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Ashcraft v. Welk Resort Group

United States District Court, D. Nevada

January 10, 2018

JOHN E. ASHCRAFT, Plaintiffs,
v.
WELK RESORT GROUP, CORP, et al, Defendants.

          ORDER (DOCKET NO. 66)

          NANCY J. KOPPE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend the complaint. Docket No. 66; see also Docket Nos. 67, 70 (errata). Defendant Experian filed a response in opposition. Docket No. 69. Plaintiff filed a reply. Docket No. 74. The motion is properly resolved without a hearing. Local Rule 78-1. For the reasons discussed below, the motion is GRANTED.[1]

I. BACKGROUND

         This case involves claims under the Fair Credit Report Act arising out of Defendants' handling of a credit dispute arising after Plaintiff obtained a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. See Docket No. 1. Plaintiff initiated this case on December 22, 2016, id., and Experian filed an answer on February 7, 2017, Docket No. 5.[2] The Court issued a scheduling order setting a deadline to amend the pleadings for May 9, 2017. Docket No. 12.

         On May 3, 2017, Plaintiff conducted his Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of Experian. See Docket No. 31-5. On May 9, 2017, Plaintiff moved to amend his complaint to, inter alia, add class action claims. Docket No. 24. Due to a dispute over Experian's errata to its deponent's testimony, Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend was denied without prejudice. Docket No. 29. The parties then engaged in motion practice on the disputed errata, and that dispute was resolved on November 8, 2017. Docket No. 64.[3]Plaintiff then refiled his motion for leave to amend by the new deadline set by the Court, Docket No. 66, which is the matter now before the Court.

         II. STANDARDS

         Courts examine whether amendment is proper under the standards outlined in Rule 15(a). Rule 15(a) provides that “[t]he court should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires, ” and there is a strong public policy in favor of permitting amendment. Bowles v. Reade, 198 F.3d 752, 757 (9th Cir. 1999). As such, the Ninth Circuit has made clear that Rule 15(a) is to be applied with “extreme liberality.” Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1051 (9th Cir. 2003) (per curiam). Under Rule 15(a), courts consider various factors, including: (1) bad faith; (2) undue delay; (3) prejudice to the opposing party; (4) futility of the amendment; and (5) whether the plaintiff has previously amended the complaint. See Id. at 1052. These factors do not carry equal weight, however, and prejudice is the touchstone of the analysis. See id.

         Because of the liberal policy in favor of amendment, the party opposing the amendment bears the burden of showing why leave to amend should be denied. See, e.g., Desert Protective Council v. U.S. Dept. of the Interior, 927 F.Supp.2d 949, 962 (S.D. Cal. 2013) (citing Genentech, Inc. v. Abbott Labs., 127 F.R.D. 529, 530-31 (N.D. Cal. 1989)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Experian raises several arguments in opposition to the motion for leave to amend, asserting that there has been undue delay in seeking amendment, that it will be prejudiced by amendment, and that amendment is futile. The Court addresses each argument below in turn.

         A. UNDUE DELAY

         Experian argues that some aspects of Plaintiff's amendments[4] could have been made sooner, and that Plaintiff unduly delayed in that respect by not seeking such amendment until the deadline to seek amendment, May 9, 2017. See Docket No. 69 at 6-7.[5] The Court is not persuaded. Undue delay, standing alone, is not sufficient to justify denying leave to amend, although it can be a factor that undermines an attempt to amend the pleadings. See, e.g., United States v. United Healthcare Ins. Co., 848 F.3d 1161, 1184 (9th Cir. 2016). “A strong presumption against a finding of undue delay exists when a case is still in discovery, ” Hologram USA, Inc. v. Pulse Evolution Corp., No. 2:14-cv-0772-GMN-NJK, 2015 WL 316900, at *3 (D. Nev. Jan. 23, 2015) (citing DCD Programs, Ltd. v. Leighton, 833 F.2d 183, 187-88 (9th Cir. 1987)). At the time Plaintiff sought leave to amend, this case was in its early stages, with Experian having only appeared a few months earlier and the discovery cutoff several months in the distance. See Docket No. 5 (answer filed February 7, 2017); Docket No. 12 (setting discovery cutoff for August 7, 2015). Such circumstances militate strongly against a finding of undue delay, and Experian's conclusory assertions that parts of the proposed amended complaint could have been brought sooner are insufficient to establish otherwise. Accordingly, the Court finds there was no undue delay.

         B. PREJUDICE

         Experian next argues that it is prejudiced by any amendment because allowing the addition of class claims would expand the scope of this case, resulting in added expense and delay. Docket No. 69 at 8. The Court is not persuaded. Transforming an individual action into a class action does not, in and of itself, create the type of prejudice sufficient to deny leave to amend. See, e.g., Presser v. Key Food Stores Co-op, Inc., 218 F.R.D. 53, 56 (E.D.N.Y. 2003). “While the additional class allegation will likely increase some of the needed discovery and may add some time for final disposition of the case, such is the case with most any amendment to a pleading in which a claim is being added.” Lopez v. City of Chicago, No. 01 C 1823, 2002 WL 31415767, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 25, 2002). As noted ...


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