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Johnson v. Knight Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. California

December 4, 2019

SORYA JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
KNIGHT TRANSPORTATION, INC., et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT (DOC. 33)

          JENNIFER L. THURSTON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff seeks leave to file a first amended complaint. (Doc. 33.) Defendants oppose the request. (Doc. 34.) For the following reasons, Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend is DENIED.

         I. Factual Allegations and Background

         Plaintiff filed an action for personal injuries as a result of a motor vehicle collision that occurred on July 14, 2018. (Doc. 1 at 18-19.) Plaintiff alleged that the acts of Defendants were negligent and caused his injuries. (Doc. 1 at 18-19.) Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a complaint on November 7, 2018, in the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of Kern, entitled Sorya Johnson v. Knight Transportation, Inc., et al., Case No. BCV-18-102791. (Doc. 1 at 10-20.) Defendant Knight Transportation, Inc. filed an answer on November 26, 2018. (Doc. 1 at 22-29.) Defendant Thomas Earl Gossard filed an answer on December 7, 2018. (Doc. 1 at 31-40.) On December 10, 2018, Defendants filed a notice of removal to the Eastern District of California. (Doc. 1.) This Court held a scheduling conference with the parties on March 11, 2019. (Docs. 10, 11.)

         At the request of counsel, the Court held an informal telephonic conference regarding discovery disputes on August 16, 2019. (Docs. 19, 20.) By that time, little discovery had occurred, and the parties were mired in disputes. (Doc. 21)

         Soon thereafter, on September 4, 2019, the parties filed a stipulation to amend the case schedule to extend all deadlines by about four months. (Doc. 24.) The Court denied the stipulation because they failed to demonstrate they had acted diligently in completing discovery. (Doc. 26.) On September 10, 2019, the parties again filed a stipulation to amend the case schedule. (Doc. 27.) Much of the need for the amendment to the case schedule was due to the fact that the plaintiff had failed to disclose her January 2019 surgery until July 2019. Id. at 2-3. The Court granted in part the stipulation to amend the case schedule and emphasized that counsel cooperate to schedule depositions and to take them immediately and to complete all needed discovery expeditiously. (Doc. 30.)

         On September 27, 2019, Plaintiff took the deposition of Thomas Gossard. Plaintiff claims that it was at this deposition that she learned facts supporting an independent negligence claim against Knight Transportation and justification for a punitive damage award was first revealed. (Doc. 33 at 6, 15.) Plaintiff alleges that she learned that the vehicle operated by Gossard had been damaged in a prior collision, nearly a year before the collision at issue, resulting in structural damage to the front of the cab and knocking off a “spot mirror” that helps the operator visualize blind spots and manage space along the passenger side of the vehicle. (Doc. 33 at 2.) nevertheless, since the case was filed, Plaintiff had taken the position that Knight had “negligently and carelessly . . . repair[ed] and maintain[ed] a motor vehicle so as to cause the same to crash into a vehicle driven by plaintiff . . .” (Doc. 1 at 19) Despite this, Plaintiff did not seek punitive damages. (Doc. 1 at 17) The Court noted this omission in its order issued on August 2019 when it considered whether disputed discovery should be permitted “related to other accidents to other accidents or other bad acts [to determine] whether the plaintiff is entitled to punitive damages.” (Doc. 21 at 1-2) However, the Court found the discovery to be “irrelevant because the plaintiff has not sought punitive damages in this case.” Id. at 2.

         At his deposition, Gossard reported that Knight was aware of the loss of his spot mirror because he had been documented it during pre-trip inspections as a safety defect in need of repair. (Doc. 33 at 2.) It is undisputed that at the time of the accident, Knight had not made this repair and the spot mirror was not in place. (Doc. 33 at 2.)

         On October 21, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file a first amended complaint now before the Court. (Doc. 33.) Defendants filed their opposition to the motion on November 18, 2019 (Doc. 34), to which Plaintiff filed a reply on November 25, 2019 (Doc. 35).

         II. Legal Standards

         A. Scheduling Orders

         Districts courts must enter scheduling orders in actions to "limit the time to join other parties, amend the pleadings, complete discovery, and file motions." Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(3). In addition, scheduling orders may "modify the timing of disclosures" and "modify the extent of discovery." Id. Once entered by the court, a scheduling order "controls the course of the action unless the court modifies it." Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(d). Scheduling orders are intended to alleviate case management problems. Johnson v. Mammoth Recreations, Inc., 975 F.2d 604, 610 (9th Cir. 1992). As such, a scheduling order is "the heart of case management." Koplove v. Ford Motor Co., 795 F.2d 15, 18 (3rd Cir. 1986).

         Further, scheduling orders are "not a frivolous piece of paper, idly entered, which can be cavalierly disregarded by counsel without peril." Johnson, 975 F.2d at 610 (quoting Gestetner Corp. v. Case Equip. Co., 108 F.R.D. 138, 141 (D. Maine 1985)). Good cause must be shown for modification of the scheduling order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4). The Ninth Circuit explained:

Rule 16(b)'s "good cause" standard primarily considers the diligence of the party seeking the amendment. The district court may modify the pretrial schedule if it cannot reasonably be met despite the diligence of the party seeking the extension. Moreover, carelessness is not compatible with a finding of diligence and offers no reason for a grant of relief. Although existence of a degree of prejudice to the party opposing the modification might supply additional reasons to deny a motion, the focus of the ...

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