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Black Soil Dairy, LLC v. Land O'lakes, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division

May 22, 2018





         The matter before the court is Plaintiff Black Soil Dairy, LLC's (“Black Soil”) “Motion for Voluntary Dismissal Without Prejudice” (“Motion”) (docket no. 25).


         On August 15, 2017, Black Soil filed a “Petition and Jury Demand” (“Petition”) (docket no. 2) in the Iowa District Court for Sioux County, Iowa. In the Petition, Black Soil asserts three claims against Defendants Land O'Lakes, Inc. (“Land O'Lakes”) and Ridley USA Inc. (“Ridley”) (collectively, “Defendants”): (1) Count I alleges that Defendants were negligent in a number of respects related to a milk replacement delivered to Black Soil; (2) Count II alleges that Defendants breached an implied warranty of fitness regarding the milk replacement; and (3) Count III alleges that Defendants breached their voluntarily assumed duties. See Petition at 3-5. On October 13, 2017, Land O'Lakes filed a Notice of Removal (docket no. 1), bringing the case before the court. On October 16, 2017, Ridley filed an Answer (docket no. 4). On that same date, Land O'Lakes filed an Answer (docket no. 5).

         On March 21, 2018, Black Soil filed the Motion. On March 26, 2018, Land O'Lakes filed a Resistance (docket no. 27). On April 3, 2018, Black Soil filed a Reply (docket no. 35). Ridley does not resist the Motion. See Motion at 1. No party has requested oral argument and the court finds that oral argument is unnecessary. The matter is fully submitted and ready for decision.


         The court has diversity jurisdiction over the claims because complete diversity exists between the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1) (“The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000 . . . and is between . . . citizens of different States . . . .”).


         On December 6, 2017, the court filed a Scheduling Order and Discovery Plan (“Scheduling Order”) (docket no. 15), which provided that motions to add parties or motions to amend pleadings were due on February 8, 2018. See Scheduling Order at 1. On February 20, 2018, Black Soil's counsel emailed Defendants' counsel, stating, “The deadline to amend the pleadings snuck up on me faster than I thought. Would you have any objection to me filing a [m]otion to [a]mend the deadline and to fil[ing] a motion to amend our [Petition] to add a strict liability claim?” Resistance Exhibits (docket no. 27-2) at 34. In reply, Land O'Lakes's counsel stated that Land O'Lakes intended to object to any untimely motion to amend because Land O'Lakes had raised “[t]he issue of [Black Soil] suing the wrong party . . . several times during th[e] litigation” as early as September 2017. Id. Black Soil's counsel responded, “[T]hat's fine as everyone does things differently. I will file the motion to amend and see what the court does. If it isn't granted, I will dismiss without prejudice and file a new suit in federal court.” Id. at 33.

         On February 23, 2018, Black Soil filed a Motion to Amend (docket no. 17). In the Motion to Amend, Black Soil acknowledged that Land O'Lakes “produced its initial disclosures on December 26, 2017, ” but contended that it “ha[d] now reviewed the initial disclosures” and determined that it was “necessary to add Milk Products LLC [(“Milk Products”)] . . . as a party to this action” and sought to “add a products liability claim against Land O'Lakes . . . and Milk Products.” Motion to Amend at 2. On February 27, 2018, Land O'Lakes filed a Resistance to the Motion to Amend (docket no. 18). On March 19, 2018, United States Chief Magistrate Judge C.J. Williams denied the Motion to Amend. See March 19, 2018 Order (docket no. 23) at 6. Judge Williams found that, beginning in September 2017, Land O'Lakes had repeatedly informed Black Soil “that Milk Products was the correct defendant, not Land O'Lakes.” Id. at 4. Judge Williams concluded that Black Soil “ha[d] not shown [that] it acted with diligence in complying with the deadline for moving to amend its [petition], and, therefore, . . . ha[d] failed to establish good cause.” Id. Judge Williams also found that Black Soil's assertion of “garden-variety attorney inattention” did not establish excusable neglect. Id. at 5 (quoting Lowry v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 211 F.3d 457, 464 (8th Cir. 2000)).

         V. ANALYSIS

         In the Motion, Black Soil seeks to voluntarily dismiss this case without prejudice. See Motion at 1. Black Soil asserts that its “damages are not fully ascertainable at this time” and, therefore, requests that the court dismiss this action without prejudice so “that it may [refile] at a later date in this same forum.” Id. at 2. Land O'Lakes resists dismissal of this action, asserting that Black Soil is attempting to circumvent the denial of the Motion to Amend by refiling the matter at a later date. See Resistance at 3-4.

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2), a court may order that an action be dismissed at the plaintiff's request “on terms that the court considers ...

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