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Elhindi v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 16, 2017




         This matter comes before the Court on defendant's motion for summary judgment on the grounds of judicial estoppel. ECF No. 37. A hearing was held on June 6, 2017. ECF No. 41. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the magistrate judge. ECF No. 15. Having considered the arguments presented by both parties and all of the evidence submitted, the court DENIES defendant's motion for summary judgment, and ORDERS the parties to participate in a status conference on June 28, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.


         The complaint in this case was filed on December 31, 2014. ECF No. 1. An amended complaint was filed on March 26, 2015. ECF No. 8. Defendant answered on April 21, 2015. ECF No. 10. Defendant affirmatively pled equitable defenses, including estoppel. Id. at 13. The assertion of estoppel and other equitable defenses was not supported by any factual allegations, regarding a prior bankruptcy or otherwise. Id.

         II. THE MOTION

         On April 28, 2017, defendant moved for summary judgment on the grounds that plaintiff is judicially estopped from bringing his discrimination claim in this court due to his failure to disclose the claim in his earlier bankruptcy proceeding. ECF No. 37-1.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         To succeed on summary judgment, the moving party must demonstrate that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact exists. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

         Evidence submitted by the non-moving party is presumed valid, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, the non-moving party cannot simply rest on its allegations without any significant probative evidence tending to support the complaint. See U.A. Local 343 v. Nor-Cal Plumbing, Inc., 48 F.3d 1465, 1471 (9th Cir.1995). “[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the non-moving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23.

         B. Judicial Estoppel

         Judicial estoppel is an equitable doctrine invoked by the court at its discretion. New Hampshire v. Maine, 532 U.S. 742, 750 (2001). The doctrine exists to “protect the integrity of the judicial process by prohibiting parties from deliberately changing positions according to the exigencies of the moment.” Id. at 743. Courts consider three factors to determine whether judicial estoppel is appropriate in a given case: (1) whether a party's later position is clearly inconsistent with its earlier position; (2) whether the party has succeeded in persuading a court to accept the earlier position; and (3) whether the party would derive an unfair advantage or impose an unfair detriment on the opposing party if not estopped. Hamilton v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 270 F.3d 778, 782-83 (9th Cir. 2001).

         In the bankruptcy context, a default rule applies: If a plaintiff-debtor omits a pending or imminent lawsuit from the bankruptcy schedules and obtains a discharge, judicial estoppel bars the action. Ah Quin v. County of Kauai Dep't of Transp., 733 F.3d 267, 271 (9th Cir. 2013). However, mistake or inadvertence on the part of the plaintiff-debtor may weigh against the application of judicial estoppel. The “presumption of deceit” underlying the default rule does not apply where the plaintiff-debtor has reopened the bankruptcy and corrected the erroneous filing. Id. at 276.

In these circumstances . . . judicial estoppel requires an inquiry into whether the plaintiff's bankruptcy filing was, in fact, inadvertent or mistaken, as those terms are commonly understood. Courts must determine whether the omission occurred by accident or was made without intent to conceal. The relevant inquiry is not limited to the plaintiff's knowledge of the pending claim and the universal motive to conceal a potential asset - though those are certainly factors. The relevant inquiry is, more broadly, the plaintiff's subjective intent when filling out and signing the bankruptcy schedules.

Id. at 276-77.

         C. Und ...

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