Barrick v. American Airlines, Inc

Filing 44

ORDER granting plaintiff's 33 Motion to amend ; plaintiff to file second amended complaint within 7 days; denying defendant's 35 Motion for Protective Order signed by U.S. District Judge John C Coughenour.(RS)

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THE HONORABLE JOHN C. COUGHENOUR 1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 7 8 9 REBECCA BARRICK, 10 Plaintiff, v. 11 AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC., 12 13 CASE NO. C16-5957-JCC ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR A PROTECTIVE ORDER AND GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO AMEND Defendant. 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 This matter comes before the Court on Defendant American Airline’s motion for a protective order (Dkt. No. 35) and Plaintiff Rebecca Barrick’s motion to amend (Dkt. No. 33). Having thoroughly considered the parties’ briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby DENIES the motion for a protective order and GRANTS the motion to amend for the reasons explained herein. I. BACKGROUND On an American Airlines flight from Seattle to Philadelphia, Plaintiff’s chest was burned by a bag of dry ice. (Dkt. No. 31 at ¶¶ 6–10.) After, she filed this negligence and gross negligence action against Defendant. (See Dkt. No. 31.) Defendant responded to her amended complaint, admitting that it is “liable for all of Ms. Barrick’s proximately caused damages.” (Dkt. No. 39 at 2; see also Dkt. No. 32 at ¶¶ 10, 14, 17, 18, 22, 23, 25.) Defendant has filed a 26 ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR A PROTECTIVE ORDER AND GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO AMEND PAGE - 1 1 motion for a protective order to limit Plaintiff’s discovery requests to relevant information about 2 damages. (Dkt. No. 35.) Plaintiff also filed a motion to amend her complaint a second time. (Dkt. 3 No. 33.) 4 II. DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR A PROTECTIVE ORDER 5 “Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any 6 party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 (b)(1). 7 However, “the court must limit the frequency or extent of discovery [if] . . . the proposed 8 discovery is outside the scope permitted by Rule 26(b)(1).” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 (b)(2)(C). “The 9 court may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party from . . . undue burden or expense.” 10 Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 (c)(1). When a defendant admits liability for all damages caused to a plaintiff, 11 the court may limit discovery to damages. See Broncel v. H & R Transp., Ltd., 2011 WL 319822, 12 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 28, 2011) (holding that plaintiff was not entitled to depose defendant Wilson 13 because the defendants had already admitted liability); Ayat v. Societe Air France, 2008 WL 14 114936, (N.D. Cal. Jan. 8, 2008) (holding that further discovery into liability was not warranted 15 because the defendant did not contest liability and only asserted three affirmative defenses, all 16 related to damages). 17 Here, Defendant seeks a protective order to limit discovery to damages. (Dkt. No. 35.) 18 However, Plaintiff maintains that she is entitled to more expansive discovery because Defendant 19 “has not admitted liability to most of Plaintiff’s claims, and has expressly denied most of the 20 offending actions.” (Dkt. No. 37 at 4.) Plaintiff’s argument is persuasive because Defendant has 21 only admitted to liability for all of Plaintiff’s proximately caused damages. (See Dkt. Nos. 32, 22 35, 41.) While Defendant’s admission is helpful to Plaintiff, there is some vagueness as to the 23 admission. Defendant admits to liability for proximately caused damages, but does not stipulate 24 it is in fact the cause of such damages. If Plaintiff is not entitled to discover the circumstances 25 that led to her injury, she would be at a significant disadvantage in this litigation. While this 26 ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR A PROTECTIVE ORDER AND GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO AMEND PAGE - 2 1 causation issue is unresolved, the Court will prudently leave discovery open. Defendant’s motion 2 for a protective order limiting discovery to damages is DENIED. 1 3 III. 4 PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO AMEND The Court is afforded discretion and “should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so 5 requires.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). When deciding whether leave should be granted, “[f]ive 6 factors are taken into account . . . bad faith, undue delay, prejudice to the opposing party, futility 7 of amendment, and whether the plaintiff has previously amended the complaint.” Johnson v. 8 Buckley, 356 F.3d 1067, 1077 (9th Cir. 2004). 9 Plaintiff’s motion to amend builds on the issue of causation, and thus is not futile. The 10 amendment is minimal, but the proposed complaint does allege with more specificity the types of 11 harm suffered by Plaintiff, specifically emotional damages. (See Dkt. No. 33-3 at ¶ 26.) This 12 newly alleged harm demonstrates a need for more expansive discovery into its cause. Plaintiff 13 has previously amended her complaint, but the Court concludes the proposed amendment is not 14 futile, nor is it unfair. Thus, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff’s motion to amend her complaint. 15 IV. 16 CONCLUSION For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff’s motion to amend (Dkt. No. 33) is GRANTED, and 17 Defendant’s motion for a protective order (Dkt. No. 35) is DENIED. Plaintiff is ORDERED to 18 file her second amended complaint (Dkt. No. 33-3) within 7 days of this order. 19 DATED this 8th day of August 2017. 20 A 21 22 23 John C. Coughenour UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 24 25 26 1 The parties dispute the relevance and proportionality of Plaintiff’s discovery requests. However, this is not a motion to compel. The Court will not address this issue in a motion for a protective order. ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR A PROTECTIVE ORDER AND GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO AMEND PAGE - 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 ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR A PROTECTIVE ORDER AND GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO AMEND PAGE - 4

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