United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT AND DENYING
MOTION TO ALTER SCHEDULING ORDER RE: DKT. NOS. 37, 39,
HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court are several motions filed by Plaintiffs Faye
Vaden and Alma Jackson related to the Court's scheduling
order in this action: (1) a motion for leave to amend the
complaint after the deadline, see Dkt. No. 37; (2) a
motion to modify the case schedule, see Dkt. No. 40;
and (3) a motion to expedite the hearing on both motions,
see Dkt. No. 39. The Court held a case management
conference on October 8, 2019, at which it heard argument on
these motions and discussed the current case schedule.
See Dkt. No. 44. The Court also permitted Plaintiffs
to file a supplementary declaration in support of these
motions. See Dkt. Nos. 46. 48. Having carefully
considered the parties' arguments, the Court
DENIES the motions.
March 5, 2019, Plaintiffs filed this action against
Defendants Linn Star Transfer, Inc. and Haier U.S. Appliance
Solutions, Inc., alleging that Defendants' negligent
manufacturing and installation of a gas dryer led to a gas
leak in Plaintiffs' home. See Dkt. No. 1-1, Ex.
A. Plaintiffs allege that the gas leak was caused by both a
product defect and Linn Star's failure to properly
tighten the dryer's gas line connector during
installation. Id. at 4. Defendants removed this
action from state court on April 5, 2019, based on diversity
jurisdiction. See Dkt. No. 1.
16, 2019, the Court held an initial case management
conference, at which it discussed the anticipated schedule
for this case. See Dkt. No. 24. Neither party
objected to the proposed dates, and on July 17, 2019, the
Court issued a scheduling order incorporating those dates.
See Dkt. No. 25. In the order, the Court set
September 14, 2019, as the deadline to amend the pleadings.
See Id. Two weeks after the deadline, on October 1,
2019, Plaintiffs filed a motion for leave to file an amended
complaint to add three defendants: Home Depot, who sold the
dryer and its “installation kit”; and individuals
Dyshun Mitchell and Nicolaus Zapata from Jens Trucking LLC,
who performed the installation. See Dkt. No. 37 at
6; Dkt. No. 46 at ¶¶ 3-4, 7-10. Two days later, on
October 3, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a motion to modify the
current scheduling order, and to expedite the hearing on
these motions. See Dkt. Nos. 39, 40. In all three
motions, Plaintiffs' counsel, Ms. Wendy H. Chau, explains
that she was “focused on her other trial cases from
July 20, 2019, to September 16, 2019”; was “busy,
” so relied on co-counsel; and therefore, missed the
deadline in good faith. See, e.g., Dkt. No. 37 at 3,
5. Ms. Chau further claims that she will be unable to meet
the future deadlines set in this case based on obligations
she has in other cases. See, e.g., Dkt. No. 40-1 at
¶¶ 9, 11.
Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b) provides that the district
court must issue a scheduling order that limits the time to
join other parties, amend the pleadings, complete discovery,
and file motions. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(b)(4). Once
in place, “[a] schedule may be modified only for good
cause and with the judge's consent.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
16(b)(4). The “good cause” requirement of Rule 16
“primarily considers the diligence of the party seeking
the amendment.” See Johnson v. Mammoth Recreations,
Inc., 975 F.2d 604, 609 (9th Cir. 1992). “The
district court may modify the pretrial schedule if it cannot
reasonably be met despite the diligence of the party seeking
the extension.” Id. (quotation omitted).
“Although the existence or degree of prejudice to the
party opposing the modification might supply additional
reasons to deny a motion . . . [i]f [the] party was not
diligent, the inquiry should end.” Id.
Motion for Leave to Amend
present little justification for failing to amend the
complaint by the September 14 deadline. Plaintiffs'
counsel acknowledges that she simply “neglected to do
so” as she was preoccupied with trial in another case,
which ended on September 13. See Dkt. No. 37 at 5;
Dkt. No. 37-1 at ¶¶ 2, 10-15. Ms. Chau also casts
blame on her co-counsel, Mr. David S. Ratner, who she
explains assisted with the case through mediation on
September 16. Id. As counsel of record in this
action, however, Ms. Chau nevertheless has an independent
responsibility to her clients. Cf. California Rule
of Professional Responsibility 1.3
(“‘[R]easonable diligence' shall mean that a
lawyer acts with commitment and dedication to the interests
of the client and does not neglect or disregard, or unduly
delay a legal matter entrusted to the lawyer.”).
Plaintiffs acknowledge that they were on notice of the three
parties that they now seek to add as defendants well in
advance of the deadline to amend. See Dkt. No. 37-1
at ¶ 9. On July 8, 2019, Linn Star's initial
disclosures identified both Dyshun Mitchell and Nicolaus
Zapata as employees of Jens Trucking, LLC, who performed the
dryer installation. See Dkt. No. 42 at 3. Defendants
even noted in the joint case management conference statement,
filed July 9, 2019, that Plaintiffs had not named the
installers and installation company in the complaint.
Id.; see also Dkt. No. 23 at 3, 5.
Additionally, Defendants disclosed documents that identified
The Home Depot, Inc. in the bill of lading, as part of their
initial disclosures. Id. Plaintiffs' own initial
disclosures listed the landlords as potential witnesses, and
included a shipping order form with The Home Depot, Inc. as
the recipient of both the gas dryer and a “gas dryer
inst kit.” See Dkt. No. 47-1, Ex. B at ¶
5; Dkt. No. 47-2, Ex. C.
do not refute this. Instead, Plaintiffs' counsel contends
that she did not fully understand the significance of Home
Depot and its role in this action until she spoke with
Plaintiffs' landlord on September 23, 2019, and reviewed
the documents he sent to her on September 24, 2019.
See Dkt. No. 46 at ¶¶ 20-22, 26-27. What
Plaintiffs' counsel fails to adequately explain is why
she did not follow up with the landlord prior to the deadline
to amend the complaint.
Chau's unsupported assertion that she had “had
trouble getting a hold of the landlord” for two
years-from 2017 to 2019-is neither credible nor consistent
with a finding of diligence. See Id. at ¶¶
9, 28, 30. Indeed, this argument is belied by counsel's
acknowledgement that she “did not think the landlord
and Home Deport were much involved or liable” prior to
September 2019, and that further discussions about the
landlord ceased when Plaintiffs did not want to add him as a
defendant to this action. See Id. at ¶¶ 7,
10. Plaintiffs' counsel should not have waited until
after the deadline to amend to investigate the landlord and
Home Depot's possible involvement in this action. The
Court is similarly unpersuaded by Plaintiffs' assertion
that the parties were focused on mediation rather than
further litigating this action. See Id. ¶¶
15-19. As the Ninth Circuit has cautioned,
“carelessness is not compatible with a finding of
diligence and offers no reason for a grant of relief.”
Johnson, 975 F.2d at 609. In short, Plaintiffs have
failed to establish that good cause exists to grant leave to
amend the complaint at this late date.
Motion to Modify ...