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Ciabattoni v. Teamsters Local 326

Superior Court of Delaware

July 25, 2017

Michael Ciabattoni
v.
Teamsters Local 326

          Albert M. Greto, Esq. R. Joseph Hrubiec, Esq.

          Jeffrey M. Weiner, Esq. Law Offices of Jeffrey M. Weiner PA

         Dear Counsel:

         This is the Court's ruling on Plaintiffs Motion for Leave to Join Defendants and to File a Third Amended Complaint ("Motion"), filed on June 9, 2017. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiffs Motion is DENIED.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         The factual background of this case is more fully outlined in prior opinions of this Court.[1] What follows is a summation of the salient facts solely for purposes of the pending Motion.

         On February 12, 2017, an administrator of the Facebook page, "Bring the Teamsters to Fed Ex Freight, " posted the following message:

Congratulations Ernie, you are the true meaning of a stand up guy. You have never made a promise to the men at sbr and has [sic] always been truthful to them. You have been a great mentor to me and to so many others. I have enjoyed working side by side with you for the past 3 years and look forward to many more. Again congratulations and I look forward to working by your side. NOW LETS [sic] GET IT ON.[2]

         This message appeared as a comment to an earlier post on the Facebook page that posted a Teamster.org article, entitled "Ernie Soehl Appointed to Lead Teamsters National Freight Division." Underneath the above comment appears a photograph of two men. Plaintiff maintains that the two men in the photo are Ernie Soehl and Travis Eby.[3] Other comments appear below this post, including posts under the moniker of "Bring the Teamsters to Fed Ex Freight;" these posts suggest that different individuals were able to comment under this same moniker on the Facebook page.

         To Plaintiff, the February 12, 2017 post is a smoking gun. Plaintiff discovered this post in March 2017, about the same time the Court was considering his then-pending motion for reargument of Defendant Travis Eby's motion to dismiss the second amended complaint. This Court, at that time, did not consider this new post when it was raised during oral argument, noting that it had not been raised in the briefs on the motion. The Court denied Plaintiffs motion for reargument on May 12, 2017.

         Undaunted, Plaintiff has filed this Motion, seeking leave to re-join Travis Eby ("Eby"), and to join-for the first time-Ernest Soehl ("Soehl"), Teamsters Local 701, Teamster Local 776, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters ("IBT"), and Robert Baker (collectively "New Defendants"). Defendants objected to the Motion in a written response filed on June 20, 2017. The Court heard oral argument on the Motion on July 18, 2017 and reserved decision. Having considered the filings and oral arguments, this is the Court's decision on Plaintiffs Motion.

         Contentions of the Parties

         Plaintiff argues that the New Defendants are amenable to the jurisdiction of this Court and should be joined. As to IBT and Soehl, Plaintiff contends that they are subject to traditional personal jurisdiction of this Court. As to the other out-of-state New Defendants and Eby, Plaintiff contends that they are subject to the jurisdiction of this Court under the conspiracy theory of personal jurisdiction.

         Additionally, Plaintiff maintains that amendments to the complaint should be freely given when justice so requires. Further, he argues that the allegations in the Proposed Third Amended Complaint relate back to the filing date of the original complaint. Finally, he states that the New Defendants are necessary parties; without their involvement, Plaintiff may not obtain complete relief on his claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, and defamation.[4]

         Defendants maintain that this is a "last-ditch effort by Plaintiff to circumvent the minimum contacts [analysis] and Due Process requirements."[5] They argue that the February 12, 2017 post does nothing to change this Court's earlier analysis regarding personal jurisdiction. Moreover, Defendants contend that neither Eby nor the New Defendants are necessary parties to this action. Further, Defendants argue that this amendment will cause undue prejudice. They also maintain that the statute of limitations as to the New Defendants has passed and that these claims do not relate back to the original complaint. Finally, Defendants posit that well-settled U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence either prevents or colors Plaintiffs allegations as raised in the Proposed Third Amended Complaint.[6]

         Standard of Review

         Delaware Superior Court Civil Rule 15(a) governs the amendment of pleadings.[7] Beyond the period for amendment as a matter of course, the amending party must seek leave of court to amend a pleading.[8] The Court shall freely grant such leave "when just so requires."[9] However, where the amendment is futile-i.e., the amendment would not survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim- the Court should deny leave to amend.[10]

         Rule 15(c) addresses the "relation back of amendments."[11] If the amending party seeks to add a new party to the action after the running of the applicable statute of limitations, that party must, first, show that the amendment arises out of the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence as timely set forth in the original pleading.[12]Next, the amending party must show that the new party "has received such notice of the institution of the action that the party will not be prejudiced in maintaining a defense on the merits. . ., "[13] Finally, the amending party must also show that the new party "knew or should have known that, but for a mistake concerning the identity of the proper party, the action would have been brought against the [new] party."[14]

         Discussion

         While motions to amend the pleadings are to be freely given where justice so requires, this Motion is not such a circumstance. There are several reasons for this conclusion. The Court will address ...


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