Judge: Michael E. Whitaker, Case: 20STCV49848, Date: 2022-08-10 Tentative Ruling

Case Number: 20STCV49848    Hearing Date: August 10, 2022    Dept: 32

PLEASE NOTE:   Parties are encouraged to meet and confer concerning this tentative ruling to determine if a resolution may be reached.  If the parties are unable to reach a resolution and a party intends to submit on this tentative ruling, the party must send an email to the Court at sscdept32@lacourt.org indicating that party’s intention to submit.  The email shall include the case number, date and time of the hearing, counsel’s contact information (if applicable), and the identity of the party submitting on this tentative ruling.  If the Court does not receive an email indicating the parties are submitting on this tentative ruling and there are no appearances at the hearing, the Court may place the motion off calendar or adopt the tentative ruling as the order of the Court.  If all parties do not submit on this tentative ruling, they should arrange to appear in-person or remotely (which is highly encouraged).  Further, after the Court has posted/issued a tentative ruling, the Court has the inherent authority to prohibit the withdrawal of the subject motion and adopt the tentative ruling as the order of the Court. 

 

TENTATIVE RULING

 

DEPARTMENT

32

HEARING DATE

August 10, 2022

CASE NUMBER

20STCV49848

MOTION

Leave to File First Amended Complaint

MOVING PARTY

Plaintiff Glynis Cynthia Bogda

OPPOSING PARTY

Defendant Seera Creative, LLC

 

MOTION

 

Plaintiff Glynis Cynthia Bogda moves the Court for an order granting leave to file a first amended complaint to assert a claim for punitive damages against defendant Seera Creative, LLC.  Defendant opposes the motion.  

 

ANALYSIS

           

Amendments to Pleadings:  General Provisions     

 

Under Code of Civil Procedure section 473, subdivision (a)(1), “The court may, in furtherance of justice, and on any terms as may be proper, allow a party to amend any pleading or proceeding by adding or striking out the name of any party, or by correcting a mistake in the name of a party, or a mistake in any other respect; and may, upon like terms, enlarge the time for answer or demurrer. The court may likewise, in its discretion, after notice to the adverse party, allow, upon any terms as may be just, an amendment to any pleading or proceeding in other particulars; and may upon like terms allow an answer to be made after the time limited by this code.”

            To wit, without notice to the other party the Court has wide discretion to allow either party (i) to add or strike the name of a party or (ii) to correct a mistake in the name of a party or a mistake in any other respect “in furtherance of justice” and “on any terms as may be proper.”  (See Code Civ. Proc., § 473, subd. (a)(1); see also Marriage of Liss (1992) 10 Cal.App.4th 1426, 1429.)  Alternatively, after notice to the other party, the Court has wide discretion to allow either party to amend pleadings “upon any terms as may be just.”  (See Code Civ. Proc., § 473, subd. (a)(1).  Similarly, Code of Civil Procedure section 576 states “Any judge, at any time before or after commencement of trial, in the furtherance of justice, and upon such terms as may be proper, may allow the amendment of any pleading or pretrial conference order.” 

 

            Judicial policy favors resolution of all disputed matters between the parties and, therefore, leave to amend is liberally granted.  (Berman vs. Bromberg (1986) 56 Cal.App.4th 936, 945; Hirsa v. Superior Court (1981) 118 Cal.App.3d 486, 488-489 [this has been an established policy in California since 1901] (citing Frost v. Whitter (1901) 132 Cal. 421, 424; Thomas v. Bruza (1957) 151 Cal.App.2d 150, 155).)  The Court of Appeal in Morgan v. Superior Court held “If the motion to amend is timely made and the granting of the motion will not prejudice the opposing party, it is error to refuse permission to amend and where the refusal also results in a party being deprived of the right to assert a meritorious cause of action or a meritorious defense, it is not only error but an abuse of discretion.”  (Morgan v. Superior Court (1959) 172 Cal.App.2d 527, 530, citations omitted.)  Moreover, “it is an abuse of discretion for the court to deny leave to amend where the opposing party was not misled or prejudiced by the amendment.”  (Kittredge Sports Co. v. Superior Court (1989) 213 Cal.App.3d 1045, 1048 [opposing party did not establish harm by the delay in moving to amend the complaint].) 

 

            “The court may grant leave to amend the pleadings at any stage of the action.” (Weil & Brown, Cal. Practice Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial (The Rutter Group 2022) ¶ 6:636 (hereafter Weil & Brown).)  Denial of a motion to amend is rarely justified if the motion is timely made and granting the motion will not prejudice the opposing party. (Id. at ¶ 6:639, citations omitted.)  However, if the party seeking the amendment has been dilatory, and the delay has prejudiced the opposing party, the judge has discretion to deny leave to amend. (Id. at ¶ 6:655, citations omitted. Absent prejudice, any claimed delay alone is not grounds for denial. “If the delay in seeking the amendment has not misled or prejudiced the other side, the liberal policy of allowing amendments prevails. Indeed, it is an abuse of discretion to deny leave in such a case even if sought as late as the time of trial. (Id. at ¶ 6:653 (citing Higgins v. Del Faro (1981) 123 Cal.App.3d 558, 564-565).)  “Prejudice exists where the amendment would result in a delay of trial, along with loss of critical evidence, added costs of preparation, increased burden of discovery, etc.  . . .  But the fact that the amendment involves a change in legal theory which would make admissible evidence damaging to the opposing party is not the kind of prejudice the court will consider.”  (Weil & Brown, supra, at ¶ 6:656, citations omitted.)

 

            “Even if some prejudice is shown, the judge may still permit the amendment but impose conditions, as the Court is authorized to grant leave ‘on such terms as may be proper.’”  (Weil & Brown, supra, at ¶ 6:663, citation omitted.)  For example, the court may cause the party seeking the amendment to pay the costs and fees incurred in preparing for trial. (Id. at ¶ 6:664 (citing Fuller v. Vista Del Arroyo Hotel, 42 Cal.App.2d 400, 404).)

 

California Rules of Court, rule 3.1324:  Procedural Requirements

 

            Pursuant to California Rules of Court, rule 3.1324(a), a motion to amend a pleading before trial must:

 

“(1) Include a copy of the proposed amendment or amended pleadings, which must be serially numbered to differentiate it from previous pleadings or amendments;

(2) state what allegations in the previous pleading are proposed to be deleted, if any, and where, by page, paragraph, and line number, the deleted allegations are located; and

(3) State what allegations are proposed to be added to the previous pleading, if any, and where, by page, paragraph, and line number, the additional allegations are located.”

 

            In addition, under Rule 3.1324(b), a motion to amend a pleading before trial must be accompanied by a separate declaration that specifies the following:

 

“(1) the effect of the amendment;

  (2) why the amendment is necessary and proper;

(3) when the facts giving rise to the amended allegations were discovered; and

(4) the reasons why the request for amendment was not made earlier.”

 

Here, Plaintiff filed her original complaint on December 30, 2020, asserting causes of action for product negligence, strict liability, breach of warranty, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and loss of consortium based on injuries Plaintiff alleges she sustained from an indoor/outdoor fireplace manufactured by Defendant. As set forth in the Declaration of Andrew G.O. Biren (“Biren”), the facts forming the basis for the proposed amendment came to light through written discovery and depositions.  (Declaration of Andrew G.O. Biren, ¶ 7.)  Biren avers that Plaintiff reserved the earliest available date for the motion once it was determined that a claim for punitive damages was warranted.  (Declaration of Andrew G.O. Biren, ¶ 8.)  Biren states Defendant will not be prejudiced by the proposed amendment because it is being made nearly one year before trial and the underlying facts supporting the claim are adequately presented to Defendant by virtue of the motion.  (Declaration of Andrew G.O. Biren, ¶ 9.) 

 

In opposition, Defendant contends that the proposed amendment should be denied because Plaintiff fails to allege facts sufficient to show malice on the part of Defendant to support a claim for punitive damages.  Defendant also contends that the proposed amendment will prejudice Defendant because the first amended complaint references a different case concerning injuries related to the same product by Defendant and Plaintiff’s new claim will require additional discovery.  

 

As to Defendant’s arguments concerning the propriety of the proposed claim for punitive damages, the Court will generally not consider the merits of the proposed amendments in determining whether to grant leave to amend. (See Kittredge Sports Co. v. Superior Court (1989) 213 Cal.App.3d 1045, 1048.)  The Court also notes that Defendant may address the propriety of Plaintiff’s references to the separate litigation in the first amended complaint through a motion to strike.  Finally, the Court finds that Defendant has failed to show that any additional discovery would result in prejudice from either unreasonable delay or time and expense.   

 

CONCLUSION AND ORDER

 

Accordingly, the Court finds Plaintiff has met her burden in establishing a basis for leave to file an amended complaint, and grants Plaintiff’s motion for leave. The Court orders Plaintiff to file and serve the proposed amended complaint within 20 days of the hearing on the motion.

 

Plaintiff shall provide notice of the Court’s orders and file a proof of service of such.