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Salas v. United States

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

December 2, 2013

JORGE SALAS, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and DOES 1 through 20, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO AMEND AND AUGMENT PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT [DOC. # 18]

JOHN A. HOUSTON, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Currently pending before this Court is the motion to amend and augment the instant complaint filed by plaintiff Jorge Salas ("plaintiff"). The motion has been fully briefed by the parties. After a careful consideration of the pleadings and relevant exhibits submitted, and for the reasons set forth below, this Court GRANTS plaintiff's motion.

BACKGROUND

The instant complaint stems from a traffic accident that occurred on May 18, 2011, in which plaintiff's vehicle collided with Border Patrol Agent Filadelfo Santos' on duty vehicle. Plaintiff sustained multiple injuries to his lower right extremity, requiring surgery. Plaintiff filed a Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA") Form 95 on July 13, 2011, [1] three months after the incident, claiming $2, 500, 000.00 in personal injury damages based on plaintiff's anticipated full recovery and ability to ambulate on the leg, and on his being able to return to full time work within six months.

Plaintiff did attempt to return to work on a limited basis in 2012 but his recovery did not proceed as well as expected. Plaintiff developed severe chronic pain in the lower leg and complex neuropathy in the foot and ankle along with post-traumatic arthritis and sublar joint and right tibular neuropathy. Further surgery was required. Although the prognosis after this surgery was that plaintiff would be able to ambulate after several months and return to work in early 2013, this did not happen. In Spring -, plaintiff was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and his treating physicians, as well as retained experts from both parties, opined plaintiff needed an amputation of the right lower leg below the knee, which has since taken place.

Plaintiff filed the instant complaint on February 8, 2012. Defendant filed an answer to the complaint on April 17, 2012. On May 31, 2012, plaintiff filed his motion seeking leave to amend his complaint. Opposition to the motion was filed on July 12, 2013 and plaintiff's reply brief was filed on July 22, 2013. The motion was subsequently taken under submission without oral argument. See CivLR 7.1(d.1).

DISCUSSION

1. Legal Standard

a. Leave to Amend

The filing of an amended complaint after a responsive pleading has been filed may be allowed by leave of court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). Rule 15(a) provides in pertinent part:

A party may amend the party's pleading once as a matter of course at any time before a responsive pleading is served or, if the pleading is one to which no responsive pleading is permitted and the action has not been placed upon the trial calendar, the party may so amend within 20 days after it is served. Otherwise, a party may amend the party's pleadings only by leave of court or by written consent of the adverse party; and leave shall be freely given when justice so requires.

The Supreme Court has instructed lower courts to heed the language of Rule 15(a) to grant leave freely when justice requires. Howey v. United States , 481 F.2d 1187, 1190 (9th Cir. 1973). Because Rule 15(a) mandates that leave to amend should be freely given when justice so requires, the rule is to be interpreted with "extreme liberality." United States v. Webb , 655 F.2d 977, 979 (9th Cir. 1981).

Granting leave to amend rests in the sound discretion of the trial court. International Ass'n of Machinists & Aerospace Workers v. Republic Airlines , 761 F.2d 1386, 1390 (9th Cir. 1985). This discretion must be guided by the strong federal policy favoring the disposition of cases on the merits. DCD Programs Ltd. v. Leighton , 833 F.2d 183, 186 (9th Cir. 1987). Because Rule 15(a) favors a liberal policy, the nonmoving party bears the burden of ...


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