Ahlstrom v. DHI Mortgage Company, LTD., L.P.

Filing 57

ORDER GRANTING [48, 50] MOTION TO SUBSTITUTE PARTY. Signed by Judge Beth Labson Freeman on 1/18/2023. (blflc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 1/18/2023)

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Case 5:19-cv-03435-BLF Document 57 Filed 01/18/23 Page 1 of 4 1 2 3 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 4 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 5 SAN JOSE DIVISION 6 7 ROBERT W. AHLSTROM, Plaintiff, 8 9 10 11 Case No. 19-cv-03435-BLF ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO SUBSTITUTE v. DHI MORTGAGE COMPANY, LTD., L.P., [Re: ECF No. 50] United States District Court Northern District of California Defendant. 12 13 Plaintiff Robert W. Ahlstrom brought suit on behalf of himself and a putative class of 14 others similarly situated against Defendants DHI Mortgage Company, Ltd. L.P. (“DHIM Ltd.”) 15 and DOES 1 to 50 (collectively, “Defendants”) for state law wage and hour and contract 16 violations. See generally ECF 1-1 (“Compl.”). On November 3, 2022, Plaintiff, through counsel, 17 filed a motion notifying the Court that Named Plaintiff Robert W. Ahlstrom passed away and 18 requesting to substitute the Estate of Robert W. Ahlstrom as Named Plaintiff. ECF No. 50, Ex. A 19 (“Mot.”); see also ECF No. 54 (“Reply”). Defendant DHIM Ltd. (“Defendant”) opposes the 20 motion. ECF No. 51 (“Opp.”). The Court finds the matter suitable for submission without oral 21 argument and thus VACATES the hearing set for March 23, 2022 at 9:00 a.m. See Civ. L.R. 7- 22 1(b). For the reasons explained below, the Court GRANTS the motion. 23 Rule 25 addresses the death of a party: “If a party dies and the claim is not extinguished, 24 the court may order substitution of the proper party. A motion for substitution may be made by 25 any party or by the decedent's successor or representative. If the motion is not made within 90 26 days after service of a statement noting the death, the action by or against the decedent must be 27 dismissed.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 25(a)(1). “In deciding a motion to substitute under Rule 25(a)(1), a 28 court must consider whether: (1) the motion is timely, (2) the claims pled are extinguished; and (3) Case 5:19-cv-03435-BLF Document 57 Filed 01/18/23 Page 2 of 4 1 the person being substituted is a proper party.” Veliz v. Cinta Corp., No. C 03-1180 RS, 2008 WL 2 2811171, at *1 (N.D. Cal. July 17, 2008) (footnote omitted). “If Rule 25(a)(1) is met, ‘[t]he 3 substituted party steps into the same position as [the] original party.’” Id. (quoting Hilao v. Estate 4 of Marcos, 103 F.3d 762, 766 (9th Cir. 1996)). United States District Court Northern District of California 5 Here, the Court finds that the motion satisfies the requirements of Rule 25(a). First, the 6 motion is timely, as Plaintiff’s attorney filed a Suggestion of Death on October 13, 2022, and the 7 motion to substitute was filed on November 3, 2022. See ECF No. 47; Mot. Second, the claims 8 are not extinguished. “The question of whether an action survives the death of a party must be 9 determined by looking towards the law, state or federal, under which the cause of action arose.” 10 Stribling v. Lucero, No. 2:16-cv-01438-TLN-JDP, 2021 WL 516849, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 11, 11 2021) (quoting Cont’l Assurance Co. v. Am. Bankshares Corp., 483 F. Supp. 175, 177 (E.D. Wis. 12 1980)). “The test for survivorship hinges on whether the statutory provision is primarily penal in 13 nature or remedial in nature.” Id. (citing Bracken v. Harris & Zide, L.L.P., 219 F.R.D. 481, 483 14 (N.D. Cal. 2004)). Plaintiff brings five claims under the California Labor Code, one claim under 15 California’s Unfair Competition Law, one claim under the Federal Labor Standards Act, and two 16 California common law claims. See generally Compl. As argued by Plaintiff, these claims are all 17 remedial in nature. The Court finds they are not extinguished. See Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 18 377.20(a) (“Except as otherwise provided by statute, a cause of action for or against a person is 19 not lost by reason of the person’s death, but survives subject to the applicable limitations 20 period.”); Veliz, 2008 WL 2811171, at *1 n.2 (stating there is “ample case law” that FLSA claims 21 are not extinguished upon the plaintiff’s death). Defendant does not argue otherwise. See Opp. 22 Third, the Estate is a proper party. “The rule defines the ‘proper party’ for substitution as 23 either ‘the decedent's successor or representative.’” Gilmore v. Lockard, No. 1:12-cv-00925- 24 NONE-SAB (PC), 2020 WL 3288417, at *2 (E.D. Cal. June 18, 2020). The Court must look to 25 California law to determine a “proper party” for purposes of Rule 25(a)(1). See Chalfant v. United 26 of Omaha Life Ins. Co., No. 15-cv-03577-HSG, 2016 WL 4539453, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 31, 27 2016). California law defines “personal representative” as an “executor, administrator, . . . 28 successor personal representative . . . or a person who performs substantially the same function 2 United States District Court Northern District of California Case 5:19-cv-03435-BLF Document 57 Filed 01/18/23 Page 3 of 4 1 under the law of another jurisdiction governing the person’s status.” Cal. Prob. Code § 58(a). 2 California law defines “decedent’s successor in interest” as “the beneficiary of the decedent's 3 estate or other successor in interest who succeeds to a cause of action or to a particular item of the 4 property that is the subject of a cause of action.” Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 377.11. And the term 5 “beneficiary of the decedent’s estate” means a beneficiary named in a will or a beneficiary under 6 California intestacy rules. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 377.10. Mr. Ahlstrom died without a will and 7 was never married, and his surviving daughter, Kianna L. Ahlstrom, is the sole beneficiary of his 8 estate. Declaration of Kianna L. Ahlstrom, ECF No. 48-1 ¶ 3. She is therefore the proper party 9 for substitution. See Martinez v. Animal Health Int’l, No. 1:21-CV-00965-JLT-SKO, 2022 WL 10 2791171, at *2 (E.D. Cal. July 15, 2022) (substituting surviving children under California law 11 when decedent died intestate). 12 Defendant’s main argument in opposition is that the Estate cannot be the representative for 13 a class or collective action. See Opp. at 7-13. But these arguments are being made under Rule 23 14 and, as noted by Plaintiff, are properly addressed on a motion for class certification. See Reply at 15 1-4. Defendant next argues that it will be prejudiced by the substitution because it did not have 16 the opportunity to conduct discovery as to Mr. Ahlstrom. See Opp. at 13-14. But in the case 17 Defendant points to in support of its prejudice argument, the court granted the motion to substitute 18 even though seven years had passed since the decedent’s death. See Gilmore, 2020 WL 3288417, 19 at *3. The Court finds Defendant has not shown prejudice here. And finally, Defendant argues 20 that the motion should be denied because there is no Estate and Ms. Ahlstrom has not been 21 appointed personal representative. See Opp. at 14. But, for the reasons discussed above, Ms. 22 Ahlstrom is the proper party for substitution under California law. 23 // 24 // 25 // 26 // 27 // 28 // 3 Case 5:19-cv-03435-BLF Document 57 Filed 01/18/23 Page 4 of 4 1 For the foregoing reasons, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff’s motion to substitute 2 the Estate of Robert W. Ahlstrom through Kianna Ahlstrom for Robert W. Ahlstrom is 3 GRANTED. The Clerk SHALL substitute the Estate of Robert W. Ahlstrom through Kianna 4 Ahlstrom as Plaintiff and class representative in place of Robert W. Ahlstrom. 5 6 7 8 Dated: January 18, 2023 ______________________________________ BETH LABSON FREEMAN United States District Judge 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 4

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