The opinion of the court was delivered by: Present: The Honorable David O. Carter, Judge
Julie Barrera N/A Courtroom Clerk Court Reporter
ATTORNEYS PRESENT FOR PLAINTIFF: ATTORNEYS PRESENT FOR DEFENDANT:
None Present None Present
PROCEEDINGS: (IN CHAMBERS): ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S
MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND
The present action was filed by Plaintiff Julia Rieve ("Plaintiff") on April 11, 2011 in the Northern District of California against Defendants Coventry Health Care, Inc. and Coventry Health Care Workers Compensation, Inc. ("Defendants"). Plaintiff claims that Defendants improperly classified her and similarly situated others as exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and the California Labor Code. Plaintiff also asserts that Defendants failed to provide accurate wage statements, reimburse for business expenses, and pay all wages due upon termination, in addition to the fact that they are liable for additional penalties under the Private Attorney General Act ("PAGA"). On July 6, 2011, the parties stipulated to transferring venue to the Central District of California. On September 15, 2011, this Court granted the parties' stipulation for leave for Plaintiff to file a First Amended Complaint ("FAC"), which added an additional cause of action for the Labor Code Private Attorney General Act (Docket 27). On January 24, 2012, Plaintiff provided Defendants with a proposed stipulation to amend the FAC to remove her Fourth Cause of Action for Failure to Reimburse Employees for Required Expenses in Violation of Cal Lab. Code § 2802; refine the class definition; and add Carrie Gold ("Gold") as a class representative. Defendants do not oppose the first two proposed amendments but object to the addition of Gold as a class representative. Plaintiff now seeks leave of the Court to file the proposed Second Amended Complaint (Docket 40).
Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that "leave [to amend pleadings] shall be freely given when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). Leave to amend lies within the sound discretion of the trial court, which "must be guided by the underlying purpose of Rule 15 to facilitate decisions on the merits, rather than on the pleadings or technicalities." United States v. Webb, 655 F.2d 977, 979 (9th Cir.1981). Thus, Rule 15's policy of favoring amendments to pleadings should be applied with "extreme liberality." Id. (citation omitted); see Ascon Properties, Inc. v. Mobil Oil Co., 866 F.2d 1149, 1160 (9th Cir.1989). "Although leave to amend is liberally granted under Rule 15(a), undue delay, bad faith in seeking amendment, or undue prejudice to the party opposing amendment are grounds for denying leave to amend." Acri v. Int'l Ass'n of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, 781 F.2d 1393, 1398 (9th Cir.1986). In addition, the futility of amendment and the previous granting of leave to amend may be considered by the Court in deciding whether to allow further amendments. Johnson v. Buckley, 356 F.3d 1067, 1077 (9th Cir.2004). Courts have held that " '[t]he single most important factor is whether prejudice will result to the non-movant.' " Genentech, Inc. v. Abbot Labs., 127 F.R.D. 529, 530 (N.D.Cal.1989) (quoting SenzaGel Corp. v. Seiffhart, 803 F.2d 661, 666 (Fed.Cir.1986)); see also In re Circuit Breaker Litig., 175 F.R.D. 547, 551 (C.D.Cal.1997) ("[T]he resulting prejudice to the opposing party is by far the most important and most common reason for upholding a district court's decision to deny leave to amend. The opposing party has the burden of demonstrating prejudice.").
Plaintiff seeks leave to amend her First Amended Complaint in three different respects. Plaintiff's request to remove her Fourth Cause of Action for Failure to Reimburse Employees for Required Expenses in Violation of Cal Lab. Code § 2802 is not opposed by Defendants, nor is her request to refine the class definition. To the extent Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend seeks those changes, it is GRANTED. The only disputed aspect of Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend is her request to add Gold as an additional class representative. Defendants oppose this request on the grounds that adding Gold 1) will prejudice Defendants, 2) is futile, 3) will cause undue delay, and 4) was a bad faith request. The Court will address each of these issues in turn.
Defendants first argue that they will be unduly prejudiced if Plaintiff is permitted to add Gold as a class representative. While the Court agrees that prejudice to the opposing party is the most important factor, see Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003), ...