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Salazar v. Avis Budget Group

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


May 14, 2008

GELASIO SALAZAR AND SAAD SHAMMAS, ET AL. PLAINTIFF,
v.
AVIS BUDGET GROUP, INC., CENDANT CAR RENTAL GROUP, INC., CENDANT CAR RENTAL OPERATIONS SUPPORT, INC., AND BUDGET RENT A CAR SYSTEM, INC., DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irma E. Gonzalez, Chief Judge United States District Court

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND THE COMPLAINT (Doc. No. 48)

Presently before the Court is plaintiffs' motion for leave to file a first amended class complaint. (Doc. No. 48.) Defendants have filed an opposition (Doc. No. 50) and plaintiffs have filed a reply (Doc. No. 51). The Court finds the matter fully briefed and appropriate for disposition without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). For the following reasons, the Court grants plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs bring this purported class action to recover wages and benefits allegedly owed to mechanics and "mechanics' helpers" at the "Avis" and "Budget" brand car rental companies. Plaintiffs filed the class complaint in Superior Court in San Diego, California, and defendants removed the action to federal court on January 10, 2007. (Doc. No. 1.) By order of May 8, 2007, the Court denied plaintiffs' motion to remand. (Doc. No. 25.) Discovery began in June of 2007. The cut-off date for amending the pleadings was July 14, 2007. (Doc. No. 29.) The instant motion was filed March 17, 2008. (Doc. No. 48.) Plaintiffs' motion for class certification is due May 12, 2008 and the discovery cutoff date is July 31, 2008. (Doc. No. 43.)

DISCUSSION

Legal Standard

Under Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "a party may amend the party's pleading only by leave of court or by written consent of the adverse party; and leave shall be freely given when justice so requires." Leave to amend is granted with "extreme liberality." Morongo Band of Mission Indians v. Rose, 893 F.2d 1074, 1079 (9th Cir. 1990). "There are several accepted reasons why leave to amend should not be granted, including the presence of bad faith on the part of the [party seeking to amend], undue delay, prejudice to the [party opposing amendment], futility of amendment, and that the party has previously amended the relevant pleading." Advanced Cardiovascular Sys., Inc. v. SciMed Life Sys., Inc., 989 F. Supp. 1237, 1241 (N.D. Cal. 1997).

Analysis

Proposed Amendment

Plaintiffs seek leave to file an amended complaint naming Avis Rent a Car System, LLC as a defendant. Avis Rent a Car System, LLC is a subsidiary of Avis Budget Group, Inc., a named defendant. Plaintiffs learned or could have learned this corporation existed from the documents produced by defendants in August of 2007. Plaintiffs did not learn this entity employed Avis or Budget brand mechanics and mechanics' helpers until the February 8, 2008 deposition of Christopher Rolletta, defendants' person most knowledgeable regarding corporate structure.

Defendants' Arguments Against Amendment

Defendants argue the Court should deny leave to amend because the deadline for amending has passed and plaintiffs should have clarified their corporate structure earlier. Defendants do not argue the motion is made in bad faith or that amendment is futile. Defendants argue plaintiffs should have sought amendment in August of 2007, when they learned Avis Rent a Car System, LLC, is a subsidiary of a named defendant.

Ascertaining which entities employed potential class members took plaintiffs from August of 2007 to February of 2008 because of the confusing corporate structure of the Avis and Budget companies. As plaintiffs explain, some mechanics or mechanics' helpers working under the Avis or Budget brand have worked for both AB Car Rental Services, Inc., a named defendant, and Avis Rent A Car System, LLC. Defendants have produced the names of these proposed class members. Other Avis or Budget brand mechanics and mechanics' helpers in California worked only for Avis Rent a Car System, LLC, and thus defendants have not yet produced their names.

Despite plaintiffs' attempts to clarify which Avis and Budget entities employed mechanics or mechanics' helpers in California,*fn1 plaintiffs never directly asked if Avis Rent a Car System, LLC was an employing entity until the February 8, 2008 deposition. Defendants argue it was not their duty to volunteer information about an entity not named in the complaint. Whether or not defendants are responsible for this misunderstanding, plaintiffs diligently sought clarity and filed this motion to amend the complaint promptly after they learned Avis Rent a Car System, LLC employs mechanics and mechanics' helpers.*fn2 Accordingly, the Court finds plaintiffs did not unduly delay and finds good cause to permit the proposed amendment.*fn3

Defendants' Additional Requests

Without citation to authority, defendants request plaintiffs pay any additional discovery costs which may be incurred due to the amendment. It does not appear any completed depositions will be re-opened. Because plaintiffs have acted in good faith, the Court finds it inappropriate to require them to pay defendants' costs. Cf. Owens v. Kaiser Found. Health Plan, Inc., 244 F.3d 708, 712 (9th Cir. 2001) (declining to find prejudice unless the nonmoving party establishes the party seeking amendment "delay[ed] assertion of [the amendment] for the purposes of forcing a party to incur unnecessary expenses.").

Defendants also request a thirty-day continuance of upcoming deadlines and hearing dates. The Court refers the matter to Magistrate Judge McCurine to extend the deadlines by no more than thirty days.

CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS plaintiffs leave to file the proposed amended complaint within ten (10) days of the date this Order is stamped "filed."

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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