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United Healthcare Services, Inc. v. Meyer

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

September 24, 2013

UNITED HEALTHCARE SERVICES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
JULIE MEYER, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING MOTION TO VACATE VOLUNTARY DISMISSAL AND MOTION FOR REVIEW OF CLERK'S TAXATION OF COSTS

JEFFREY S. WHITE, District Judge.

Now before the Court are the motions to vacate dismissal and review the Clerk's taxation of costs filed by Defendant Julie Meyer. The Court has considered the parties' papers, relevant legal authority, and the record in this case, and concludes that the matter is suitable for disposition without oral argument. Accordingly, the hearing set for October 11, 2013 is HEREBY VACATED. For the reasons set forth in the remainder of this Order, Defendant's motion to vacate dismissal and Defendant's motion to review the Clerk's taxation of costs are HEREBY DENIED.

BACKGROUND

Defendant Julie Meyer ("Ms. Meyer") was employed by Plaintiff United Healthcare Services, Inc. ("UHS") from 2006 until 2011. (Complaint for Speedy Declaratory Relief ("Compl.") ¶¶ 11, 14.) While employed by UHS, Ms. Meyer allegedly agreed to arbitrate disputes arising out of her employment. ( Id. ¶ 13.) Following the termination of her employment, Ms. Meyer initiated six proceedings against UHS: four administrative complaints, and two actions in state superior court. ( Id. ¶ 2.) On December 6, 2012, UHS filed a complaint in this Court, seeking a declaratory judgment requiring Ms. Meyer to arbitrate disputes related to her employment. ( Id. ¶ 40.) On April 17, 2013, Ms. Meyer filed an answer, but failed to properly serve UHS. ( See Notice of Dismissal at 2.) On May 31, 2013, Ms. Meyer filed a motion to dismiss. On June 4, 2013, Ms. Meyer filed with the Court a document entitled "Request for Jury Trial and to be Allowed My Sixth Amendment Rights." ( See Declaration of Innocent Defendant Julie Meyer ISO [sic] Defendant's Motion for Review of Clerk's Taxation of Costs ("Def.'s Decl.") Ex. E.) On June 14, 2013, the day its response was due, UHS filed a notice of dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1).

Ms. Meyer now moves to vacate UHS's voluntary dismissal. Ms. Meyer also moves the Court to review the Clerk's taxation of costs.

The Court shall address additional facts as necessary to its analysis in the remainder of this Order.

ANALYSIS

A. Motion to Vacate Voluntary Dismissal.

1. Legal Standard Applicable to Voluntary Dismissal.

Rule 41(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a plaintiff may dismiss an action, without court approval, by filing a notice of dismissal before the opposing party serves either an answer or a motion for summary judgment. A plaintiff's right to utilize Rule 41(a)(1) is absolute. Wilson v. City of San Jose, 111 F.3d 688, 692 (9th Cir. 1997). "This absolute right' for a plaintiff voluntarily to dismiss an action when the defendant has not yet served an answer or a summary judgment motion leaves no role for the court to play." Am. Soccer Co. v. Score First Enters., 187 F.3d 1108, 110 (9th Cir. 1999). Moreover, the language of the Rule is specific: unless the defendant has actually served an answer or a summary judgment motion, the plaintiff is free to dismiss the case simply by filing a notice of dismissal. Wilson, 111 F.3d at 692 n.5 ("The distinction between "service" and "filing" in the context of Rule 41 is significant."); see also Lockary v. Kayfetz, 917 F.2d 1150, 1157 (9th Cir. 1990) (holding that a defendant was properly dismissed under Rule 41(a) where the defendant failed to serve the plaintiffs with his answer). Accordingly, if a plaintiff files a Rule 41(a)(1) notice of dismissal before being served with a defendant's answer, regardless of whether the answer was filed, the action is automatically terminated. Wilson, 11 F.3d at 692.

Ms. Meyer moves to vacate UHS's notice of dismissal on two alternative bases. First, she claims that she served her answer on UHS, thus terminating its right to file a notice of dismissal under Rule 41(a)(1). (Defendant's Motion to Vacate Voluntary Dismissal ("Def.'s Mot.") at 4.) Alternatively, Ms. Meyer alleges that she filed and served an amended answer on June 4, 2013. ( Id. ) The Court shall address each argument in turn.

2. UHS Properly Dismissed This Action.

Ms. Meyer first contends that UHS could not properly dismiss this action under Rule 41(a)(1) because she served it with the answer she filed on April 17, 2013. (Def.'s Mot. at 4.) While it appears that Ms. Meyer did file an answer in response to UHS's complaint, there is no proof of service attached and no evidence in the record that UHS was ever served. Therefore, the Court cannot credit Ms. Meyer's contention that she served her April 17, 2013 answer on UHS.

Ms. Meyer next argues that, regardless of whether she initially served her answer on UHS, she filed an amended answer on June 4, 2013, ten days prior to UHS's notice of dismissal, thus precluding UHS from voluntarily dismissing the action under Rule 41(a)(1). ( Id. ) She contends that, although this filing was titled "Request for Jury Trial and to be ...


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