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Williams v. Arauco

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 12, 2015

KEISHA WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
ASERRADEROS ARAUCO, SA, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS THIRD AMENDED COMPLAINT AGAINST SSA MARINE WITH LEAVE TO AMEND; AUTHORIZING LIMITED DISCOVERY Re: Dkt. No. 52

WILLIAM H. ORRICK, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Keisha Williams, a longshoreman, sustained injuries while transporting lumber that she alleges was negligently packed by defendants Aserraderos Arauco, San Vicente Terminal Internacional ("SVTI"), and SSA Marine, Inc. She first named SSA Marine as a defendant more than three years after her injury, which is beyond the longest potentially applicable statute of limitations. Williams's claims against SSA Marine do not relate back because Williams has pleaded no facts from which I can conclude that SSA Marine had reason to think that it would have been named as a defendant but for a mistake by her. Williams's claims against SSA Marine are not equitably tolled because she has pleaded no facts from which I can conclude that her failure to name SSA Marine as a defendant before the statute of limitations expired was reasonable. Accordingly, I GRANT SSA Marine's motion and DISMISS the third amended complaint ("TAC").

Because of SSA Marine's failure to make initial disclosures and participate in discovery, however, I cannot conclude at this juncture that Williams's complaint should be dismissed with prejudice, even though the trial date is fast approaching. At oral argument on April 29, 2015, I ordered that SSA Marine provide initial disclosures. I will also allow limited discovery to determine what SSA Marine knew or should have known about its lack of involvement as a defendant in this matter, as discussed below. Williams is granted LEAVE TO FILE AN AMENDED COMPLAINT incorporating facts from the initial disclosures, if appropriate, by June 24, 2015.

BACKGROUND[1]

Williams worked as a longshoreman unloading goods from vessels. Third Amended Complaint ("TAC") ¶ 5 [Dkt. No. 51]. On May 31, 2011, she was transporting a container filled with lumber in a tractor. Id. While turning into an aisle, the tractor flipped over, injuring her. Id. She asserts that defendant Arauco, a company incorporated in Chile, was the "owner and/or shipper" of the container and that it "negligently, carelessly and improperly packed [the] container." Id. ¶¶ 3, 7. Williams alleges that defendant SVTI is a terminal and stevedoring facility[2] in Chile which is owned or operated by defendant SSA Marine and that SVTI and SSA Marine are alter egos of one another. Id. ¶¶ 4(i), 12. She contends that SVTI negligently packed the container. Id. ¶¶ 4(i), 11-12.

Williams filed her initial complaint in September 2012, naming Arauco and Horizon Lines, LLC, as defendants. Compl. ¶¶ 5-12 [Dkt. No. 1].[3] On December 6, 2012, Williams's counsel received an email from an Arauco's attorney, stating:[4]

As I emailed you earlier this week, another company (San Vincenta [sic] Terminal Internacional, or SVTI) loaded the cargo in the container that allegedly is the subject of Ms. Williams's injury. It is SVTI's standard practice to weigh the cargo before loading (SVTI gets paid based on weight), and the cargo here weighed 19, 820 kg, well within the container limit of 28, 660 kg (which is stenciled on the container in the pictures you provided).
As part of its standard practice, SVTI also takes pictures of the loaded cargo and prepares a diagram of the cargo layout in the container. I have attached the pictures and the diagram and the container consist. These all show a balanced and secure layout. It would appear that neither Arauco nor SVTI has any responsibility in this unfortunate accident, and the fault lies with the cargo ship or elsewhere.
Please let me know what else you might need to evaluate your case. Otherwise, dismissal of Arauco appears in order.[5]

Dkt. No. 52-1.

Williams alleges that Arauco advised her on August 18, 2014 that a third party, not Arauco, was responsible for packing the container at issue, and that Arauco would not interplead that third party. TAC ¶ 4(h).[6] She alleges that she then "found the name of the third party, SVTI/SSA." Id. She filed her second amended complaint on November 4, 2014, in which she named SVTI and SSA Marine as defendants for the first time. Dkt. No. 35. SVTI has not appeared in this action. The Clerk of the Court issued a summons for SVTI on November 7, 2014, but it is not clear whether the summons was served on SVTI. Dkt. No. 36.

On February 10, 2015, I dismissed the second amended complaint with leave to amend because the statute of limitations had run and Williams's claim against SSA Marine neither related back nor triggered equitable tolling. Dkt. No. 50. She filed her third amended complaint on March 2, 2015. Dkt. No. 51. SSA Marine moves to dismiss the third amended complaint ...


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