DECISION AND ORDER
SHERRY KLEIN HEITLER, Judge.
It is ordered that this motion is decided in accordance with the memorandum decision dated August 6, 2013.
In this asbestos personal injury action, defendant Meriden Molded Plastics, Inc. ("Meriden") moves pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(8) for an order dismissing this action against it for lack of personal jurisdiction on the ground that plaintiffs failed to duly serve the defendant with the summons and complaint herein. Meriden further moves to dismiss pursuant to CPLR 3215(c) on the ground that plaintiff failed to commence proceedings for the entry of judgment within one year after Meriden failed to answer plaintiffs' complaint. Plaintiffs argue that pursuant to Section VI(E) of the NYC Asbestos Litigation ("NYCAL") Case Management Order ("CMO") they properly effectuated service upon Meriden on April 9, 2013 via an amended complaint. Plaintiffs also cross-move to extend the time within which to serve the summons and complaint upon Meriden pursuant to CPLR 306-b.
Plaintiffs' decedent Murray Walker was diagnosed with mesothelioma on October 5, 2011. Plaintiffs filed this action to recover for injuries sustained by Mr. Walker's exposure to asbestos during his career as an electrician on October 21, 2011. On November 4, 2011, plaintiffs filed a Summons and Second Amended Complaint which for the first time named Meriden as a defendant.
Mr. Walker's deposition commenced on November 30, 2011 and continued from December 1, 2011 to December 9, 2011. Mr. Walker died on December 27, 2011 before his deposition could be completed. The defendant was not represented at these depositions. Among other things, Mr. Walker testified that he worked on asbestos-containing switchgears manufactured by General Electric. It is alleged that some of these switchgears incorporated asbestos-containing are chutes that were purchased from the defendant.
The defendant filed this motion to dismiss on February 5, 2013, arguing that service upon it was improper under both New York
On April 9, 2013, plaintiffs filed a Summons and Ninth Amended Complaint which again named Meriden as a defendant, and caused these papers to be served on George Brencher, IV, Esq., the defendant's agent for service of process at the address provided for him by the Connecticut Secretary of State's Commercial Recording Division. Plaintiffs argue that in so doing they had properly effectuated service of process on the defendant. Plaintiffs also cross-move the court to extend their time to serve the defendant pursuant to CPLR 306(b).
There is no dispute that Meriden was not properly served with the Second through Eighth Amended Complaints and that plaintiffs did not move for a default judgment against Meriden pursuant to CPLR 3215(c). I also find that plaintiffs' attempt to bring Meriden into this action by service of yet a Ninth Amended Complaint was improper. While in general NYCAL plaintiffs are permitted to serve an amended complaint to bring new parties into an action without leave of the court pursuant to CMO § VI(E),
The real issue is whether plaintiffs' time to serve the Summons and Second Amended Complaint should be extended pursuant to CPLR 306-b, which authorizes an extension of time for service in two discrete situations: "upon good cause shown" or "in the interests of justice." Leader v Maroney, 97 N.Y.2d 95, 104-106 (2001). Good cause requires that the plaintiff show "reasonable diligence in attempting to effect service upon a defendant." Henneberry v Borstein, et al., 91 A.D.3d 493, 496 (1st Dept 2012); see also Spath v Zack, 36 A.D.3d 410, 413 (1st Dept. 2007). As an example, in Pandolfi v Langer, 32 Misc.3d 1213, 934 N.Y.S.2d 35 (Sup. Ct. Nassau Co. 2011), the court held that good cause was shown to merit late service of the process where the plaintiff had attempted to serve the defendant at its place of business on two separate occasions but an individual claiming to be the defendant was ultimately served instead. The court noted that although in retrospect service upon the defendant was improper, "it was reasonable under the circumstances for the process server to conclude that the person appearing in response to her specific request to see the Defendant . . . was the correct individual." Id. at *7.
In respect of the interest of justice standard, the Court of Appeals stated that (Leader, supra, at 104):
This standard "requires a careful judicial analysis of the factual setting of the case and a balancing of the competing interests presented by the parties." Id. at 105. These factors include the diligence of past attempts to serve, the expiration of the statute of limitations, the length of delay in service, the promptness of the request for an extension, and prejudice to the defendant.
While cognizant of Meriden's position that it has been prejudiced by plaintiffs' errors in this case, I find that the circumstances weigh in favor of an extension of time to serve Meriden under both the "good cause" and "interest of justice" standards. Plaintiffs' attempts to serve the defendant, although ultimately defective, were diligent. There is nothing to suggest that plaintiffs reliance on the Sherriff's affidavit of service was inappropriate. It was not until this motion was filed that plaintiffs were made aware that the defendant was not properly served.
Further, due to Mr. Walker's death, this matter was removed from the April 2012 In-Extremis trial cluster for which discovery is closed. At that time there had been little activity in this case while plaintiffs searched for Mr. Walker's former co-workers to provide testimony on his behalf. Now that this matter has been included in the October 2013 In-Extremis cluster, discovery for this matter can continue.
Under the circumstances, therefore, I concur that "[g]ranting plaintiff the opportunity to pursue this action is consistent with . . . CPLR 306-b, but also with [the court's] strong interest in deciding cases on the merits where possible. . . ." Henneberry, supra, at 497.
Accordingly, it is hereby
ORDERED that Meriden Molded Plastics, Inc.'s motion to dismiss is denied; and it is further
ORDERED that plaintiffs time to serve the Summons and Second Amended Complaint on Meriden is hereby extended to September 9, 2013; and it is further
ORDERED that Meriden shall answer the complaint within 20 days of such service.
This constitutes the decision and order of the court.