Providence County Superior Court Taft-Carter, J.
case involves disputes arising out of the construction and
renovations of the Sakonnet River Bridge. Defendant Cardi
Corporation, Inc. (Cardi) and Cashman Equipment Corporation,
Inc. (Cashman) entered into an agreement to make Cashman
Cardi's subcontractor, should Cardi be awarded the
Sakonnet River Bridge project by the Rhode Island Department
of Transportation (RIDOT).
this Court for decision is Cashman's motion for leave to
amend the Fourth Amended Complaint. Cashman asked for leave
to amend to make the following changes to its complaint: (1)
remove Count XVII (Tortious Interference with Prospective
Business Relations directed against Cardi); (2) remove Count
XXIX (estoppel) as directed at Cardi and RT Group, Inc.
(RTG); and, (3) add a count of negligence directed at RIDOT.
to Rule 15(a) of the Rhode Island Superior Court Rules of
Civil Procedure, a party may "amend the party's
pleading . . . by leave of court . . . and leave shall be
freely given when justice so requires." Super. R. Civ.
P. 15(a). The Rhode Island Supreme Court has
"'consistently held that trial justices should
liberally allow amendments to the pleadings.'"
Lomastro v. Iacovelli, 56 A.3d 92, 95 (R.I. 2012)
(quoting Medeiros v. Cornwall, 911 A.2d 251, 253
(R.I. 2006)). Furthermore, "'amendments to pleadings
are to be allowed with great liberality absent a showing of
extreme prejudice' and the burden of demonstrating
extreme prejudice lies on the party opposing the
motion." Id. (quoting Kuczer v. City of
Woonsocket, 472 A.2d 300, 301 (R.I. 1984)). The Rhode
Island Supreme Court has stated that its "liberal
interpretation of Rule 15(a) encourages the allowance of
amendments in order to facilitate the resolution of disputes
on their merits rather than on blind adherence to procedural
technicalities." Wachsberger v. Pepper, 583
A.2d 77, 78 (R.I. 1990) (citing Inleasing Corp. v.
Jessup, 475 A.2d 989, 992 (R.I. 1984)).
'"[a]n addition of a new claim close to trial when
discovery is essentially complete and trial strategy already
planned invariably delays the resolution of a case, and delay
itself may be considered prejudicial . . . especially where
excessive delay has already occurred."' Faerber
v. Cavanagh, 568 A.2d 326, 330 (R.I. 1990) (quoting
Andrews v. Bechtel Power Corp., 780 F.2d 124, 139
(1st Cir. 1985)). Therefore, "[w]ith respect to undue
delay, . . . when 'a considerable period of time has
passed between the filing of the complaint and the motion to
amend, courts have placed the burden upon the movant
to show some valid reason for his neglect and
delay.'" Id. at 329 (quoting Carter v.
Supermarkets General Corp., 684 F.2d 187, 192 (1st Cir.
1982) (emphasis added)).
"seeks to assert a direct claim against RIDOT for
negligence related to its approval of RTG, Russel [sic] and
Otten as the engineering firm and/or engineers to design the
marine cofferdams at Piers 4, 5, and 6." Cashman claims
that it became clear from at least seven depositions which
took place over the course of discovery, that RIDOT was
allegedly "negligent in its due diligence" relative
to whether the engineers hired to design the marine
cofferdams at issue in this case met RIDOT's specified
job requirements. Based on the testimony provided by various
deponents, Cashman now asks this Court to grant it leave to
amend its fourth amended complaint to include a count of
negligence against RIDOT. Due to RIDOT's ongoing
involvement in this case as a defendant, Cashman asserts that
RIDOT cannot claim extreme prejudice if the motion to amend
is granted because RIDOT has been present at all hearings,
proceedings, and depositions related to this case.
to RIDOT, this Court must deny the motion to amend because
the claim against RIDOT is barred by the statute of
limitations and the law of the case doctrine, and because the
State did not and does not owe a duty to Cashman.
Additionally, RTG, Steven Otten, and James Russell contend
that the motion must be denied because the claim against
RIDOT is barred by the statute of limitations pursuant to
Section 37-13.1-1(a). Finally, all parties opposing this
motion assert it would cause them extreme prejudice if this
motion to amend were granted.
"'amendments to pleadings are to be allowed with
great liberality absent a showing of extreme prejudice'
and the burden of demonstrating extreme prejudice lies on the
party opposing the motion." Lomastro, 56 A.3d
at 95 (quoting Kuczer, 472 A.2d at 301). According
to RIDOT in its memorandum, it would be "severely
prejudiced" if the Court were to grant the motion to
amend since RIDOT "has not had the opportunity to do
any discovery on the issues surrounding the cofferdam
design and the experience of RTG since this Litigation began
9 years ago." Additionally, RTG, Steven Otten, and James
Russell claim they too would suffer serious prejudice if this
motion is granted because it has not cross-examined any of
the State's witnesses for a claim "the grounds upon
which. . . were well known to counsel five or more years
support of its motion, Cashman relies on depositions-the
majority of which took place between 2011 and 2014, and one
of which took place in 2019. Cashman claims RIDOT will be in
no way prejudiced by the amended complaint because
"RIDOT has been present and actively participated in
every deposition, hearing, ...