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Flores v. City of Concord

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 8, 2017

ROSAMANDA FLORES, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF CONCORD, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND COMPLAINT

          THELTON E. HENDERSON United States District Judge

         This matter came before the Court on June 5, 2017 for a hearing on Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint. After carefully considering the parties' written and oral arguments, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion for the reasons set forth below.

         BACKGROUND

         This action arises out of an incident that occurred in the early hours of March 18, 2015, when City of Concord police officers allegedly dragged Plaintiff Rosamanda Flores (“Plaintiff” or “Flores”) out of her home, slammed her on the ground twice, and unlawfully arrested her. Compl. at ¶¶ 5-28 (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff filed her original complaint on November 16, 2015 against the City of Concord and unnamed Concord Police Department (“CPD”) officers listed as Doe Defendants 1-50. The complaint asserts Section 1983 claims for violation of her Fourth Amendment rights to be free from excessive force and unreasonable seizures, as well as state law claims for battery, assault, negligence, false imprisonment, and violation of the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act. Id. at ¶¶ 32-64.

         On May 5, 2016, Defendant City of Concord (“City”) served Plaintiff with its initial disclosures, which included the names of four police officers who the City stated had pertinent information: Officers Halm, Kindorf, Tucker and Davis. Ex. A to Defs.' Opp'n (ECF No. 52-1). On July 6, 2016, Defendants produced to Plaintiff an offense report prepared by Officer Halm on the night of the incident. Ex. B to Defs.' Opp'n (ECF No. 52-1). The report indicates that Officer Halm responded to a call about a disturbance, arrested Plaintiff's partner on suspicion of domestic violence, and then arrested Plaintiff herself when she refused to comply with his requests for identification and statement. Id. It also indicates that Officer Kindorf photographed Plaintiff and her partner in the jail. Id. at 4. The last two pages of the report include medical screening checklists signed by Officers Davis and Tucker. Id. at 5-6.

         On September 26, 2016, Plaintiff's counsel advised the Court in a case management statement that he planned to depose at least two witnesses and seek leave to file an amended complaint to substitute the names of the Doe Defendant officers with their true names. Updated Joint Statement at 2 (ECF No. 31). In an email dated October 18, 2016, Defendants' counsel restated the names and roles of the CPD officers involved in the incident: “Ofc. Kindorf was a cover officer who took photographs at the scene, and officers Tucker and Davis transported Plaintiff and Ms. Stephens to the hospital. Ofc. Halm was the only officer who placed Plaintiff in handcuffs.” Ex. C to Defs.' Opp'n (ECF No. 52-1).

         On April 24, 2017, nearly one year after first learning their names, Plaintiff moved for leave to file an amended complaint in order to substitute Officers Halm, Kindorf, Tucker and Davis for four of the Doe Defendants. Mot. at 2 (ECF No. 50). She also seeks to assert two additional legal theories of how her injuries were caused, specifically that the officers violated her rights by (a) acting as integral participants and (b) failing to intervene. Defendants timely opposed the motion. Opp'n (ECF No. 52). Plaintiff filed an untimely reply ten days after the scheduled deadline.[1] Reply (ECF No. 53).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Pursuant to Rule 15(a), a party may amend a pleading once as a matter of course; subsequently, it may only amend after obtaining leave of the Court, or by consent of the adverse party. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). Rule 15 advises the Court that “leave shall be freely given when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). “[T]his policy is to be applied with extreme liberality.” Owens v. Kaiser Found. Health Plan, Inc., 244 F.3d 708, 712 (9th Cir. 2001) (quotation omitted). “Courts may decline to grant leave to amend only if there is strong evidence of ‘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, [or] futility of amendment, etc.'” Sonoma Cnty. Ass'n of Retired Employees v. Sonoma Cnty., 708 F.3d 1109, 1117 (9th Cir. 2013) (citing Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)).

         Of these so-called Foman factors, prejudice is the weightiest and most important. Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003). “Absent prejudice, or a strong showing of any of the remaining Foman factors, there exists a presumption under Rule 15(a) in favor of granting leave to amend.” Id. (emphasis in original). “The party opposing amendment bears the burden of showing prejudice.” DCD Programs, Ltd. v. Leighton, 833 F.2d 183, 187 (9th Cir. 1987). Evaluation of the Foman factors “should be performed with all inferences in favor of granting the motion.” Griggs v. Pace Am. Grp., Inc., 170 F.3d 877, 880 (9th Cir. 1999).

         DISCUSSION

         Defendants oppose Plaintiff's request for leave to amend on the grounds that it is unduly delayed, performed in bad faith, prejudicial and futile. The core fact they rely on is that Plaintiff has known the identities of the officers involved in her arrest since May 5, 2016 and yet she failed to conduct the discovery needed to identify their roles and timely amend her complaint. This delay, they argue, is caused by Plaintiff's counsel's lack of diligence in pursuing discovery and prosecuting the case.

         Plaintiff's counsel contends that he needed time to learn facts from witnesses and from Plaintiff herself before making the decision to seek leave to amend. He relies on clearly established law holding that “undue delay by itself […] is insufficient to justify denying a motion to amend.” Bowles v. Reade, 198 F.3d 752, 758 (9th Cir. 1999). Without evidence of bad faith or undue prejudice, he argues, the motion must be granted.

         In exercising its discretion, the Court is guided by the underlying purpose of Rule 15(a)-“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). Plaintiff's delay in pursuing amendment in this case is undue and unjustified; her counsel deserves to be admonished and warned that further delays will not be tolerated. And yet, as discussed below, the Court finds that the evidence of bad ...


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