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Moore v. Chase, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 23, 2015

RONALD MOORE, Plaintiff,
v.
CHASE, INC., d/b/a SLATER SHELL and DOES 1-100, Defendants.

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO FILE AMENDED ANSWER (DOC. 17)

SHEILA K. OBERTO, Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Defendant Chase, Inc., d/b/a Slater Shell ("Defendant"), has filed a Motion to File a First Amended Answer to the Complaint, requesting leave to amend its answer to include a demand for jury trial and assert an additional affirmative defense. (Doc. 17; see Doc. 17-1.) Plaintiff Ronald Moore ("Plaintiff") opposed the motion (Doc. 20), and Defendant filed a written reply to Plaintiff's opposition (Doc. 23.)

Because oral argument would not materially aid the resolution of the pending motions, these matters are submitted on the briefs and record without a hearing. See E.D. Local Rule 230(g). Accordingly, the Court vacated the hearing scheduled for March 18, 2015. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to file a first amended answer to the Complaint is DENIED.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed this action on July 29, 2014, alleging that Defendant discriminated against him based upon his disability as prohibited by Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. ("ADA") and by state law. ( See generally Doc. 1.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges he visited the Slater Shell gas station on Bullard Avenue in Fresno, California owned and operated by Chase, Inc., and encountered barriers to his full and equal access. (Doc. 1, 2-3.) Plaintiff seeks an injunction requiring Defendant to remove all barriers to his full and equal access, as well as minimum statutory damages available under the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 51, et seq. (Doc. 1, 8.)

Defendant filed an "Answer with Jury Demand" on September 8, 2014. (Doc. 8.) In that answer, Defendant asserted several defenses, including a reservation of rights to seek leave to amend to assert and interpose additional affirmative defenses. (Doc. 8, 6.) Though labeled as an "Answer with Jury Demand"[1] when filed, Defendant's Answer does not actually contain a jury demand. ( See Doc. 8.)

III. DISCUSSION

Defendant seeks leave to amend the answer pursuant to Rule 15 to "explicitly ask for a jury trial" and "add a new affirmative defense stemming from [Plaintiff]'s serial and repetitive ADA filings throughout the state." (Doc. 17, 3; see Doc. 17-1, 7.) As support for the request, Defendant explains the failure to include a demand for jury trial was an "oversight" and the fraud claim that Plaintiff "is treating ADA as a means of making financial gains [and not] to redress a wrong" is "an issue for the jury[.]" (Doc. 17, 3.)

Plaintiff argues that Defendant's demand for jury trial is untimely under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 38, and Defendant waived its right to a jury trial by failing to request it in the initially filed Answer and by failing to demand a jury trial within 14 days thereafter. (Doc. 20, 2, 4.) Plaintiff also argues that even if all Defendant's averments were taken as true, amendment to include an affirmative defense of fraud is futile "because fraud is not a proper affirmative defense to an ADA action" and, further, Defendant did not and cannot allege "circumstances constituting [] fraud... with particularity." (Doc. 20, 2-3.)

Defendant responds that because no Rule 26 deadline has expired and no discovery has been exchanged, "there is no prejudice to Plaintiff by the way of these proposed amendments." (Doc. 17, 2.) Plaintiff contends "the amendment is sought in bad faith simply to impugn [Plaintiff's] character and motives[.]" (Doc. 20, 3.)

A. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 15(a) provides that leave to amend "shall be freely given when justice so requires." See Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1051 (9th Cir. 2003) (the policy favoring amendment is to be applied with "extreme liberality"); Union P. RR. Co. v. Nevada Power Co., 950 F.2d 1429, 1432 (9th Cir. 1991) ("[a]mendments seeking to add claims are to be granted more freely than amendments adding parties"). The United States Supreme Court has stated:

... [i]n the absence of any apparent or declared reason-such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of ...

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