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Camacho v. JLG Industries, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

November 15, 2017





         Before the Court is Plaintiffs Raul Camacho (“Camacho”) and Lucia R. Maturrano's (“Maturrano”)[1] (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint and to Remand Case to State Court (“Motion”) (Dkt. 34). The Court finds this matter appropriate for resolution without oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78; L.R. 7-15. Having reviewed the moving papers and considered the parties' arguments, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs' Motion.

         I. Background

         A. Facts

         The following facts are drawn from Plaintiffs' Proposed Amended Complaint (“Proposed Compl.”) (Dkt. 34) and the Declaration of Emily A. Ruby (“Ruby Decl.”) (Dkt. 34) Ex. 1.

         This case arises from injuries that Plaintiff Raul Camacho suffered as a result of an accident that occurred on December 8, 2015. On that day, Camacho was using a scissor lift to install glass in a hotel building when he slipped between the top rail and the floor of the lift's standing platform and fell twelve feet to the ground below, sustaining serious injuries. Proposed Compl. ¶¶ 11, 18. The scissor lift was manufactured by JLG Industries, Inc. (“JLG”), and rented from Sunbelt Rentals, Inc. (“Sunbelt”) (collectively, “Defendants”). Id. ¶¶ 12-13. Plaintiffs allege that the scissor lift was defectively designed because it left an open space between the floor and the top rail, and because it was not equipped with an approved personal fall protection system or with a full body harness and lanyard. Id. ¶¶ 17, 18. All of these allegations were also set out in Plaintiffs' original Complaint. See Compl. (Dkt. 1) ¶¶ 9-13.

         After filing their original Complaint in the Superior Court, however, Plaintiffs retained new counsel. Ruby Decl. ¶ 2. When Plaintiffs' current attorneys of record took over, they reviewed all available materials relevant to the case, which were extensive, and conducted legal and factual research in order to determine whether there were any additional causes of action or potentially liable parties. Id. ¶ 3. During their review, the attorneys discovered that the Division of Occupational Health and Safety (“Cal/OSHA”) had identified at least five violations of state safety regulations related to the scissor lift, which Cal/OSHA determined had caused or contributed to Camacho's injury. Id. ¶ 9. The attorneys also found substantial evidence indicating that R.D. Olson Construction, Inc. (“R.D. Olson”) was the general contractor in charge of the worksite where the incident occurred. Id. ¶¶ 4-8.

         As a result, in the Proposed Amended Complaint that Plaintiffs seek to file, Plaintiffs name R.D. Olson as a third Defendant. Proposed Compl. ¶¶ 7, 10. They allege that the company R.D. Olson was the general contractor of the worksite, and that as such, R.D. Olson was responsible for and exercised control over the safety of the worksite and the manner in which those on the worksite, including Plaintiff, performed work. Id. ¶ 14. Moreover, Plaintiffs claim that R.D. Olson provided the allegedly defective scissor lift to those persons working on the premises. Id. ¶ 51. Finally, Plaintiffs' Proposed Amended Complaint sets out new allegations claiming that all Defendants-including JLG, Sunbelt, and R.D. Olson-violated numerous safety regulations. Id. ¶ 64.

         B. Procedural History

         On February 9, 2017, Plaintiffs brought this action in the Superior Court of California, County of Orange. Id. ¶ 2. On July 12, 2017, Defendants removed to this Court (Dkt. 1).

         On September 22, 2017, Plaintiffs filed the instant Motion. Plaintiffs seek leave to file an amended complaint adding R.D. Olson as a defendant, which would destroy diversity, and on that basis request that the Court remand the case to state court. Mot. at 1; Ruby Decl. ¶¶ 14-15. Plaintiffs' Proposed Amended Complaint also asserts a new claim of negligence per se against the existing Defendants based on their alleged violations of California state safety regulations. Prop. Compl. ¶¶ 63-67. On October 2, 2017, Sunbelt filed its Opposition (“Sunbelt Opp'n”) (Dkt. 36). JLG filed its Opposition on the same day (“JLG Opp'n”) (Dkt. 38). On October 9, 2017, Plaintiffs filed their Reply (Dkt. 40).

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Leave to Amend Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15

         Generally, leave to amend a pleading “shall be freely given when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). The decision whether to permit amendment lies within the sound discretion of the trial court, which “must be guided by the underlying purpose of Rule 15 to facilitate decisions on the merits, rather than on the pleadings or technicalities.” United States v. Webb, 655 F.2d 977, 979 (9th Cir. 1981). Thus, Rule 15's policy of favoring amendments to pleadings should be applied with “extreme liberality.” Morongo Band of Mission Indians v. Rose, 893 F.2d 1074, 1079 (9th Cir. 1990); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (holding that dismissal with leave to amend should be granted even if no request to amend was made).

         The Supreme Court has identified four factors relevant to whether a motion for leave to amend should be denied: undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive, futility of amendment, and undue prejudice to the opposing party. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182, (1962). The Ninth Circuit holds that these factors are not of equal weight; specifically, “delay alone no matter how lengthy is an insufficient ground for denial of leave to amend.” United States v. Webb, 655 F.2d 977, 980 (9th Cir. 1981); accord Bowles v. Reade, 198 F.3d 752, 758 (9th Cir. 1999). The most important factor is whether amendment would prejudice the opposing party. Howey v. United States, 481 F.2d 1187, 1190 (9th Cir. 1973). “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.” Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003). However, “[f]utility of amendment can, by itself, justify denial of a motion for leave to amend.” Bonin v. Calderon, 59 F.3d 815, 845 (9th Cir. 1995). A proposed amended pleading is futile if it would not meet the 12(b)(6) standard for ascertaining the legal sufficiency of a pleading. See Miller v. Rykoff-Sexton, Inc., 845 F.2d 209, 214 (9th Cir. 1988) abrogated by Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); see Gibson Brands, Inc. v. John Hornby Skewes & Co., Ltd., No. CV 14-00609 DDP(SS), 2015 WL 4651250, at *4 n.4 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 4, 2015) (“[A]s the Miller court noted, the test for futility is the same as the test applied on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. After Ashcroft v. Iqbal, that pleading standard is no longer viable. Thus, the proper standard is Iqbal's plausibility standard.” (citations omitted)).

         B. Amendment to Add a ...

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