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Villegas v. Hackett

December 5, 2007

JUAN VILLEGAS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ERIC HACKETT, AN INDIVIDUAL, AND CITY COMPLAINT OF CALEXICO, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jeffrey T. Miller United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE THIRD-PARTY

In this non-prisoner § 1983 action, Plaintiff Juan Villegas alleges several state and federal civil rights claims against Eric Hackett and the City of Calexico. Defendants now move under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 14(a) for leave to file a third-party complaint seeking indemnification from the County of Imperial ("the County"). The proposed third-party complaint ("TPC") is attached as an exhibit to Defendants' motion. Plaintiff filed a timely opposition to which Defendants replied. For the reasons set forth below, the court hereby DENIES the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's claims arise out of the arrest of Villegas at his home in Calexico on December 3, 2002. The court fully set forth the undisputed facts in its January 24, 2005 order granting partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff on two of his claims. (See Docket no. 44 at 2-3.) That statement of facts is incorporated herein.

Plaintiff filed his complaint on October 29, 2003. Defendants answered on December 5, 2003.

In its January 24, 2005 order, the court granted partial summary judgment for Plaintiff on his state law claim for false arrest (claim no. 4) and his federal claim for unreasonable seizure (claim no. 7). The court also found that defendant Hackett was not entitled to qualified immunity.

Defendants filed an interlocutory appeal, and this court stayed the action pending appeal on April 5, 2005. (Docket no. 73.) In a memorandum decision filed March 19, 2007, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment on the § 1983 claim and the finding that Hackett was not entitled to qualified immunity. (Docket no. 89, Exh. 1.) The Ninth Circuit also dismissed the appeal as to the state-law claim and remanded the case back to the district court. The remaining claims now include three § 1983 claims against Hackett alone, and three state-law claims against both Hackett and Calexico. The case is set for trial on February 19, 2008.

II. DISCUSSION

Defendants move under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("FRCP") Rule 14(a). They argue that the County should indemnify them for any liability. They claim that, when Hackett arrested Plaintiff, Hackett relied on "stale" and "erroneous" information from the County which "did not support probable cause." (Memo. of P. & A. in Supp. of Motion ("Motion") at 3.) Because Hackett relied on this "negligently obtained, negligently maintained, mistaken and erroneous information," Defendants claim entitlement to indemnification from the County.

Plaintiff opposes the motion on a number of grounds. The main theme of his argument is that Defendants waited far too long to bring this complaint.

A. Legal Standards

Under FRCP Rule 14(a), a defendant seeking to file a third-party complaint more than ten days after serving the original answer must obtain the court's permission.*fn1 The crucial characteristic of a Rule 14(a) claim is that the original defendant seeks to transfer some or all of its potential liability to a third party. United States v. One 1977 Mercedes Benz, 708 F.2d 444, 452 (9th Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 1071 (1984). Thus, a defendant can only implead a third party where the defendant asserts a claim "derivatively based on the original plaintiff's claim." One 1977 Mercedes Benz, 708 F.2d at 452.

The court has substantial discretion in deciding whether to allow a third-party claim under Rule 14(a). Southwest Adm'rs., Inc. v. Rozay's Transfer, 791 F.2d 769, 777 (9th Cir. 1986) (citing, inter alia, One 1977 Mercedes Benz, 708 F.2d at 452). In making this determination, the court must balance the benefits afforded by liberal third-party practice, including "'the desire to avoid circuitry of actions and to obtain consistent results[,] against any prejudice that the plaintiff might suffer from complications of the case.'" Irwin v. Mascott, 94 F. Supp. 2d 1052, 1056 (N.D. Cal. 2000) (quoting Somportex Ltd. v. Philadelphia Chewing Gum Corp., 453 F.2d 435, 439 (3d Cir. 1971), cert. denied, 405 U.S. 1017 (1972)). The court should consider the following factors: "(1) prejudice to the original plaintiff; (2) complication of issues at trial; (3) likelihood of trial delay; and (4) timeliness of the ...


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