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Efrain Garcia and Ofelia Garcia v. Allstate Insurance

December 12, 2012

EFRAIN GARCIA AND OFELIA GARCIA, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ALLSTATE INSURANCE,
DEFENDANT.



ORDER VACATING HEARING, ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS, AND ORDER REFERRING OTHER MATTER TO THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE (Doc. No. 10)

Currently pending before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss. Hearing on this matter is set for December 17, 2012. The Court has reviewed the submissions of the parties and determined that oral argument is unnecessary. See Local Rule 230(h). The Court will vacate the December 17, 2012, hearing and instead issue this order.

BACKGROUND

On April 17, 2012, Defendant removed a lawsuit that had been filed by Plaintiffs in the Tulare County Superior Court. That case was assigned the following case number in this Court: 1:12-cv-609 AWI SKO (hereinafter "Garcia I"). The complaint in that case alleged a single cause of action for malicious prosecution. See Garcia I Doc. No. 1. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant had wrongfully instituted a subrogation lawsuit against them in October 2004. See id. Defendant dismissed the subrogation lawsuit in November 2011. See id. Plaintiffs alleged that the subrogation lawsuit was brought without probable cause. See id. Plaintiffs alleged that DMV records clearly showed that Plaintiffs were not the owner of the motor vehicle that was involved in the subject accident, and that Defendant continued to prosecute the case even after Plaintiffs repeatedly asserted that they did not own the automobile and had urged Defendant to dismiss. See id. Plaintiffs sought punitive damages and about $300,000 in compensatory damages. See id.

On June 21, 2012, Defendant filed an Anti-SLAPP motion in Garcia I. See id. at Doc. No. 13. Plaintiffs did not file an opposition.

On September 18, 2012, the Magistrate Judge issued a Findings and Recommendation ("F&R") in Garcia I that recommended granting the Anti-SLAPP motion, but without prejudice to amending the complaint. See id. at Doc. No. 16. Plaintiffs did not object to the F&R.

On October 17, 2012, the Court adopted the F&R, and granted Plaintiffs 21 days to file an amended complaint. See id. at Doc. No. 18.

On October 29, 2012, Defendant removed the instant case from the Tulare County Superior Court. This case was assigned a case number 1:12-cv-1762 AWI SKO (hereinafter "Garcia II"). The parties in Garcia I and Garcia II are identical. The Complaint in Garcia II is on a pre-printed state court form. See Garcia II Doc. No. 1. Under Section 10 of the preprinted complaint, the box for "general negligence" is checked. See id. However, the title of the first (and only) cause of action is identified as "Intentional Tort." See id. The first cause of action alleges, "Defendant Allstate Insurance Company filed a lawsuit against [Plaintiffs] with full knowledge that the Plaintiffs were not liable for the damages caused to their insured . . ., who was involved in an auto accident on 01/04/2003 on Manning Avenue at Hill Avenue." Id. Plaintiffs also seek punitive damages. See id.

On November 5, 2012, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss in Garcia II. See id. at Doc. No. 10. The basis of the motion is that Garcia II is duplicative of Garcia I. See id.

On November 21, 2012, the Court closed Garcia I because Plaintiffs did not file an amended complaint. See Garcia I Docket Doc. No. 20. Judgment in Garcia I was also entered on November 21. See id. at Doc. No. 21.

On December 3, 2012, Defendant's counsel moved for attorney's fees. See id. at Doc. No. 22. Hearing on the motion for attorney's fees is currently set for January 22, 2013.

On December 6, 2012, Plaintiffs filed their opposition to the motion to dismiss in Garcia II. See Garcia II Doc. No. 12. On December 10, 2012, Defendant filed its reply. See id. at Doc. No. 13.

I. Motion To Dismiss

Defendant's Argument

Defendant argues that this case should be dismissed as duplicative of Garcia I. Defendant argues that the Complaints in Garcia I and Garcia II are based on the same issue and essentially seek the same relief. Further, Garcia II appears to be an attempt to avoid an unfavorable ruling because the Anti-SLAPP motion in Garcia ...


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