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AllTech Communications, LLC v. Brothers

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff, a portable cellular tower manufacture, previously employed Defendant. Defendant resigned from Plaintiff’s manufacturing company and began to work with competitor. Plaintiff brought suit alleging that Defendant obtained confidential information while working for Plaintiff. Defendant files a third party complaint on Langholzes, alleging they were the cause of his resignation. Langholzes asserts that the third party complaint is improper.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    In federal court, a defendant cannot implead a third party except if the claims against the third party are derivative or dependent on the defendant’s main claim.

    Facts.

    Plaintiff, AllTech Communications, LLC, creates portable cellular towers, and Defendant, Robert Brothers previously was an owner and chief operations officer of Plaintiff. Defendant stopped working for Plaintiff and began to work for a competitor, TowerWorx. Plaintiff initiated this action against Defendant and TowerWorx claiming damages for the misappropriation of confidential business information that Defendant obtained when he worked for Plaintiff. Ten days after Defendant and TowerWorx filed an answer, Defendant filed a third party complaint against Kris Langholz, Robert Langholz, and Laurence Langholz, all officers of Plaintiff. Defendant contends that before he resigned, the Langholzes had breached their fiduciary duties, breached a contract, and unjustly enriched themselves, causing Defendant to resign from the company. The Langholzes motioned to dismiss the third-party complaint alleging that F.R.C.P.  Rule 14 solely allowed a defendant to implead a third party when that party may be liable for all or part of the claim against the Defendant. Further, Langholzes contends the claims asserted against them were neither derivative nor dependent on Defendant’s liability. Alternately, the Defendant motioned for a leave to file an amended counterclaim to add the claims against the Langholzes.

    Issue.

    Whether a defendant can implead a third party except if the claims against the third party are derivative or dependent on the defendant’s main claim.

    Held.

    No, a defendant cannot implead a third party except if the claims against the third party are derivative or dependent on the defendant’s main claim.

    Discussion.

    In federal court, a defendant cannot implead a third party except if the claims against the third party are derivative or dependent on the defendant’s main claim.  Further, this action may only be done as a matter of right within ten days of filing the answer or at a later time, with the court’s approval. Rule 14 was to create an efficient judicial economy by permitting everyone involved in a civil action to be combined into a single action. However, this rule is inapplicable in a situation where the third party’s liability is not derivative of or dependent on the primary defendant’s claims. Likewise, the rule still applies to claims against third party’s that involve same facts and circumstances are the primary claim.  Here, Defendant contends that Langholzes’ actions caused him to resign. While viewing those contentions in the light most favorable to Defendant, Defendant does not claim the Langholzes made him to share confidential information. Thus, Defendant’s claims against Langholzes and Defendant’s claim against Plaintiff do not contain any factual relationships nor is it derivative of or dependent on Defendant’s liability. Defendant may not implead the Langholzes, and Defendant may not assert counterclaims against the Langholzes. Therefore, the court denies the Defendants motion for leave to amend.


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