United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division
JEFFREY L. VIKEN CHIEF JUDGE
Jack Dale Good, Jr., filed this action against defendants
Sugar Creek Packing Co. (“Sugar Creek”), Michael
John, Norbert Muehlich and Weber, Inc (“Weber”).
(Docket 1). Plaintiff advances a negligence claim.
Id. He seeks to hold defendants liable for injuries
he suffered as a result of the collision of his motorcycle
and a car driven by Mr. John at an intersection in Lawrence
County, South Dakota. Id. at p. 2.
states Mr. John is a Sugar Creek employee who drove a vehicle
that Weber owned, and Mr. Muehlich, Weber's president,
permitted Mr. John to operate the vehicle. Id. at
pp. 2-3. Although plaintiff does not state what business
Weber engages in, he asserts Sugar Creek and Weber
collaborate in business through “Sugar Creek buy[ing]
equipment from and test[ing] prototypes for Weber.”
Id. The collision occurred around the time of a
company event Sugar Creek sponsored where it provided food
and lodging for its employees in Lawrence County, South
Dakota. Id. Mr. John and Mr. Muehlich attended the
company event. Id.
court has jurisdiction because the parties are diverse and
the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. See 28
U.S.C. § 1332; (Docket 1 at p. 1). “It is, of
course, well-settled that in a suit based on diversity of
citizenship jurisdiction the federal courts apply federal law
as to matters of procedure but the substantive law of the
relevant state.” In re Baycol Prods. Litig.,
616 F.3d 778, 785 (8th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks
parties filed motions to dismiss this case. (Dockets 14 &
20). Defendants collectively filed a motion claiming
plaintiff's complaint is time-barred. (Docket 14). Less
than one month later, plaintiff filed a motion to voluntarily
dismiss his complaint without prejudice. (Docket 20). Each
side resists the other's motion. (Dockets 25 & 29).
Separate from each motion's substance, the parties
dispute which motion the court should resolve first.
argue plaintiff failed to comply with the applicable statute
of limitations. (Dockets 14 & 15). South Dakota law
subjects plaintiff's negligence claim to a three-year
statute of limitations. See SDCL § 15-2-14(3).
defendants' motion to dismiss does not cite a Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure as the basis for dismissal, Rule
12(b)(6) applies to defendants' motion. “A court
may dismiss a complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) as barred by a statute of limitations if the
complaint itself shows that the claim is time-barred.”
In re Pre-Filled Propane Tank Antitrust Litig., 860
F.3d 1059, 1063 (8th Cir. 2017) (en banc), cert. denied
sub nom. Ferrellgas Partners, L.P. v. Morgan-Larson,
LLC, No. 17-441, 2018 WL 311347 (U.S. Jan. 8, 2018)
(internal quotation marks omitted). “In addressing a
motion to dismiss, the court may consider the pleadings
themselves, materials embraced by the pleadings, exhibits
attached to the pleadings, and matters of public
record.” Roe v. Nebraska, 861 F.3d 785, 788
(8th Cir. 2017) (internal quotation marks and alterations
pursues voluntary dismissal based on Rule 41(a)(2). (Dockets
20 & 21). That Rule provides, “an action may be
dismissed at the plaintiff's request only by court order,
on terms that the court considers proper.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
41(a)(2). “When deciding whether to grant a motion for
voluntary dismissal, the ‘district court should
consider . . . whether the party has presented a proper
explanation for its desire to dismiss; whether a dismissal
would result in a waste of judicial time and effort; and
whether a dismissal will prejudice the defendants.' A
plaintiff cannot use a motion to voluntarily dismiss to seek
a more favorable forum.” Blaes v. Johnson &
Johnson, 858 F.3d 508, 512 (8th Cir. 2017) (quoting
Donner v. Alcoa, Inc., 709 F.3d 694, 697 (8th Cir.
2013)) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). If
the court grants plaintiff's motion, he intends to file
suit in Oklahoma, where he is a resident. (Docket 21 at p.
and plaintiff's motions hinge on the same issue: whether
the statute of limitations bars plaintiff's claim. That
is the entirety of defendants' motion. See
Dockets 14 & 15. It is also critical to plaintiff's
motion for voluntary dismissal because “[v]oluntary
dismissal under Rule 41(a)(2) should not be granted if a
party will be prejudiced by the dismissal, and there is clear
legal prejudice where a Rule 41(a)(2) dismissal is granted in
the face of a valid statute of limitations defense[.]”
Metro. Fed. Bank of Iowa, F.S.B. v. W.R. Grace &
Co., 999 F.2d 1257, 1262 (8th Cir. 1993). If defendants
are correct on the statute of limitations issue, the court
must grant their motion and deny plaintiff's motion to
dismiss. If defendants lose their statute of limitations
argument, their motion must be denied and plaintiff's
argument regarding a lack of prejudice is strengthened.
invites the court to adopt a particular understanding of the
holding in W.R. Grace. See id. In that
case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth
Circuit stated: “We would consider it an abuse of
discretion for a district court to find no legal prejudice,
and thus to grant voluntary dismissal, where the non-moving
party has demonstrated a valid statute of limitations defense
to the claims sought to be dismissed.” Id. at
1263. According to plaintiff, W.R. Grace stands for
the proposition that “the statute of limitations
defense must be a complete defense as to all jurisdictions in
which a plaintiff may bring an action.” (Docket 30 at
p. 4) (emphasis omitted). This interpretation stretches
W.R. Grace beyond its holding. The Eighth Circuit
specified that legal prejudice arises “where the
nonmoving party has demonstrated a valid statute of
limitations defense to the claims sought to be
dismissed.” W.R. Grace, 999 F.2d at 1263
(emphasis added). The claims defendants seek to dismiss are
those plaintiff advances in this court-not potential claims
in Oklahoma or any other court down the line. The court has
access to far fewer facts of this case than the parties. It
would not be possible for the court to consider and determine
whether defendants' statute of limitations defense holds
up in all possible jurisdictions. Understanding W.R.
Grace this way is consistent with other United States
District Courts in the Eighth Circuit. See United States
v. $32, 820.56 in U.S. Currency, 106 F.Supp.3d 990, 997
(N.D. Iowa 2015) (“The Eighth Circuit has found legal
prejudice, for purposes of considering a motion to dismiss
without prejudice, when dismissal would cause the loss of a
material advantage the resisting party would enjoy only if
the pending action were to continue.”) (citing W.R.
Grace); In re Prempro Products Liab. Litig.,
No. MDL 403CV01507, 2008 WL 5274338, at *1 (E.D. Ark. Dec.
18, 2008) (“Here, permitting Plaintiff to voluntarily
dismiss this case to avoid a valid statute of limitations
defense while pursuing identical claims against the same
Defendants in another federal court, with a possibly longer
statute of limitations, would prejudice Defendants.”).
the statute of limitations is the critical issue in this
case, and it is dispositive in relation to defendants'