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Armstrong v. Hawaiian Airlines, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

April 16, 2019

JAMES ARMSTRONG,, Petitioner,
v.
HAWAIIAN AIRLINES, INC., a Hawai`i Corporation; JOHN DOES 1-10; JANE DOES 1-10; DOE CORPORATIONS 1-10 DOE PARTNERSHIPS 1-10; DOE GOVERNMENTAL AGENCIES 1-10 Respondents.

          ORDER AFFIRMING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF JAMES ARMSTRONG'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

          ALAN C. KAY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court AFFIRMS the Order Denying Plaintiff James Armstrong's Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint, ECF No. 24, issued by Magistrate Judge Richard L. Puglisi on February 28, 2019.

         BACKGROUND

         As the parties are familiar with the facts and procedural history of this case, the Court will provide only a brief overview of the proceedings most relevant to the issues raised by the Magistrate Judge's Order Denying Plaintiff James Armstrong's Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint (the “02/28/2019 Order”).

         Plaintiff James Armstrong (“Plaintiff Armstrong”) filed this action against Defendant Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. (“Defendant Hawaiian Airlines”) and numerous Doe Defendants in Hawai`i state court on March 9, 2018. ECF No. 1-2. Plaintiff Armstrong filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) in Hawai`i state court on July 24, 2018. ECF No. 1-4. The FAC asserts claims for negligence and discriminatory practices related to events that took place in Australia's Brisbane International Airport on March 12, 2016. See id. Defendant Hawaiian Airlines timely removed the case to federal court on August 21, 2019 on the basis of federal question jurisdiction.[1] ECF No. 1.

         On January 18, 2019, Plaintiff Armstrong filed a Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint (“Motion”). ECF No. 27. Defendant Hawaiian Airlines filed a Memorandum in Opposition on February 1, 2019, ECF No. 29, and Plaintiff Armstrong filed a Reply on February 15, 2019. ECF No. 32.

         In his Motion, Plaintiff Armstrong requested leave to file a Second Amended Complaint to name Qantas Airways Limited (“Qantas”), an Australian Company, as a defendant. See ECF No. 27. Plaintiff Armstrong alleges that he recently learned through discovery that his injuries were caused by a Qantas employee. See id.

         In the 02/28/2019 Order, the Magistrate Judge noted the parties' agreement that any claims against Qantas are subject to a two-year statute of limitations, which has run, and that the Court could grant Plaintiff Armstrong's request to name Qantas as a defendant only if the proposed amendment related back to the original Complaint filed on March 9, 2018. 02/28/2019 Order at 3. The Magistrate Judge analyzed whether Plaintiff Armstrong satisfied the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 15(c), which governs relation back of amendments, and concluded that Plaintiff Armstrong failed to meet the second and third requirements of Rule 15(c). See Id. Because the proposed amendment to name Qantas as a defendant did not relate back, the Magistrate Judge ruled that the proposed amendment was futile and denied Plaintiff Armstrong's Motion. Id. at 9.

         On March 14, 2019, Plaintiff Armstrong timely filed Objections to the 02/28/19 Order.[2] ECF No. 36. Defendant Hawaiian Airlines filed a Memorandum in Opposition to Objections (“Opposition”) on March 28, 2019. ECF No. 37.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The parties have a threshold dispute as to the standard that the Court should apply to its review of the Magistrate Judge's 02/28/2019 Order. Plaintiff Armstrong argues, without citing any authorities, that the 02/28/2019 Order is dispositive because it prevents him “from asserting his claims against the real party in interest.” Objection at 3. Defendant Hawaiian Airlines argues that the 02/28/2019 Order is nondispositive and cites numerous cases from this District in support of its argument. Opposition at 9-10.

         To determine the appropriate standard of review, the Court must decide whether in this case a denial of a motion to amend a complaint to add a new defendant is dispositive or nondispositive of any claim or defense. JJCO, Inc. v. Isuzu Motors Am., Inc., Civ. No. 08-00419 SOM-LEK, 2009 WL 3818247, at *2 (D. Haw. Nov. 12, 2009).

         A magistrate judge's jurisdiction to issue an order, rather than to issue an F&R to the district court, is dependent on whether the matter before the magistrate judge is characterized as dispositive or nondispositive of a claim or defense of a party. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 72. A magistrate judge's order on a nondispositive matter may be reversed by the district judge only if the order is “clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). By contrast, a magistrate judge's F&R on a dispositive matter is reviewed de novo when a party objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), (C); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b).

         Nondispositive matters are those “pretrial matter[s] not dispositive of a party's claim or defense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). In contrast, a dispositive matter involves the determination of the merits of the case or is critical in shaping the nature of the litigation. Kiep v. Turner, 80 B.R. 521, 523-24 (D. Haw. 1987). The Court must look to the “effect of the motion” to determine whether it is dispositive or nondispositive of a ...


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