United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
CARL C. OSBORNE, Surviving Spouse and Next of Kin of Deceased, JANICE K. OSBORNE, Plaintiff,
STEVEN E. KNICELEY and GILBERT WYATT, Defendants, STEVEN E. KNICELEY and TARA KNICELEY, Plaintiffs,
CARL C. OSBORNE, Surviving Spouse and Next of Kin of Deceased, JANICE K. OSBORNE, and GILBERT WYATT, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636, the Rules of this Court, and Standing Order 13-02.
before the Court are the following Motions: (1)
Plaintiff's Motion to Amend [Doc. 37], (2)
Plaintiff's Request for Entry of Default [Doc. 40], (3)
Plaintiff's Motion to Strike [Doc. 46], and (4) Defendant
Steven Kniceley's Supplemental Objection and Response in
Opposition to Request for Entry of Default, Motion to Amend
Answer to Amended Complaint or in the Alternative Motion for
Enlargement of Time to File Answer to Amended Complaint [Doc.
47] (hereinafter, “Motion to Amend Answer”). The
parties appeared before the Court on April 28, 2017, for a
motion hearing. Attorneys David C. Hollow, Harry Stephen
Gillman, and M. Christopher Coffey appeared on behalf of the
Plaintiff. Attorney Hannah Lowe appeared on behalf of
Defendants Steven Kniceley and Gilbert Wyatt.
for the reasons more fully explained below, the Court GRANTS
the Plaintiff's Motion to Amend [Doc. 37] and Defendant
Knicely's Motion to Amend Answer [Doc. 47] and DENIES the
Plaintiff's Request for Entry of Default [Doc. 40] and
the Plaintiff's Motion to Strike [Doc. 46].
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
Court will first summarize the parties' positions with
respect to the Plaintiff's Motion to Amend and then turn
to the matters involving the Plaintiff's Request for
Entry of Default.
Motion to Amend
Plaintiff moves [Doc. 37] to amend his Complaint to add a
claim for punitive damages because Defendant Kniceley was
driving at an extreme speed at the time of the incident. The
Plaintiff asserts that the deadline to amend pleadings was
March 3, 2017, pursuant to the Scheduling Order in this case,
but certain electronic module data from the Defendants'
vehicle was not provided until March 6, 2017. The Plaintiff
attached his proposed Amended Complaint in compliance with
Local Rule 15.1.
Kniceley and Gilbert Wyatt filed a Response [Doc. 41]
objecting to the Motion. The Defendants assert that the
Motion was not timely filed pursuant to the Scheduling Order
and that the proposed amendment is futile. The Defendants
submit that an allegation of driving at an excessive speed
does not rise to the level of conduct required under
Tennessee law to support a claim for punitive damages.
Court notes that during the motion hearing, the Plaintiff
orally moved to allege an additional reason to support his
claim for punitive damages. The Defendants were given until
May 5, 2017, to file a written response to the oral motion.
The Defendants did not file a response.
Request for Entry of Default
Plaintiff requests an entry of default pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a). In support of his request, the
Plaintiff relies upon the Affidavit of Stephen Gillman, which
states that the Complaint was served on defense counsel on
December 30, 2015, and that Defendant Kniceley failed to file
a responsive pleading.
Kniceley filed a Response [Doc. 43] objecting to the
Plaintiff's request. The Response states that the failure
to plead was due to a clerical error in defense counsel's
office and that while an Answer was filed on behalf of
co-Defendant Wyatt, the same was not filed on behalf of
Defendant Kniceley. Defendant Kniceley submits that Defendant
Wyatt's Answer is consistent with his (Defendant
Kniceley's) Complaint that was filed in the consolidated
action. Further, Defendant Kniceley argues that the Plaintiff
has not shown prejudice, he (Defendant Kniceley) has a
meritorious defense, and that there was no culpable conduct
in this case.
Plaintiff filed a Reply [Doc. 45] asserting that Defendant
Kniceley failed to file an answer or responsive pleading in
over 455 days since service of the Complaint. The Plaintiff
states that Rule 55 requires the clerk to enter a default.
The Plaintiff argues that the Amended Complaint was filed on
July 12, 2016, which is almost seven months following the
service of the original Complaint against Defendant Kniceley.
The Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Kniceley has not offered
an explanation as to the failure to file an answer in the
seven months after he was served with the original Complaint
and that “it is difficult to fathom that the failure to
[a]nswer or otherwise defend this matter in that time period
could have been a ‘clerical error.'” [Doc. 45
at 3]. The Plaintiff also contends that Defendant Kniceley
has been late in responding to discovery requests and that
the default “should be formally noted on the
record.” [Id. at 6]. Further, the Plaintiff
argues that while Defendant Kniceley references certain
factors that the Court should consider, i.e.,
prejudice, meritorious defense, and culpable conduct, such
factors are appropriate when considering motions to set aside
the default. Finally, the Plaintiff argues that there has
been prejudice, the Defendant has not offered any facts to
support a meritorious defense, and that the significant
delays in this case establish the culpable conduct.
Court notes that on April 14, 2017, Defendant Kniceley filed
an Answer [Doc. 42]. Subsequently, the Plaintiff moved to
strike [Doc. 46] the Answer on grounds that the Plaintiff had
already requested entry of default and that ...