not the parcel that Plaintiff had to that point believed.” (Id. (emphasis in original).) Rather, the crash occurred on one parcel of land and the debris field spanned into an adjoining parcel. (Id.; Proposed Amended Complaint ¶¶ 9-10.) The tax map key (“TMK”) numbers for the parcels of land are (2) 5-6-006:012 (“Parcel 12”) and (2) 5-6-006:013 (“Parcel 13”). (Tannenbaum 3/9/2016 Decl’n ¶¶ 10-11.) Plaintiff is the sole owner of Parcel 13, but “Parcel 12 has splintered title and was subject to significant litigation over same.” (Id. ¶ 12.) It turns out that Plaintiff and the other co-owners hold title to Parcel 12 as “tenants-in-common.” (Id. ¶ 13.)

Plaintiff now moves to amend the complaint and to extend the expert disclosure deadline. With respect to amending the Complaint, Plaintiff proposes to specify that the crash occurred on Parcel 12 and the debris field was scattered over Parcels 12 and 13. (Proposed Amended Complaint ¶¶ 9-10.) With respect to Parcel 12, Plaintiff proposes to add the following language: “[C]o-owners of [Parcel 12] share identical interests with Plaintiff vis-à-vis the Crash, and Plaintiff will adequately represent said interests in their absence.” (Id. ¶ 10.) Whether Plaintiff may represent the interests of the absent co-owners of Parcel 12 is in dispute.

DISCUSSION

I. Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint

Plaintiff seeks to amend the Complaint to “specify (1) the precise parcel of land on which the helicopter crash in issue occurred by Hawaii tax map key (“TMK”) number, (2) the parcels of land that were damaged thereby, and (3) Plaintiff’s ownership interest thereof (and his pursuing the claim on behalf of all joint and co-tenants as to one of the two parcels affected).” (Motion at 2 (emphasis added).) Defendants take issue with Plaintiff’s intention to pursue claims on behalf of his co-owners for damage to Parcel 12.

Rule 15(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a party to amend its pleading with leave of court. Although the “court should freely give leave when justice so requires, ” Rule 15(a)(2), a court “may deny leave to amend due to ‘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, and futility of amendment.’” Leadsinger, Inc. v. BMG Music Publ’g, 512 F.3d 522, 532 (9th Cir. 2008) (brackets omitted). “The decision of whether to grant leave to amend nevertheless remains within the discretion of the district court.” Id.

“Futility of amendment can, by itself, justify the denial of a motion for leave to amend.” Bonin v. Calderon, 59 F.3d 815, 845 (9th Cir. 1995). “A proposed amended complaint that would not survive a motion to dismiss is futile.” Pauline v. State of Haw. Dept. of Public Safety, 773 F.Supp.2d 914, 920 (D. Haw. 2011).

In the Original Complaint, Plaintiff alleged that the crash occurred on “Plaintiff’s Land” and that debris, jet fuel, and human remains were scattered on “Plaintiff’s Land.” (Complaint ¶¶ 10-11.) Plaintiff prayed for damages as well as injunctive relief “requiring Defendants to clean up, remediate, and/or restore Plaintiff’s Land.” (Id. at Prayer for Relief.) However, in the proposed Amended Complaint, Plaintiff clarifies that he is not the sole owner of land where the crash occurred and debris was scattered. (Proposed Amended ...


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