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Hardie-Tynes, Co., Inc. v. SKF USA, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

June 5, 2017

HARDIE-TYNES, CO., INC., Plaintiff,
v.
SKF USA, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Pending before the court is Plaintiff Hardie-Tynes, Co., Inc.'s (“Hardie-Tynes”) most recently filed Motion for Leave To Amend Complaint (Doc. 31) (the “Motion”), which seeks to add a claim for fraudulent suppression against Defendant SKF USA, Inc. (“SKF”) pursuant to Rule 15(a)(2). (Doc. 31 at 1-2 ¶ 1); (see also Doc. 31-1 at 9-12 ¶¶ 31-46). SKF opposed the Motion (Doc. 33) on April 6, 2017, on several different grounds, including futility. Hardie-Tynes followed with its reply (Doc. 35) on April 13, 2017. For the reasons discussed below, Hardie-Tynes's Motion is DENIED.

         II. Standard

         “The court should freely give leave [to amend a complaint] when justice so requires[, ]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2), but “need not” do so “where amendment would be futile.” Bryant v. Dupree, 252 F.3d 1161, 1163 (11th Cir. 2001). Amendment is futile when “the complaint as amended is still subject to dismissal.” Hall v. United Insurance Co., 367 F.3d 1255, 1263 (11th Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Burger King Corp. v. Weaver, 169 F.3d 1310, 1320 (11th Cir. 1999)); see also St. Charles Foods, Inc. v. America's Favorite Chicken Co., 198 F.3d 815, 822 (11th Cir. 1999) (“When a district court denies the plaintiff leave to amend a complaint due to futility, the court is making the legal conclusion that the complaint, as amended, would necessarily fail.”). Thus, the Rule 12(b)(6) standard is an integral component of the futility doctrine. See B.D. Stephenson Trucking, L.L.C. v. Riverbrooke Capital, No. 5:06-CV-0343-WS, 2006 WL 2772673, at *6 (S.D. Ala. 2006) (“[T]hus, if the amended complaint could not survive Rule 12(b)(6) scrutiny, then the amendment is futile and leave to amend is properly denied.” (citing Burger King, 169 F.3d at 1320)).

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion attacks the legal sufficiency of the complaint. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) (“[A] party may assert the following defenses by motion: (6) failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted[.]”). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require only that the complaint provide “‘a short and plain statement of the claim' that will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 103, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957) (footnote omitted) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)), abrogated by Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) (setting forth general pleading requirements for a complaint including providing “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief”).

         While a plaintiff must provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief, Rule 8 does not mandate the inclusion of “detailed factual allegations” within a complaint. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964 (quoting Conley, 355 U.S. at 47, 78 S.Ct. at 103). However, at the same time, “it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). “[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563, 127 S.Ct. at 1969.

         “[A] court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Id. “When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id. (emphasis added). “Under Twombly's construction of Rule 8 . . . [a plaintiff's] complaint [must] ‘nudge[] [any] claims' . . . ‘across the line from conceivable to plausible.' Ibid.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680, 129 S.Ct. at 1950-51.

         A claim is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965).

         Finally, the Eleventh Circuit “review[s] the district court's denial of a motion to amend a complaint for abuse of discretion.” Steger v. General Electric Company, 318 F.3d 1066, 1080 (11th Cir. 2003); see also Henson v. Columbus Bank and Trust Co., 770 F.2d 1566, 1574 (11th Cir. 1985) (“A district court has great discretion when determining whether an amendment to the complaint should be allowed once responsive pleadings have been filed.”).

         III. Analysis

         As mentioned above, Hardie-Tynes's Motion seeks to add a claim of fraudulent suppression to its complaint. The elements of fraudulent suppression claim under Alabama law are “(1) that [SKF] had a duty to disclose the existing material fact; (2) that [SKF] suppressed this material fact; (3) that [SKF]'s suppression of this fact induced her to act or to refrain from acting; and (4) that [Hardie-Tynes] suffered actual damage as a proximate result.” State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Owen, 729 So.2d 834, 837 (Ala. 1998) (citing Booker v. United American Ins. Co., 700 So.2d 1333, 1339 (Ala. 1997)). Additionally, the Code of Alabama clarifies that:

Suppression of a material fact which the party is under an obligation to communicate constitutes fraud. The obligation to communicate may arise from the confidential relations of the parties ...

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