Saacks et al v. Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange
ORDER & REASONS that Plaintiff's 130 MOTION to Review and Appeal the Magistrate Judge's Order is DENIED. Signed by Judge Eldon E. Fallon on 1/31/2017. (cms)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
ANTOINE SAACKS, ET AL.
PRIVILEGE UNDERWRITERS RECIPROCAL
SECTION "L" (5)
ORDER & REASONS
Before the Court is Plaintiffs’ Motion to Appeal the Magistrate’s Decision on Defendant’s
Motion for Leave to Amend its Answer and Plaintiff’s Motion to Strike. R. 130. Defendant
opposes the Motion. R. 186. The Court has reviewed the parties’ arguments and applicable law,
and now issues this Order and Reasons.
This case arises from a car accident that occurred on December 30, 2014, on North
Causeway Boulevard in Metairie, Louisiana. According to Plaintiff Antoine Saacks, he was struck
by Jonathan St. Pierre as the two drove along the causeway. R. 1-1 at 1. Mr. St. Pierre was insured
by Progressive Security Insurance Company (“Progressive”), but his policy was capped at
$50,000. R. 1-1 at 1. Progressive paid to the limit of the policy, but Mr. Saacks contends that
$50,000 is insufficient to compensate him and his wife for their losses. R. 1-1 at 1.
At the time of the accident, Mr. Saacks carried underinsured motorist coverage with
Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange (“Privilege”). Mr. Saacks sought to collect the
balance of his damages from his insurance policy, PURE Private Fleet Auto Policy Number
PA041437901 (“the policy”). On December 15, 2015, Plaintiffs Antoine & Kim Saacks brought
the instant action in the 24th Judicial District Court for the Parish of Jefferson. R. 1-1 at 1. Plaintiffs
contend that Privilege wrongly failed to tender a fair sum or to fairly settle the Plaintiffs’ claim
within sixty days of receipt of Plaintiffs’ medical documentation, as required by LSA-R.S. 22:1892
and LSA-R.S. 22:1973. R. 1-1 at 2. Plaintiffs seek the balance of their damages from the December
30, 2014, car accident, as well as monetary penalties provided for by Louisiana law. R. 1-1 at 2.
Privilege removed the suit to this Court on February 8, 2016. R. 1. Privilege timely
Answers and denies Plaintiffs’ allegations. R. 4 at 1-3. Privilege asserts a number of affirmative
defenses, including exclusions to coverage provided in the policy. R. 4 at 3-6. On December 20,
2016, Privilege filed a Motion seeking Leave to file an amended answer. R. 67. In the motion,
Privilege explained that through recent discovery it learned of “suspicious circumstances” which
supported claims of fraud against Plaintiffs. R. 67 at 3. Privilege argued this information was only
recently discovered, and it would be prejudiced if not allowed to amend its answer and assert these
fraud claims. R. 67 at 4. Plaintiffs opposed the motion, and argued no good cause existed for such
an amendment, and any amendment this close to trial would prejudice Plaintiffs. R. 70 at 1. In
conjunction with their opposition, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Strike Defendant’s Motion for Leave.
R. 77. The Court referred the Motions to Magistrate Judge North, R. Doc. 98, who heard oral
argument on the motions. R. 104.
After reviewing the parties’ motions and their statements during oral argument, Magistrate
North granted the Defendant’s Motion to Amend its Answer, and Denied the Plaintiff’s Motion to
Strike. R. 126. The Magistrate held that Privilege’s twelfth affirmative defense encompassed all
exclusions available under the insurance policy at issue, including fraud. Magistrate North
explained the amendment was not a new defense, but made “solely to conform the pleadings to
the evidence that was revealed through discovery.” Further, the Magistrate determined that
Plaintiffs failed to demonstrate they would suffer undue prejudice if the amendment was allowed.
R. 126 at 1-2. Finally, Magistrate North explained that a motion to strike is a “drastic remedy” and
not warranted in this case. On January 23, 2017, Plaintiffs filed the instant appeal for review of the
order of the Magistrate Court, raising the same arguments dismissed by Magistrate North. R. 130.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 72(a), a party may serve and file objections to
a magistrate judge's orders regarding nondispositive pretrial matters if the objection is filed within
ten (10) days after service of the order. Federal law affords a magistrate judge broad discretion in
the resolution of pretrial disputes. See Fed. R. Civ.P. 72(a); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). Thus, a
district court reverses a magistrate judge's ruling on nondispositive pretrial matters only where the
court finds such a ruling to be “clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a); 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); In re Combustion, Inc., 161 F.R.D. 54, 55 (W.D. La.1995). A party is not
entitled to raise new theories or arguments in its objections that the party did not present before a
magistrate judge. See Cupit v. Whitley, 28 F.3d 532, 535 (5th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S.
1163 (1995). Therefore, Plaintiff must overcome a high hurdle.
In this case, Plaintiff seeks to overturn the magistrate’s decision allowing Defendant to
amend its answer after the deadline in the scheduling order. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
16(b), once a scheduling order has been entered, it may only be modified for good cause and with
the judge's consent. S&W Enters., LLC v. Southtrust Bank of Ala., NA, 315 F.3d 533, 535 (5th Cir.
2003); Fed. R.Civ. P. 16(b). To determine if good cause exists, the Court should consider “(1) the
explanation for the failure to timely move for leave to amend; (2) the importance of the
amendment; (3) potential prejudice in allowing the amendment; and (4) the availability of a
continuance to cure such prejudice.” E.E.O.C. v. Serv. Temps Inc., 679 F.3d 323, 334 (5th Cir.
2012), citing, Fahim v. Marriott Hotel Servs., Inc., 551 F.3d 344, 348 (5th Cir. 2008); S & W
Enters., LLC, 315 F.3d at 536.
In this appeal, Plaintiffs argue that the Magistrate Court erred in granting Privilege’s
motion to amend for three reasons: 1) there is no reason Privilege could not have amended its
answer earlier; 2) an amendment this close to trial is prejudicial; and 3) Privilege fabricated the
fraud allegations as there are no suspicious circumstances in this case. However, the Court finds
Magistrate North’s Order was correct and Plaintiff’s objections are without merit.
After reviewing the parties’ briefs and statements at oral argument, Magistrate North
determined that Plaintiffs failed to show they would be prejudiced by the amendment. Further, he
determined that Privilege’s proposed amendment merely sought to “conform the pleadings to the
evidence that had been revealed through discovery.” Contrary to Plaintiff’s argument that Privilege
could have amended its answer earlier, the Magistrate explained this information was uncovered
through discovery, and thus good cause existed for a late amendment. The Court finds that
Magistrate North did not err in granting Defendant’s Motion. See Serv. Temps Inc., 679 F.3d at
For the foregoing reasons, IT IS ORDERED that the Plaintiff's Motion to Review and Appeal
the Magistrate Judge's Order, R. Doc. 130, is DENIED.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this 31st day of January, 2017.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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