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Beech v. San Joaquin County

United States District Court, E.D. California

October 28, 2019

MELINDA BEECH, Plaintiff,
v.
SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND

          Troy, L. Nunley, United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court pursuant to Plaintiff Melinda Beech's (“Plaintiff”) renewed Motion for Leave to Amend her Complaint. (ECF No. 49.) The Court previously denied without prejudice Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend (ECF No. 41), on the ground that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 16, which governs amendment to a complaint once a court has issued a pretrial scheduling order, was not addressed in Plaintiff's motion. (ECF No. 48.) Defendant San Joaquin County (“County”) filed an Opposition to the present Motion for Leave to Amend (ECF No. 50), and Plaintiff replied (ECF No. 51). For the reasons discussed below, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion without prejudice.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff alleges she sustained injuries as a result of the excessive force of three Stockton police officers during an arrest, and further alleges Defendants failed to thereafter treat some of her claimed injuries. (ECF No. 49 ¶¶ 11-14.) Plaintiff alleges she suffered four breaks to her clavicle bone during the arrest and that she reported the injuries to staff at the San Joaquin County Jail, but she was not treated until after she was released. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-20.) More specifically, she alleges she spoke to one Sheriff's deputy about her broken clavicle, and that the deputy acknowledged the injury but denied her treatment. (Id.) Plaintiff also alleges she suffered gouges in her leg and arm from a piece of metal sticking out of the police car, but that these injuries were properly treated at the time. (ECF No. 20 ¶¶ 12-13.) Plaintiff filed the present lawsuit initially against the County, the City of Stockton (“City”), and unnamed “Doe” defendants 1-50. (ECF No. 1 at 1.)

         On October 18, 2015, Plaintiff moved to amend her Complaint to add the names of three Stockton Police officers, stating she learned the identity of the officers during the course of discovery. (ECF No. 14 at 2.) The County and then-defendant City[1] filed statements of non-opposition, and the Court granted Plaintiff's motion. (ECF Nos. 15, 16, 19.)

         The Court later issued a pretrial scheduling order which provided in part that no joinder of parties or amendments to pleadings would be permitted without leave of court for good cause. (ECF No. 35 at 1.) Plaintiff objected, arguing she had not been allowed an opportunity to learn the identity of the San Joaquin Sheriff's deputy who allegedly denied her medical care in violation of her constitutional rights. (ECF No. 36 at 1-2.) The Court overruled Plaintiff's objection, noting that federal courts do not recognize Doe defendants and explaining that Plaintiff must move to amend for good cause if and when she learned the deputy's identity. (ECF No. 37.) The Court added that this procedure protects non-parties who had no awareness of a case that had then been pending for over three years. (Id.)

         Plaintiff thereafter moved to amend her Complaint under Rule 15 to substitute several San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office employees for the previously unnamed Doe defendants. (ECF No. 41.) Plaintiff stated she had just identified the employees through recently provided disclosures. (Id. at 1-2.) The Court denied Plaintiff's Motion to Amend without prejudice on the basis that Plaintiff did not address Rule 16 in her motion. (ECF No. 48 at 4.) Since the Court had issued a pretrial scheduling order, Rule 16 governed amendment to the Complaint. (Id. at 4.)

         By way of the present motion, Plaintiff again seeks to amend her Complaint to add as defendants seven San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office employees. Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that she now knows the identity of the seven officers present when she was denied medical care. She therefore seeks to add these named individuals and to allege that “all of the San Joaquin Sheriff's Office Employees who are named as defendants were present and aware of the Plaintiff's injury” and that these same Sheriff's Office employees were “present and aware” of one officer's “statement made to the Plaintiff, regarding her injury.”[2] (ECF No. 49-1 at 4.) Plaintiff still does not know, however, which of the seven officers actually spoke to her. Additionally, while the allegations against the single speaking officer (as a Doe defendant) are present in Plaintiff's operative First Amended Complaint, the “present and aware” allegations are wholly new to the proposed Second Amended Complaint.

         II. Standard of Law

         Granting or denying leave to amend a complaint rests in the sound discretion of the trial court. Swanson v. United States Forest Serv., 87 F.3d 339, 343 (9th Cir. 1996). When a court issues a pretrial scheduling order that establishes a timetable to amend the complaint, Rule 16 governs any amendments to the complaint. Coleman v. Quaker Oats Co., 232 F.3d 1271, 1294 (9th Cir. 2000). To allow for amendment under Rule 16, a plaintiff must show good cause for not having amended the complaint before the time specified in the pretrial scheduling order. Id. The good cause standard primarily considers the diligence of the party seeking the amendment. Johnson v. Mammoth Recreations, Inc., 975 F.2d 604, 609 (9th Cir. 1992). “Moreover, carelessness is not compatible with a finding of diligence and offers no reason for a grant of relief.” Id. The focus of the inquiry is on the reasons why the moving party seeks to modify the complaint. Id. If the moving party was not diligent, then good cause cannot be shown and the inquiry should end. Id.

         Even if the good cause standard is met under Rule 16(b), the Court has the discretion to deny amendment under Rule 15(a). Johnson, 975 F.2d at 610. Under Rule 15(a)(2), “a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave, ” and the “court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” The Ninth Circuit has considered five factors in determining whether leave to amend should be given: “(1) bad faith, (2) undue delay, (3) prejudice to the opposing party, (4) futility of amendment; and (5) whether plaintiff has previously amended his complaint.” In re W. States Wholesale Nat. Gas Antitrust Litig., 715 F.3d 716, 738 (9th Cir. 2013) (citing Allen v. City of Beverly Hills, 911 F.2d 367, 373 (9th Cir. 1990)). “[T]he consideration of prejudice to the opposing party carries the greatest weight.” Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003).

         III. Analysis

         Because the proposed “present and aware” claims against the six San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office employees are new and different from the claim asserted against the single Sheriff's deputy who allegedly made statements to Plaintiff denying her medical care, the Court will address these two issues separately.

         A. Leave to Amend to Add New Allegations Against Seven San Joaquin ...


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