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Peoples v. Children's Hospital of Central California

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 4, 2019




         Currently before the Court is Plaintiff Yvonne Peoples' (“Plaintiff” or “Peoples”) Motion for Leave to File First Amended Complaint for Damages and Ancillary Relief (the “Motion”). (Doc. 41.) Defendant Valley Children's Hospital, Inc., erroneously sued under its former name Children's Hospital of Central California (“Defendant” or “VCH”), did not file an opposition to the Motion. The Court found the matter suitable for decision without oral argument and vacated the hearing that was set for September 4, 2019. (Doc. 48.) Having considered the moving papers and declaration attached thereto, as well as the Court's file, the Court issues the following order.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         This is the second lawsuit filed by Plaintiff against Defendant. In 2015, Plaintiff filed suit alleging wrongful termination and discrimination. (See Doc. 1, ¶ 8.) In August 2016, Peoples reached a settlement with VCH, which included monetary damages and reinstatement. (Id. at ¶ 9.)

         After the settlement and Plaintiffs reinstatement, Plaintiff alleges that she was subject to more unlawful conduct at VCH and that VCH breached the settlement agreement. (See Doc. 1, ¶¶ 10-14.) Plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on November 20, 2018. (Id. at ¶ 3.) On November 29, 2018, the EEOC issued a notice of right to sue. (Id.) Plaintiff received a right to sue letter under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) in late October 2018. (Id.)

         Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on February 26, 2019, raising a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a), as well as several, related state law claims. (See Doc. 1.) On March 21, 2019, Defendant filed an answer to the complaint and a cross-complaint against Peoples. (See Doc. 12.) Defendant then moved to compel arbitration and to stay this case pending arbitration, citing an arbitration provision contained within the settlement agreement. (Docs. 13 & 19.) On June 3, 2019, the assigned district judge denied the motion to compel without prejudice as premature. (See Doc. 36.)

         A scheduling order was issued on July 12, 2019, which set the deadline to amend the pleadings for August 27, 2019. (Doc. 40.) On July 24, 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant motion for leave to file an amended complaint. (See Doc. 41.) The hearing on the Motion was set for September 4, 2019, with an opposition due date of August 21, 2019. (See Id. See also Local Rule 230.) Defendant did not file an opposition by the August 21, 2019 deadline.[2] On August 30, 2019, the Court vacated the hearing and took the matter under submission. (Doc. 48.)

         The Motion seeks leave from the Court to file a first amended complaint adding a claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing on behalf of Plaintiff and a loss of consortium claim on behalf of her husband, intended plaintiff Claud S. Peoples. (See Doc. 41.)


         Under Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may amend the party's pleading once as a matter of course at any time before a responsive pleading is served. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). Otherwise, a party may amend only by leave of the court or by written consent of the adverse party, and leave shall be freely given when justice so requires. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The Court is to apply this policy of granting leave with “extreme liberality.” Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting Owens v. Kaiser Found. Health Plan, Inc., 244 F.3d 708, 712 (9th Cir. 2001)).

         In determining whether to grant leave to amend, the court considers five factors: “(1) bad faith; (2) undue delay; (3) prejudice to the opposing party; (4) futility of amendment; and (5) whether the plaintiff has previously amended his complaint.” Nunes v. Ashcroft, 375 F.3d 805, 808 (9th Cir. 2004). The factors are not given equal weight and futility alone is sufficient to justify the denial of a motion to amend. Washington v. Lowe's HIW Inc., 75 F.Supp.3d 1240, 1245 (N.D. Cal. 2014). “[I]t is the consideration of prejudice to the opposing party that carries the greatest weight.” Eminence Capital, 316 F.3d at 1052. The burden to demonstrate prejudice falls upon the party opposing the amendment. DCD Programs, Ltd. v. Leighton, 833 F.2d 183, 187 (9th Cir. 1987). “Absent prejudice, or a strong showing of any of the remaining [] factors, there exists a presumption under Rule 15(a) in favor of granting leave to amend.” Eminence Capital, 316 F.3d at 1052.


         Plaintiff seeks to amend the complaint to join her husband as plaintiff and to add claims for loss of consortium and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Given the lack of opposition, the Court finds that granting Plaintiff leave to amend would not prejudice Defendant.[3]There is also no evidence the motion was brought in bad faith nor does it produce undue delay in the litigation, as the motion was filed less than two weeks after the issuance of the scheduling order and over a month prior to the amendment deadline. Cf. Davis v. Powell, 901 F.Supp.2d 1196, 1212 (S.D. Cal. 2012) (Undue delay is “delay that prejudices the nonmoving party or imposes unwarranted burdens on the Court.”) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Moreover, there is no reason to believe that the proposed amendment is futile: both the loss of consortium and the breach of the covenant of good faith claims are asserted within their respective statutes of limitations. See Eidson v. Medtronic, Inc., 981 F.Supp.2d 868, 893 (N.D. Cal. 2013) (holding that claim for loss of consortium is subject to the two-year statute of limitations in Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 335.1); Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 337 (four-year statute of limitations for breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing). See also, e.g., SAES Getters S.p.A. v. Aeronex, Inc., 219 F.Supp.2d 1081, 1086 (S.D. Cal. 2002) (illustrating that an amendment is futile “only if it would clearly be subject to dismissal.”).

         Consequently, finding that none of the foregoing factors weighs against granting Plaintiff leave to amend, and most notably as the Motion is unopposed, the Court finds leave to amend appropriate. See, e.g., J.M. v. Cty. of Stanislaus, No. 1:18-cv-01034-LJO-SAB, 2019 WL 1046254, at *2-3 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 5, 2019) (concluding that leave to amend was warranted in light of the defendant's non-opposition to the motion and reasonable explanation for the amendment); Austin v. W. Concrete Pumping, Inc., No. 17-cv-2363-AJB-MDD, 2018 WL 2684140, at *1- 2 (S.D. Cal. ...

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