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Clark v. Focus North America Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

April 5, 2019

SHARON CLARK, Plaintiff,
v.
FOCUS NORTH AMERICA TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendant.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          YOU, MAGISTRATE JUDGE:

         Plaintiff Sharon Clark has brought suit against defendant Focus North America Transportation, Inc. (“Focus”) for claims arising out of a vehicular collision that occurred in Linn County, Oregon, on May 1, 2017. According to the Complaint, plaintiff was a passenger in an automobile driven by third-party defendant, Dale Wilson (“Wilson”), when Karl Ward (“Ward”) backed a semi-truck out of a driveway, causing the automobile to collide with the back end of the semi-truck. Compl. ¶ 5, ECF #1-1.

         Plaintiff originally filed suit in Linn County against both Focus and Ward. Plaintiff subsequently dismissed the Linn County suit and filed in Multnomah County, omitting Ward as a defendant.

         On July 24, 2018, Focus removed this case to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiff has filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint and motion to remand. ECF #21. After considering the briefing and oral argument of the parties, [1] this court recommends that plaintiff's motions be granted for the reasons discussed below.

         FINDINGS

         I. Relevant Law

         A. Amendment of Complaint

         “Rule 15(a) declares that leave to amend shall be freely given when justice so requires; this mandate is to be heeded.” Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962) (internal quotation marks omitted). A ruling on a requested amendment is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Ariz. Students' Ass'n v. Ariz. Bd. of Regents, 824 F.3d 858, 871 (9th Cir. 2016) (citations omitted). When exercising its discretion on a motion to amend, the court should be guided by the underlying purpose of FRCP 15(a), which is “to facilitate decisions on merits, rather than on the pleadings or technicalities.” Novak v. United States, 795 F.3d 1012, 1020 (9th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). Thus, leave to amend is to be granted with “extreme liberality.” Desertrain v. City of Los Angeles, 754 F.3d 1147, 1154 (9th Cir. 2014); see also Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1051 (9th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted).

         The court may consider factors “such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment” and deny leave to amend on those or similar grounds. Foman, 371 U.S. at 182. However, “outright refusal to grant leave without any justifying reason appearing for the denial is not an exercise of discretion; it is merely abuse of that discretion and inconsistent with the spirit of the Federal Rules.” Id.

         Absent prejudice, there is a strong presumption in favor of granting leave to amend. Eminence Capital, 316 F.3d at 1052 (citation omitted). Nevertheless, futility may support denial of a motion to amend if it is clear that the pleading, as amended, is subject to dismissal and cannot be cured by amendment. United States v. Corinthian Colleges, 655 F.3d 984, 995 (9th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted). “Leave to amend is warranted if the deficiencies can be cured with additional allegations that are consistent with the challenged pleading and that do not contradict the allegations in the original complaint.” Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         B. Joinder

         Plaintiff's motion for joinder of parties is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1447(e):

If after removal the plaintiff seeks to join additional defendants whose joinder would destroy subject matter jurisdiction, the court may deny joinder, or permit joinder and remand the action to the State court.

         The court's decision to permit joinder under § 1447(e) is discretionary. Stevens v. Brink's Home Sec., Inc., 378 F.3d 944, 949 (9th Cir. 2004); Newcombe v. Adolph Coors Co., 157 F.3d 686, 691 (9th Cir. 1998) (“The language of § 1447(e) is couched in permissive terms and it clearly gives the district court the discretion to deny joinder.”). In deciding whether to permit joinder under § 1447(e), courts have considered:

(1) whether the would-be defendants are necessary for just adjudication of the controversy; (2) whether the plaintiff still could bring an action in state court against the putative defendants; (3) whether there has been any unexplained delay in joinder; (4) whether it appears the plaintiff is seeking to destroy diversity; (5) the apparent merit of the claims against the new parties; and (6) whether plaintiff would suffer prejudice without the joinder of the defendants.

Garrett v. New Hampshire Ins. Co., No. 3:11-CV-788-HZ, 2012 WL 426004, at *4 (D. Or. Feb. 9, 2012); see also Clinco v. Roberts, 41 F.Supp.2d 1080, 1082 (C.D. Cal. 1999) (citing Schwarzer, et al., California Practice Guide: Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial, ¶ 2:1078 (TRG 1998) (citing cases)). “Any of the factors might prove decisive, and none is an absolutely necessary condition for joinder.” Yang v. Swissport USA, Inc., No. C 09-03823 SI, 2010 WL 2680800, at *3 (N.D. Cal. July 6, 2010).

         II. Analysis

         A. Whether Ward is Necessary Defendant for Just Adjudication

         “Courts prevent joinder of a diversity-destroying defendant where the defendant is only tangentially related to the cause of action or would not prevent complete relief.” Falcon v. Scottsdale Ins. Co., No. CV-06-122-FVS, 2006 WL 2434227, at *2 (E.D. Wash. Aug. 21, 2006). Here, plaintiff seeks to join Ward, the driver whose actions purportedly caused the collision. Given that Ward's actions allegedly caused ...


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