Haas v. Management & Training Corporation et al

Filing 21

ORDER that Plaintiff Haas's Motion for Voluntary Dismissal (Doc. 15) is GRANTED without prejudice. FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant MTC's request for an award of attorneys' fees and costs is DENIED without prejudice. Consistent with this Order, Defendant MTC may file a motion for attorneys' fees and costs in accordance with Local Rule 54.2. Signed by Judge James A Teilborg on 2/24/11.(KMG)

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Haas v. Management & Training Corporation et al Doc. 21 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 WO IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA ) ) ) Plaintiff, ) ) vs. ) ) ) MANAGEMENT & TRAINING ) CORPORATION, a Delaware Corporation; CLAUDIA WASHBURN, ) ) an adult individual, ) ) Defendants. ) ) VIVIAN HAAS, an adult individual, No. 10-2043-PHX-JAT ORDER Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Vivian Haas's ("Haas") Motion For Voluntary 19 Dismissal. (Doc. 15). Defendant Management & Training Corporation ("MTC") filed a 20 Response on December 20, 2010 (Doc. 16), and Haas filed a reply on December 27, 2010 21 (Doc. 17). For the reasons stated below, the Court, having considered both parties' briefs, 22 grants Haas's Motion. 23 I. 24 This case arises from the escape of convicted felons from the MTC-run State Prison 25 in Kingman, Arizona. (Doc. 15, 2:5-10). Defendant Washburn allegedly aided and abetted 26 the escapees. (Id., 2:10-11). 27 On September 1, 2010, Haas filed suit in state court in Maricopa County, Arizona, 28 FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND. Dockets.Justia.com 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 asserting theories of negligence and gross negligence arising out of the death of her son, Gary Haas. (Id., 2:4-10; Doc. 1, Ex 1). On September 23, 2010, MTC successfully removed the case to federal court (Doc. 4), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1332.1 (Doc. 12). In a separate action, Haas filed claims against the State of Arizona in state court based on the same facts and circumstances underlying her claims in this action. (Doc. 15, 3:1-4). In the pending state court action, in addition to the State of Arizona, Haas named MTC, Washburn, and others as defendants, and all parties have been served. (Id., 3:17-20). Haas requests that the Court grant her Motion for Voluntary Dismissal of this case without prejudice, permitting her to pursue her claims in state court. (Id., 1:21-24; Id., 4:24-25). II. LEGAL STANDARD. Because MTC has answered, Haas can voluntarily dismiss this case only with the Court's permission. FED. R. CIV. P. 41(a)(2). Rule 41(a)(2) allows a plaintiff, pursuant to court order, and subject to any terms and conditions the court deems proper, to dismiss an action without prejudice at any time. Westlands Water Dist. v. United States, 100 F.3d 94, 96 (9th Cir. 1996) (citing Stevedoring Servs. of Am. v. Armilla Int'l B.V., 889 F.2d 919, 921 (9th Cir. 1989)). When deciding whether to grant a voluntary motion to dismiss without prejudice, the Court must determine whether the defendant will suffer some plain legal prejudice as a result of the dismissal. Id. The Court should grant a motion for voluntary dismissal unless a defendant can demonstrate that it will suffer some plain legal prejudice as a result. Smith v. Lenches, 263 F.3d 972, 975 (9th Cir. 2001). Legal prejudice means "prejudice to some legal interest, some legal claim, some legal argument." Id. at 976 (internal citations omitted). Neither the threat of future litigation, which causes uncertainty, nor a plaintiff's delay in moving for dismissal, nor the substantial expense that a defendant has incurred in defending up until the motion to dismiss, sufficiently establishes plain legal prejudice. Westlands, 100 F.3d at 96-97. Also, plain legal prejudice Plaintiff Haas is a resident of Missouri, Defendant MTC is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Utah, and Defendant Washburn is a resident of Arizona. Plaintiff's claim is for $10,000,000. -21 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 does not result "merely because the defendant will be inconvenienced by having to defend in another forum or where a plaintiff would gain a tactical advantage by that dismissal." Smith, 263 F.3d at 976. III. ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSION. In her Motion, Haas states that her claims against the State of Arizona are steeped in the "same core of operative facts" as her claims against MTC. (Doc. 15, 3:1-7). Supporting this point, Haas also states that she plans to show liability on the State of Arizona's part through theories of vicarious liability. (Id.). MTC, in its response, does not dispute the assertion that the same set of facts underlie Haas's claims against it and the State of Arizona. (Doc. 16, 2:1-3). Haas argues that, because her claims against MTC, Washburn, and the State of Arizona arise from the same operative facts, "judicial economy and efficiency will be served by litigating these claims in one forum." (Doc. 15, 3:1-10). Haas bolsters her argument by pointing out that the State of Arizona has not consented to suit in federal court pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment (id.) and, therefore, because the nature of her claims are inextricably tied, dual proceedings in both the state and federal court systems would require wasteful, expensive, and duplicative court filings. (Doc. 17, 5:5-6:11). Additionally, Haas contends that MTC is not prejudiced by proceeding in the pending state court action because "having to defend state law claims in state court does not constitute actual prejudice." (Doc. 15, 4:5-8) (citing Smith, 263 F.3d at 976). MTC argues that Haas's Motion is premature (Doc. 16, 2:6-16), claiming that, while the State of Arizona has not waived its right to prevent suit in a federal court pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment, it has not asserted its right either. (Id.). MTC points out that this Court retains jurisdiction over all of Haas's claims against MTC and other non-State Defendants. (Id., 2:14-16). MTC further contends that Haas waived her right to a jury trial and argues that dismissal of this case will prejudice its legal interest in pursuing its defenses under a bench trial in this action rather than before a jury in the state court action. (Doc. 16, 4:1-5). MTC's argument that Haas's Motion is premature because the State of Arizona has -3- 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 not asserted its immunity from federal court jurisdiction is not persuasive. Until and unless a state unequivocally evidences its intention to subject itself to the jurisdiction of the federal court, it has asserted its Eleventh Amendment immunity. Hill v. Blind Indus. and Servs. of Md., 179 F.3d 754, 758 (9th Cir.1999). MTC's jurisdictional argument also fails, because jurisdiction over Haas's claims against MTC is not at issue here. The Court has jurisdiction over Haas's dispute with MTC. 28 U.S.C. 1332(a)(1), (b), & (c)(1). Here, the sole issue at bar is whether voluntary dismissal is proper. The Court agrees with Haas's contention that judicial efficiency requires Haas to litigate her claims against all Defendants in one forum. Unless MTC demonstrates that it will suffer some plain legal prejudice as a result, the Court may properly grant Haas's Motion. With respect to MTC's argument regarding the bench trial, on the facts, Haas did waive her right to a jury trial in this action. Haas's right to demand a jury trial expired 14 days after MTC filed its Answer on September 23, 2010. FED. R. CIV. P. 38(b)(1). MTC also correctly points out that if Haas's Motion is granted, she will be able to avail herself of a jury trial in state court, ARIZ. R. CIV. P. 38(b), after waiving this right in federal court, FED. R. CIV. P. 38(b)(1). However, MTC offers no support for its conclusion that a potential jury trial in state court establishes legal prejudice against MTC, but merely presents its conclusion as self-evident (See Doc. 16, 4:3-5), which it is not. A defendant's right to a jury trial in certain instances does not confer upon a defendant the opposite right to a bench trial. See Singer v. United States, 380 U.S. 24, 34-35 (1965) ("The ability to waive a constitutional right does not ordinarily carry with it the right to insist upon the opposite of that right."). Furthermore, Haas's waiver of a jury trial in this action does not end the issue; a jury trial may be granted on motion after the right has been waived. FED. R. CIV. P. 39(b). Therefore, because MTC failed to demonstrate that it will suffer plain legal prejudice as a result of granting Haas's Motion, the Court will grant Haas's Motion for Voluntary Dismissal. Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff Haas's Motion for Voluntary Dismissal (Doc. 15) is -4- 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 GRANTED without prejudice. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant MTC's request for an award of attorneys' fees and costs is DENIED without prejudice. Consistent with this Order, Defendant MTC may file a motion for attorneys' fees and costs in accordance with Local Rule 54.2. DATED this 24th day of February, 2011. -5-

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