David v. Crompton & Knowles Corp.

58 F.R.D. 444 (E.D. Pa. 1973)

 

RULE:

If the matter alleged in the averment was a matter of record peculiarly within the control and knowledge of the defendant, an answer that defendant was without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief did not constitute a denial under Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)

FACTS:

In a products liability action, defendant sought to amend its answer to plaintiff’s complaint. The complaint alleged that it was defendant who designed, manufactured and sold the shredding machine to plaintiff, which defendant denied by stating that “it was without sufficient knowledge or information to admit or deny the allegation and demanded proof." Defendant moved to amend its original answer by claiming that it was defendant’s predecessor-in-interest who was liable.

ISSUE:

Did the denial made by the defendant in its original answer amount to an admission, making its amendment prohibited?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

The request for leave to amend should be denied. The defendant was was aware that the machine was a product of its predecessor at the time it answered the complaint. It even indicated that it was responsible for the design, manufacture and sale of the machine which was made prior to its succession. Their only reason to amend was that it only discovered recently that its contract with the predecessor did not make it responsible for liabilities of this kind. The terms of its agreement are certainly peculiarly within the control and knowledge of the defendant. Thus, its averment of lack of knowledge or information under the original answer amounts to an admission, not a denial. Furthermore, an amendment cannot be allowed if would seriously prejudice the plaintiff. In this case, if the defendant would be allowed to amend and shift liability to its predecessor, then plaintiff’s action against the latter is already beyond the two-year statute of limitations. The running of the statute is the serious type of prejudice which justifies a denial of defendant's motion to amend his answer.

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