Ridola v. Gold State Investments, Inc. et al

Filing 39

ORDER GRANTING 36 MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND COMPLAINT. Signed by Judge Beth Labson Freeman on 6/22/2017. (blflc4S, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 6/22/2017)

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1 2 3 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 4 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 5 SAN JOSE DIVISION 6 7 RACHELLE RIDOLA, 8 Plaintiff, 10 INGRID CHAO, et al., [Re: ECF 36] Defendants. 11 United States District Court Northern District of California ORDER GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND v. 9 Case No. 16-cv-02246-BLF 12 Before the Court is Plaintiff Rachelle Ridola (“Ridola”)’s motion for leave to file a first 13 14 amended complaint (“FAC”) adding allegations directed to accessibility barriers identified during 15 the joint site inspection. Mot. 2, ECF 36-1. The time to oppose the motion has elapsed and no 16 opposition has been filed. Pursuant to Civ. L.R. 7-1(b), the Court finds Ridola’s motion for leave 17 to amend suitable for submission without oral argument and hereby VACATES the hearing 18 scheduled for October 26, 2017. As set forth below, the Court finds that the factors weigh in favor 19 of granting leave and hereby GRANTS the motion. 20 21 I. BACKGROUND Ridola brings this suit against Ingrid Chao and Nelson Chao (collectively, “Defendants”), 22 d/b/a Executive Inn-Morgan Hill (“Motel”), for allegedly failing to make the Motel and its parking 23 lot accessible to all customers regardless of disability. Compl., ¶¶ 1-2, ECF 1. The complaint was 24 filed on April 25, 2016. Mot. 2. The joint site inspection was conducted on August 5, 2016. Id.; 25 Ex. B to Mot. Ridola avers that the joint sit inspection report identified 46 accessibility barriers 26 related to her disability. Id.; Mot. 2. 27 28 The parties attended a court-sponsored mediation on December 20, 2016 and a settlement conference held by Magistrate Judge Nathaniel Cousins on May 6, 2017. Mot. 2. However, no 1 settlement was reached. 2 On March 23, 2017, the parties appeared for an initial case management conference and 3 the Court subsequently issued a scheduling order, setting the last day to amend the pleadings 60 4 days from the date of the order – May 22, 2017. On May 9, 2017, Ridola asked Defendants to stipulate to the proposed FAC but 5 6 Defendants did not respond to the request. Id. at 3. Ridola then filed the instant motion on May 7 22, 2017. Mot. 8 II. LEGAL STANDARD Where, as here, a party moves to amend its pleadings on or before the deadline to amend 9 the pleadings, a motion for leave to amend is evaluated under Rule 15. See Coleman v. Quaker 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 Oats Co., 232 F.3d 1271, 1294 (9th Cir. 2000). Rule 15 provides that “[t]he court should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so 12 13 requires.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). In deciding whether to grant leave to amend, the Court must 14 consider the factors set forth by the Supreme Court in Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178 (1962), and 15 discussed at length by the Ninth Circuit in Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048 16 (9th Cir. 2009). A district court ordinarily must grant leave to amend unless one or more of the 17 Foman factors is present: (1) undue delay, (2) bad faith or dilatory motive, (3) repeated failure to 18 cure deficiencies by amendment, (4) undue prejudice to the opposing party, and (5) futility of 19 amendment. Eminence Capital, 316 F.3d at 1052. “[I]t is the consideration of prejudice to the 20 opposing party that carries the greatest weight.” Id. However a strong showing with respect to 21 one of the other factors may warrant denial of leave to amend. Id. 22 III. DISCUSSION 23 The factor of “repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendment” does not apply here 24 because this would be the first amendment of the complaint. However, the Court finds that the 25 remaining factors weigh in favor of granting leave to amend for reasons set forth below. 26 27 28 A. Undue Delay; Bad Faith or Dilatory Motive Ridola argues that even if there has been some delay in seeking leave to amend, the delay is not undue and she is seeking this amendment in good faith. Mot. 5. Specifically, Ridola first 2 1 attempted to resolve the case during the December 20, 2016 mediation and later during the May 6, 2 2017 settlement conference. Id. Ridola avers that she was under a good faith belief that a 3 settlement would be forthcoming and so believed that amending the complaint would be 4 unnecessary and premature. Id. Moreover, Ridola claims that the amendment does not add new 5 legal theories or additional defendants but would only allege additional barriers identified in the 6 joint site inspection report. Id. at 6. The Court finds neither undue delay nor bad faith on Ridola’s part. Although Ridola could 7 8 have sought an amendment earlier, she had a good faith belief that there was no need to incur 9 additional attorney’s fees in connection with an amendment of the complaint given a forthcoming settlement. Such circumstances do not make the delay necessarily undue. There is also no 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 demonstration of bad faith. The proposed amendment would only be directed to the newly 12 identified barriers, which Ridola did not pursue earlier only because she thought the case would 13 settle. The Court thus finds that there is no undue delay or bad faith. Nonetheless, even if the 14 delay was substantial, this factor alone is not a sufficient ground for denial of leave to amend. 15 E.g., United States v. Webb, 655 F.2d 977, 980 (9th Cir. 1981) (noting that “delay alone no matter 16 how lengthy is an insufficient ground for denial of leave to amend”); United States v. Pend Oreille 17 Pub. Util. Dist. No. 1, 926 F.2d 1502, 1511-12 (9th Cir. 1991) (“Where there is a lack of prejudice 18 to the opposing party and the amended complaint is obviously not frivolous, or made as a dilatory 19 maneuver in bad faith, it is an abuse of discretion”) (citation omitted). 20 21 B. Undue Prejudice to Defendants Ridola contends that Defendants cannot carry the burden of showing prejudice because the 22 amendment does not include new causes of action or a new party. Mot. 4. Ridola further 23 underscores that neither party has served written discovery or conducted any deposition and the 24 discovery cut-off is not until October 31, 2018. Id. 25 “The party opposing amendment bears the burden of showing prejudice,” but in the 26 absence of an opposition, Defendants have failed to do so here. DCD Programs, Ltd. v. Leighton, 27 833 F.2d 183, 187 (9th Cir. 1987). Moreover, the initial complaint has provided notice to 28 Defendants that Ridola would amend the complaint when additional barriers are identified during 3 1 the joint site inspection. See Compl. ¶ 17. Defendant Nelson Chao was also informed during the 2 case management conference on March 23, 2017 that Ridola intended to amend her complaint. 3 Karbelashvili Decl. ¶ 7, ECF 36-2. Given the lack of opposition and the notice of a possibility of 4 a forthcoming amendment, the Court finds that the proposed amendment would not pose undue 5 prejudice to Defendants. 6 C. Futility of the Amendment Ridola contends that the proposed amendment is not futile because she has the right to 7 8 pursue an injunction to remove all barriers and that the additional allegations are necessary to give 9 Defendants fair notice of every barriers that should be removed. Mot. 6-7. “[A] proposed amendment is futile only if no set of facts can be proved under the 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 amendment to the pleadings that would constitute a valid and sufficient claim or defense.” Miller 12 v. Rykoff-Sexton, Inc., 845 F.2d 209, 214 (9th Cir. 1988). The Ninth Circuit has alternatively 13 stated that the test of whether amendment would be futile is “identical to the one used when 14 considering the sufficiency of a pleading challenged under Rule 12(b)(6).” Id.; see Utterkar v. 15 Ebix, Inc., No. 14-02250-LHK, 2015 WL 5027986, at *8 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 25, 2015). The Court finds that the proposed amendment is not futile. The Ninth Circuit has held that 16 17 “[a]n ADA plaintiff who has Article III standing as a result of at least one barrier at a place of 18 public accommodation may, in one suit, permissibly challenge all barriers in that public 19 accommodation that are related to his or her specific disability.” Chapman v. Pier 1 Imports 20 (U.S.) Inc., 631 F.3d 939, 950-51 (9th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). “[I]in order for the complaint 21 to provide fair notice to the defendant, each such feature must be alleged in the complaint.” Oliver 22 v. Ralphs Grocery Co., 654 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2011) (finding that accessibility barriers listed 23 only in an expert report failed to provide a fair notice to the defendant if they were not listed in the 24 complaint). Since Ridola could pursue an injunction as to all barriers that she could encounter, the 25 proposed amendment related to the additional barriers is not futile. 26 IV. 27 28 ORDER For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS Ridola’s motion for leave to amend the complaint, as set forth in Exhibit A of this motion. Ridola shall file the FAC attached to its 4 1 motion as Exhibit A, ECF 36-3, as a separate docket entry on or before June 30, 2017. 2 Dated: June 22, 2017 3 4 ______________________________________ BETH LABSON FREEMAN United States District Judge 5 6 7 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5

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