United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
JOHN M. DEANGELIS, as trustee of the Kelly K. Deangelis revocable living trust dated May 26, 1999, Plaintiff,
JONATHAN D. MANN, JR., individually, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
E. STEELE, JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. #8) filed on August
10, 2017, and on Plaintiff's Supplemental Motion for
Leave to File First Amended Complaint (Doc. #15) filed on
September 18, 2017, to which Defendant filed a Response in
Opposition (Doc. #16) on September 20, 2017. For the reasons
set forth below, the Court grants Plaintiff's
Supplemental Motion for Leave to File First Amended Complaint
and denies as moot Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.
case arises out of an April 12, 2011 agreement conveying the
oil and gas rights (the Agreement) for a property located in
Ohio (the Property) from Professional Land Resources, LLC
(PLR) to The Kelly K. DeAngelis Revocable Living Trust Dated
May 26, 1999 (the Trust). On June 29, 2017, Plaintiff filed a
one-count complaint (Doc. #2) in the Circuit Court of the
Twentieth Judicial Circuit in and for Collier County,
Florida. The Complaint accuses Defendant, a West Virginia
citizen, of fraudulently inducing Plaintiff, a Florida
citizen, to enter into the Agreement by characterizing the
Property's wells as “viable” when Defendant
knew they were not. Plaintiff seeks $135, 000 in damages,
which is the amount he paid Defendant under the Agreement in
exchange for a 50% revenue interest in the wells' output.
removed to this Court under 28 U.S.C. 1332(a) and then moved
to dismiss the case on the following grounds: (1)
Plaintiff's fraud claim is barred by West Virginia's
two-year “catch-all” statute of limitations,
W.Va. Code § 55-2-12; (2) this Court lacks personal
jurisdiction over Defendant; (3) the Agreement's merger
clause prevents Plaintiff from succeeding with establishing
his fraud claim as a matter of law; and (4) the Complaint fails
to state a plausible claim for fraudulent inducement under
West Virginia law and with the requisite Rule 9(b)
did not respond to the Motion to Dismiss, instead moving
under Rule 15(a)(2) for leave to file an amended complaint
that “seeks to address the issues brought in the
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, and to add a claim for
punitive damages.” (Doc. #15, p. 2.) Plaintiff states that
the amendment is timely sought and believes there is no
substantial reason to deny leave. Defendant disagrees; He
thinks allowing Plaintiff to amend will be futile because the
proposed amendments do not remedy the deficiencies identified
in his Motion to Dismiss.
is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15. A party
has twenty-one days in which to amend a pleading once as a
matter of course. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). Thereafter,
amendment requires the opposing party's written consent
or the court's leave. Id. at 15(a)(2). Although
whether to grant leave is within the district court's
discretion, Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182
(1962), that discretion “is severely restricted by
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a), which directs that leave to amend shall
be freely given when justice so requires.” Bryant
v. Dupree, 252 F.3d 1161, 1163 (11th Cir. 2001)
(citation and internal alterations omitted).
“Justice” does not “so require” in a
number of situations, including when the party seeking to
amend has delayed in requesting leave, and when permitting
leave would be “futile.” Foman, 371 U.S.
at 182. “Leave to amend a complaint is futile when the
complaint as amended would still be properly dismissed or be
immediately subject to summary judgment for the
defendant.” Evans v. Ga. Reg'l Hosp., 850
F.3d 1248, 1254 (11th Cir. 2017) (quoting Cockrell v.
Sparks, 510 F.3d 1307, 1310 (11th Cir. 2007)). Here,
Plaintiff is outside the twenty-one-day window and -because
Defendant opposes amendment - Plaintiff seeks the Court's
permission to amend. According to Defendant, allowing
Plaintiff to amend is futile because: (i) Plaintiff's
fraud claim is still time-barred, (ii) the Court still lacks
personal jurisdiction over Defendant, and (iii) the Proposed
Amended Complaint still fails to adequately plead a
fraudulent inducement claim.
Court disagrees that granting leave to amend would be futile.
As to the statute of limitations, even assuming West Virginia
law applies to this dispute,  it is not “apparent from
the face of the complaint that the claim is
time-barred.”Gonsalvez v. Celebrity Cruises
Inc., 750 F.3d 1195, 1197 (11th Cir. 2013) (citation
omitted). Regarding personal jurisdiction, the Proposed
Amended Complaint appears to state a prima facie case of
specific personal jurisdiction under the “tortious
activity prong” of Florida's long-arm statute, Fla.
Stat. § 48.193(1)(a)(2), the exercise of which comports
with due process.See Williams Elec. Co. v. Honeywell,
Inc., 854 F.2d 389, 394 (11th Cir. 1988). Finally, it is
not yet clear to the Court that the Proposed Amended
Complaint lacks the requisite Rule 9(b)
specificity or that the fraud claim is barred by the
Agreement's merger provision.
has not opposed Plaintiff's request to add a claim for
punitive damages. Punitive damages may be awarded for a
successful claim of fraudulent inducement under Florida law.
HGI Assocs., Inc. v. Wetmore Printing Co., 427 F.3d
867, 877 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing Conn. Gen. Life Ins.
Co. v. Jones, 764 So.2d 677, 680-82 (Fla. 1st DCA
2000)). As such, the Court will grant Plaintiff's
unopposed request to amend to add such a claim.
it is hereby
Plaintiff's Supplemental Motion for Leave to File First
Amended Complaint (Doc. #15) is granted.
Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File First Amended
Complaint (Doc. #14) and Defendant's Motion to ...