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Doe v. County of Kern

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 8, 2017

JANE DOE, Plaintiffs,
COUNTY OF KERN, et al., Defendants.


          Jennifer L. Thurston UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Jane Doe alleges the defendants are liable for civil rights violations arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, related to incidents while she was incarcerated in a juvenile detention facility. (See generally Doc. 1) She now seeks to amend her complaint to identify Anderson's supervisor, Heathe Appleton, as a defendant. (Doc. 18) The County of Kern oppose the motion, asserting leave to amend is futile and could prejudice Mr. Appleton. (Doc. 20)

         Because the Court finds leave to amend is not appropriate under Rule15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as discussed below, Plaintiff's motion to amend is DENIED.

          I. Background

         Plaintiff alleges that that while she “was incarcerated at the James G. Bowles juvenile detention facility, she was a victim of grooming, exploitation, voyeurism and sexual abuse by Defendant Anderson.” (Doc. 1 at 2, ¶ 2) According to Plaintiff, “Defendant Anderson viewed Plaintiff while she showered and peeped into her cell while she was using the toilet on multiple occasions.” (Id.) In addition, Plaintiff asserts that “Defendant Anderson told Plaintiff that he liked watching her shower, suggested that she should leave her boyfriend for him, and, after a period of time during which he assumed greater and greater familiarity with her, directly propositioned Plaintiff for sex.” (Id.) She alleges she “reported [this] misconduct to a close friend, to her parents, and to a counselor, which led to the police being immediately notified.” (Id. at 2, ¶ 2)

         She asserts the allegations of “sexual abuse of Plaintiff and other wards and juvenile hall” against Defendant Anderson were investigated by the Bakersfield Police Department, which “submitted a report to the Kern County District Attorney's Office to request that … Anderson be charged with three counts of P.C. 289(a)(1)(A) (sexual penetration), three counts of P.C. 149 (assault under color of authority), two counts of P.C. 647(j)(1) (invasion of privacy), and one count of P.C. 647.6(a)(1) (annoying or molesting a child).” (Doc. 1 at 2-3, ¶ 3)

         Plaintiff contends “Defendants Does 1-10, ” collectively identified as “Additional Defendants, ” “were employees of the County of Kern” who acted “under color of law within the course and scope of their duties with respect to their employer.” (Doc. 1 at 4, ¶ 9) She asserts the Additional Defendants “failed to intervene to prevent … [Anderson's] misconduct, even though they had an opportunity to do so.” (Id. at 9, ¶35) In addition, Plaintiff alleges that the Additional Defendants “were deliberately indifferent to the risk or danger of sexual abuse of [Plaintiff] and similarly situated wards.” (Id.) She contends that as of the filing of the complaint, neither Anderson nor the Additional Defendants “have been disciplined, reprimanded, retrained, suspended, or otherwise penalized in connection with the incident.” (Id. at 12, ¶ 67)

         Based upon the foregoing facts, Plaintiff filed a complaint on September 30, 2016, in which she identified the following causes of action: (1) “Civil Rights Action” under 42 U.S.C. § 1983- for violations of the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments-against Anderson and the Additional Defendants; (2) substantive due process violation against Anderson and the Additional Defendants; (3) unconstitutional custom, practice, or policy in violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the County of Kern; (4) inadequate training/ policy of inaction, against the County; (5) ratification, against the County; and (6) supervisor liability, against the Additional Defendants. (See generally Doc. 1 at 8-14)

         Plaintiff now seeks leave to amend the complaint pursuant to Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “to substitute the name ‘Heath Appleton' for the defendant fictitiously named as “Doe 1.” (Doc. 18 at 2) The County filed its opposition to the motion on April 24, 2017, arguing Plaintiff should not “be permitted to simply substitute the name of Heathe Appleton for a doe defendant without further analysis, ” and the proposed claim against Heathe Appleton is futile. (Doc. 20 at 3) Plaintiff filed her brief in reply on May 1, 2017. (Doc. 21)

          II. Legal Standards[1]

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a), a party may amend a pleading once as a matter of course within 21 days of service, or if the pleading is one to which a response is required, 21 days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f). “In all other cases, a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Because Defendant does not consent to the filing an amended complaint, Plaintiff seeks the leave of the Court.

         Granting or denying leave to amend a complaint is in the discretion of the Court, Swanson v. United States Forest Service, 87 F.3d 339, 343 (9th Cir. 1996), though leave should be “freely give[n] when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). “In exercising this discretion, a court must be guided by the underlying purpose of Rule 15 to facilitate decision on the merits, rather than on the pleadings or technicalities.” United States v. Webb, 655 F.2d 977, 979 (9th Cir. 1981). Consequently, the policy to grant leave to amend is applied with extreme liberality. Id.

         There is no abuse of discretion “in denying a motion to amend where the movant presents no new facts but only new theories and provides no satisfactory explanation for his failure to fully develop his contentions originally.” Bonin v. Calderon, 59 F.3d 815, 845 (9th Cir. 1995); see also Allen v. City of Beverly Hills, 911 F.2d 367, 374 (9th Cir. 1990). After a defendant files an answer, leave to amend should not be granted where “amendment would cause prejudice to the opposing party, is sought in bad faith, is futile, or creates undue delay.” Madeja v. Olympic Packers, 310 F.3d 628, 636 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Yakama Indian Nation v. Washington Dep't of Revenue, 176 F.3d 1241, 1246 (9th Cir. 1999)).

          III. Discussion and Analysis A. “Doe” Amendments

         Plaintiff contends that she is seeking leave “to substitute the name ‘Heathe Appleton' for the defendant fictitiously named as ‘Doe 1.'” (Doc. 18 at 2) According to Plaintiff, “The proposed amended complaint substitutes Heathe Appleton's name for ‘Doe 1' and makes no other substantive changes.” (Doc. 21 at 2) The Court disagrees.

         In the original complaint, Plaintiff identified “Does 1-10” as “employees of the County of Kern, ” who “proximately caused [Plaintiff's] injuries by integrally participating or failing to intervene in the conduct of which [she] complains…” (Doc. 1 at 4, ¶ 9) These defendants were described collectively as the “Additional Defendants.” Id. Plaintiff stated her first cause of action for a “civil rights action” was raised against Anderson and the “Additional Defendants, ” who Plaintiff asserted “failed to intervene to prevent … [Anderson's] misconduct, even though they had an opportunity to do so.” (Id. at 8, ¶ 35) Similarly, the second cause of action for a violation of substantive due process was raised against Anderson and the “Additional Defendants.” (Id. at 9)

         In contrast, the proposed First Amended Complaint, “Additional Defendants” is defined to include only Does 2-10. (Doc. 18-2 at 4, ¶ 9) Consequently, the plaintiff omits Appleton from the first and second causes of action, despite that Doe 1 was previously named in these claims. Thus, though Plaintiff again states her first and second causes of action are raised against Anderson and the “Additional Defendants, ” (See Id. at 8-9) she makes a substantive change in her pleading by not including Appleton in the group of “Additional Defendants.” Instead, the only claim raised against Appleton in the proposed complaint is for “supervisory liability.” (See Id. at 13) As a result, the Court finds Plaintiff has not simply substituted Appleton as a “Doe” defendant; she has made substantive changes to the pleading.

          B. Motion to Amend under Rule 15

         Evaluating a motion to amend, the Court may consider (1) whether the party has previously amended the pleading, (2) undue delay, (3) bad faith, (4) futility of amendment, and (5) prejudice to the opposing party. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Loehr v. Ventura County Comm. College Dist., 743 F.2d 1310, 1319 (9th Cir. 1984). These factors are not of equal weight, because prejudice to the opposing party has long been held to be the most critical factor to determine whether to grant leave to amend. Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003); Jackson v. Bank of Hawaii, 902 F.2d 1385, 1387 (9th Cir. 1990).

         1.Prior ...

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