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4th Cir.: Plaintiffs exhausted chances to cure deficient complaints

Rebecca M. Lightle//July 29, 2018

4th Cir.: Plaintiffs exhausted chances to cure deficient complaints

Rebecca M. Lightle//July 29, 2018

Protracted litigation repeatedly put consumer-plaintiffs on notice that their complaints failed to meet Rule 8 pleading standards, but they never amended their complaints during this time despite having leave to do so. Thus, the district court did not err in denying leave to amend post-judgment.


The underlying Virginia state-law actions focus on a series of misrepresentations made by Hyundai Motor America regarding the fuel economy rating of the Elantra model. Hyundai ultimately paid the largest civil penalty in the history of the Clean Air Act and forfeited greenhouse gas emissions credits in excess of $200 million, and numerous consumer lawsuits followed. Dozens of actions were consolidated in multidistrict litigation, but the three actions at issue in this appeal were remanded to the district court.

Ultimately, the district court dismissed with prejudice the claims in all three actions, save one claim in one action, for failure to satisfy federal pleading standards. The plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration and sought leave to amend their dismissed complaints. The district court denied the motion and leave to amend. The plaintiffs appealed.

Appellate jurisdiction

This court has jurisdiction over the Adbul-Mumit and Abdurahman appeals because the district court dismissed those actions in their entirety. But in the Gentry appeal, one claim remains pending before the district court. Accordingly, the Gentry appeal is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

Denial of leave to amend

The Appellants argue that they should have had the benefit of a “definitive ruling” before their complaints were dismissed with prejudice. But the district court did not err in denying their post-judgment motions for leave to amend.

Categorically requiring a district court to first provide a “definitive ruling” before dismissal with prejudice impedes a district court’s inherent power to manage its docket. Such a requirement would also be at odds with the general rule that the nature of dismissal is a matter for the district court’s discretion. Adopting the type of bright-line rule the Appellants urge would place an unyielding impetus on the district court to resolve pleading deficiencies, regardless of previous opportunities to amend or other extenuating circumstances. That is not the role of the district court. It does not serve as a legal advisor to the parties, and a dispositive motion is not a dry run for the non-movant to wait and see what the district court will decide before requesting leave to amend.

The circumstances of the litigation below support the conclusion that the nature and timing of the Appellants’ amendment would prejudice Hyundai. Hyundai repeatedly challenged the sufficiency of the Appellants’ complaints. These pleading deficiencies were the subject of status reports, meetings, and eventually a motion to dismiss. All of this time and energy spanned the entirety of 2016. Mid-year, the district court twice granted the Appellants leave to amend – which they did not do, even after a filing extension. The Appellants have not once provided the district court with a proposed amendment purporting to cure the deficiencies.

Faced with such resolute adherence to deficient complaints, the district court’s decision to dismiss with prejudice was well within it discretion.

Dismissed in part; affirmed in part.

Adbul-Mumit v. Alexandria Hyundai LLC, Case No. 17-1582, July 13, 2018. 4th Cir. (Thacker), from WDVA at Charlottesville (Moon). James B. Feinman for Appellants; Shon Morgan for Appellees. VLW No. 018-2-146, 27 pp.

VLW 018-2-146

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