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Bird v. Psc Holdings I, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. California

April 17, 2014

BETTY ANN BIRD, Plaintiff,
PSC HOLDINGS I, LLC, et al., Defendants.


THOMAS J. WHELAN, District Judge.

On May 22, 2012, Plaintiff commenced this action in the San Diego Superior Court. Thereafter, Defendants timely removed the action to this Court. Plaintiff now moves to voluntarily dismiss her sixth cause of action for sex discrimination. Defendants oppose.

The Court decides the matter on the papers submitted and without oral argument. See Civ. L.R. 7.1(d.1). For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion to dismiss.


Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a) where, as in this case, a defendant has filed an answer, an action may be dismissed at the plaintiff's request only by court order and on terms that the court considers proper. Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(2). "A district court should grant a motion for voluntary dismissal under Rule 41(a)(2) unless a defendant cant show that it will suffer some plain legal prejudice as a result." Smith v. Lenches , 263 F.3d 972, 975 (9th Cir. 2001). Legal prejudice "means prejudice to some legal interest, some legal claim, some legal argument.'" Id. at 976 (quoting Westlands Water Dist. v. United States , 100 F.3d 94, 97 (9th Cir. 1996)). "Uncertainty because a dispute remains unresolved" or because "the threat of future litigation... causes uncertainty does not result in plain legal prejudice. Westlands Water , 100 F.3d at 96-97. "Also, plain legal prejudice does not result merely because the defendant will be inconvenienced by having to defend in another forum or where a plaintiff would gain a tactical advantage by that dismissal." Smith , 263 F.3d at 976 (citing Hamilton v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. , 679 F.2d 143, 145 (9th Cir. 1982)).

According to Plaintiff, "Defendants refuse[d] to this dismissal, " after Plaintiff had "proposed a no strings attached' dismissal, preserving any claim for costs or fees or anything else." (Pl.'s Mot. 1:2-6.) Plaintiff adds that "[b]y this motion, Plaintiff seeks to narrow the claims and issues, thereby simplifying the evidence, argument, and jury instructions at the time of trial." ( Id. at 1:13-21.) After citing non-binding authority in the Sixth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits, Defendants present the following argument that they would sustain "plain legal prejudice":

Defendants unquestionably have invested significant resources in defending against all of Plaintiff's claims, including her discrimination claim. Defendants and their counsel have expended a number of hours investigating the facts and allegations which led to Plaintiff's discrimination claim, including reviewing and identifying documents that are relevant to the claim or support their defenses. In addition, the parties have engaged in extensive discovery, such as written discovery, Defendants' disclosure of an expert witness and an expert report, depositions of ten witnesses, and production of thousands of documents. Now, after nearly two years of litigation, Plaintiff improperly seeks to dismiss her discrimination claim without prejudice and force Defendants into needless piecemeal litigation. Because dismissal of Plaintiff's discrimination claim will result in plain legal prejudice to Defendants, Plaintiff's request to dismiss her claim without prejudice should be denied.

(Defs.' Opp'n 2:17-3:26.) Defendants alternatively request that the Court exercise its discretion, and either dismiss the sex-discrimination claim with prejudice or attach conditions to the voluntarily dismissal of the claim "to prevent prejudice." ( Id. at 4:1-5:1.)

Upon reviewing Defendants' argument, it merely amounts to the inconvenience of having had to defend against the discrimination claim up to this point, and the potential of the claim being brought later producing "piecemeal litigation." These potential outcomes from dismissal are not the type that rise to plain legal prejudice under Ninth Circuit authority. See Smith , 263 F.3d at 976; Westlands Water , 100 F.3d at 96-97. Consequently, Defendants fail to demonstrate that they would sustain plain legal prejudice from the dismissal of Plaintiff's sixth cause of action for sex discrimination.[1] See id.


In light of the foregoing, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion, and DISMISSES WITHOUT PREJUDICE Plaintiff's sixth cause of action for sex discrimination. Furthermore, the Court declines to exercise its discretion in the manner Defendants request.


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