United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Mark Kedrowski, Plaintiff.
Lycoming Engines, a division of AVCO Corporation, Aero Associates, Inc., Timothy H. Henderson, John Doe, and Jane Doe, Defendants.
Stephen P. Watters, Esq., and Watters Law Office, Minnetonka, MN, Cortney S. LeNeave, Esq. and Hunegs, LeNeave & Kvas, Wayzata, MN, counsel for plaintiff.
William L. Moran, Esq. and HKM Law Group, St. Paul, MN, Elizabeth D. Scott, Esq. and Williams Mullen, Raleigh, NC, and Karla M. Vehrs, Esq. and Lindquist & Vennum, Minneapolis, MN, counsel for defendants.
DAVID S. DOTY, District Judge.
This matter is before the court upon the motion to amend the complaint by plaintiff Mark Kedrowski, and the motions to dismiss and for sanctions by defendants Lycoming Engines, a division of AVCO Corporation (Lycoming); Aero Accessories, Inc. (Aero); and Timothy H. Henderson. Based on a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court grants the motion to amend, grants the motions to dismiss, and denies the motions for sanctions.
This dispute arises out of a December 16, 2014, letter sent to Mark Seader, an airplane mechanic who is scheduled to testify on behalf of Kedrowski in a personal injury action in state court. Kedrowski was piloting a recreational aircraft on September 3, 2010, when the plane's engine allegedly failed. Am. Compl. ¶ 8. The engine, including the fuel pump, was manufactured by Lycoming. Id. ¶ 9. The plane crashed, and Kedrowski suffered severe permanent injuries. Id. ¶ 12. At the time Kedrowski commenced this action, his past and projected medical and other expenses totaled over $7 million. Id. ¶ 15.
Kedrowski asked Seader to conduct an investigation of the crash. Id. ¶ 17-21. Seader concluded that the aircraft's engine failed mid-flight as a result of a defect in the Lycoming fuel pump. Id. ¶ 21. On December 7, 2012, Kedrowski filed an action against Lycoming in Ramsey County District Court, asserting claims for negligence and products liability. Id. ¶ 22. Kedrowski retained Seader as an expert witness, and Seader prepared a report detailing the findings in his investigation (Seader Report). Id. ¶ 59.
In November 2014, Henderson was contacted to review and comment on the Seader Report. Henderson Decl. ¶ 6. Henderson is the president of Aero, a North Carolina corporation that manufactures fuel pumps in competition with Lycoming. Id. ¶¶ 3, 6. The Seader Report was based in part on test data obtained from Aero that was unrelated to the litigation. Id. ¶ 6. Henderson took issue with Seader's methods and disagreed with his findings. Id.
Lycoming subsequently moved to exclude Seader as an expert witness. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 41, 43. Daniel Haws, an attorney for Lycoming, asked Henderson to submit an affidavit in support of the motion. Id. ¶ 44; Henderson Decl. ¶ 7. Haws provided Henderson a draft of the affidavit, which Henderson revised and executed in North Carolina. Henderson Decl. ¶ 7. The state court denied the motion to exclude but prohibited Seader from giving engineering opinions. Am. Compl. ¶ 45; Haws Aff. Ex. 4, at 8 ¶ 3(c)(ii).
On December 16, 2014, an attorney for Aero sent a letter to Seader criticizing his report. See Compl. Ex. 5. The letter stated that "Aero has been dragged into this matter and has incurred damages." Id. at 2. Aero demanded that Seader withdraw his report and any related documents and threatened to sue Seader personally if he refused to do so. Id. The letter was written in North Carolina, mailed to Seader at his Colorado address, and indicated that a copy was sent to Haws in Minnesota. Id. Kedrowski alleges that defendants, through the letter, "substantially interfer[ed] with Mr. Seader's ability to provide witness testimony free from fear." Am. Compl. ¶ 57. It is undisputed that Seader has not refused to testify in state court nor indicated that he will limit or change his testimony as a result of the letter. Haws Aff. ¶ 21.
On January 6, 2015, Kedrowski filed a complaint in this court, asserting claims for (1) tortious interference with contract, (2) tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, (3) intentional interference with business relations, (4) civil conspiracy, (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress, and (6) negligent infliction of emotional distress. Defendants moved to dismiss on January 5 and February 6, 2015. ECF Nos. 5, 17. Kedrowski filed an amended complaint as a matter of course on February 27, 2015, and alternatively, moved to amend the complaint. ECF Nos. 26, 40. Defendants then moved for sanctions. ECF Nos. 35, 57.
I. Motion to Amend
The court first addresses Kedrowski's motion to amend the complaint. Courts should "freely give leave" to amend a pleading "when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The court may deny leave to amend "if there are compelling reasons such as undue delay, bad faith, or dilatory motive, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the non-moving party, or futility of the amendment." Reuter v. Jax Ltd., Inc., 711 F.3d 918, 922 (8th Cir. 2013). "[T]he party opposing the ...