United States District Court, E.D. California
TROY L. NUNLEY, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court pursuant to Defendant Equifax Information Services, LLC.'s ("Equifax") Motion for Leave to File Third Party Complaint. (ECF No. 41.) Plaintiff Robert James Anthony ("Plaintiff") has filed an opposition to Equifax's motion. (ECF No. 44.) The Court has carefully considered the arguments raised in Equifax's motion and reply, as well as Plaintiff's opposition. For the reasons set forth below, Equifax's motion for leave to file a third-party complaint is GRANTED.
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiff alleges that he had an excellent credit record until March 2012, when he began to receive notifications from banks and credit card companies stating that his credit limits were being reduced or terminated due to his poor credit history. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 11, 13.) He requested a copy of his credit report and discovered that it contained credit accounts that did not belong to him. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 17.) These accounts belonged to his son, Robert John Anthony, ("Robert") who had recently filed for bankruptcy and had a poor credit history. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 13; ECF No. 41 at 2.) Plaintiff contacted the credit companies to inform them of the errors and to have the credit accounts removed from his credit history. (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 14-15.) He also informed Equifax of Robert's prior addresses and current address. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 17.) Plaintiff alleges that Equifax's responses to, and investigations of his challenges to his credit report, were inadequate and unreasonable under the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA") and the California Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act ("CCCRAA"). (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 76, 128.) Plaintiff filed a complaint against Equifax on July 16, 2013, alleging violations of the FCRA and CCCRAA. (ECF No. 1.)
During discovery, Equifax received a report from its expert informing Equifax that Robert had engaged in fraud. (ECF No. 41 at 2; Def. Equifax's Reply in Supp. of Mot. For Leave to File Third Party Compl., ECF No. 47 at 9.) Specifically, Robert opened credit card accounts using Plaintiff's personal identifiers. (ECF No. 41 at 3.) Equifax filed the report on July 9, 2014, and moved to implead Robert on August 11, 2014. (ECF No. 47 at 9; ECF No. 41.)
II. STANDARD OF LAW
"A defending party may, as third-party plaintiff, serve a summons and complaint on a nonparty who is or may be liable to it for all or part of the claim against it." Fed.R.Civ.P. 14(a)(1). If a defendant files the third-party complaint more than fourteen days after serving its original answer, the defendant must, by motion, obtain the court's leave to file its third-party complaint. Id. The decision whether to implead a third-party defendant is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court. Southwest Adm'rs., Inc. v. Rozay's Transfer, 791 F.2d 769, 777 (9th Cir. 1986). "Rule 14 is to be construed liberally in favor of allowing impleader." Bel Air Mart v. Arnold Cleaners, Inc., No. 2:10-cv-02392-MCE-EFB, 2014 WL 3939147 *3 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 11, 2014). In exercising its discretion as to impleader, the court must "balance the desire to avoid circuitry of actions and to obtain consistent results against any prejudice that the plaintiff might suffer from complications of the case." Square 1 Bank v. Lo, No. 12-cv-05595-JSC, 2014 WL 1154031 *2 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 20, 2014).
"The crucial characteristic of a Rule 14 claim is that defendant is attempting to transfer to the third-party defendant the liability asserted against him by the original plaintiff." Stewart v. Am. Int'l Oil & Gas Co., 845 F.2d 196, 200 (9th Cir. 1988). It is not sufficient that a third-party claim is related or arises out of the same set of facts. U.S. v. One 1977 Mercedes Benz, 708 F.2d 444, 452 (9th Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 1071 (1984). "[A] third-party claim may be asserted only when the third party's liability is in some way dependent on the outcome of the main claim and the third party's liability is secondary or derivative." One 1977 Mercedes Benz, 708 F.2d at 452; see also Stewart, 845 F.2d at 199-200. In deciding whether to allow a third-party complaint, courts find it helpful to consider: "(1) prejudice to the original plaintiff; (2) complication of issues at trial; (3) likelihood of trial delay; and (4) timeliness of the motion to implead." Irwin v. Mascott, 94 F.Supp.2d 1052, 1056 (N.D. Cal. 2000); see also Zero Tolerance Entm't, Inc. v. Ferguson, 254 F.R.D. 123, 127 (C.D. Cal. 2008).
Equifax asserts that all four of the aforementioned factors weigh in favor of granting its motion. The Court addresses each factor separately below.
A. Prejudice to the Original Plaintiff
Equifax contends Plaintiff would not be prejudiced as a result of its proposed third-party complaint. (ECF No. 41 at 10.) First, Equifax asserts that Plaintiff knew or should have known that the damage to Plaintiff's credit was the result of his son's fraud. (ECF No. 41 at 10.) Second, Equifax argues that because Robert has been deposed and documents concerning Robert's fraudulent accounts and bankruptcy have already been produced by third parties, there is no need for additional discovery. (ECF No. 41 at 10.) Third, Plaintiff has not indicated that he will experience prejudice other than the possibility of delay. (ECF No. 44 at 12.) In response, Equifax argues that any delay would be outweighed by the benefits to judicial efficiency since the issue of Robert's fraud will be a part of the original claim regardless of whether the motion to implead is granted. (ECF No. 47 at 10.) The Court agrees with Equifax assertions and finds that the original plaintiff would not be prejudiced.
B. Complication of Issues at Trial
Equifax contends that the third-party claim is a necessary part of the litigation of the original claim and will not complicate ...