Judge: Michelle Williams Court, Case: 20STCV17068, Date: 2022-08-18 Tentative Ruling

Case Number: 20STCV17068    Hearing Date: August 18, 2022    Dept: 74


Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to File Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint




On May 5, 2020, Plaintiff Anne Van Leynseele filed this action against Defendant Zuber Lawler & Del Duca, LLP alleging six causes of action: (1) violation of Labor Code §§ 1182.12-1194 (minimum wage), (2) violation of Labor Code § 226(a) (non-compliant wage statements), (3) violation of Labor Code §§ 200-204 (waiting time penalties), (5) unjust enrichment, and (6) quantum meruit. Plaintiff served in an Of Counsel role for Defendants and alleges she was misclassified as an independent contractor.


On July 2, 2021, Defendant Zuber Lawler & Del Duca, LLP filed a cross-complaint against Plaintiff asserting causes of action for: (1) fraudulent misrepresentation; (2) negligent misrepresentation; (3) concealment; (4) false promise; and (5) fraudulent inducement.


On June 3, 2022, the Court granted Defendant’s motion for summary adjudication as to Plaintiff’s fifth and sixth causes of action.




On July 11, 2022, Plaintiff filed the instant motion for leave to file a First Amended Complaint which adds causes of action for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and removes the causes of action to which the Court granted summary adjudication.




In opposition, Defendant contends Plaintiff unreasonably delayed in seeking to amend the complaint, it will be prejudiced by the amendment, and the proposed causes of action lack merit as an evidentiary matter.




In reply, Plaintiff reiterates her arguments in the initial moving papers and contends she should be able to assert her contract claims.


Motion for Leave to File First Amended Complaint




In California, leave to amend is to be granted liberally, to accomplish substantial justice for both parties. (Code Civ. Proc. § 473(a); Hirsa v. Superior Court (1981) 118 Cal.App.3d 486, 488-89.) “[I]t is a rare case in which ‘a court will be justified in refusing a party leave to amend his pleadings so that he may properly present his case.” (Morgan v. Superior Court of Cal. In and For Los Angeles County (1959) 172 Cal.App.2d 527, 530. See also Armenta ex rel. City of Burbank v. Mueller Co. (2006) 142 Cal.App.4th 636, 642 (“The trial court has discretion to permit or deny the amendment of the complaint, but instances justifying the court's denial of leave to amend are rare.”); Kittredge Sports Co. v. Superior Court (1989) 213 Cal.App.3d 1045, 1047 (“discretion should be exercised liberally in favor of amendments, for judicial policy favors resolution of all disputed matters in the same lawsuit.”).)


Additionally, a party seeking to file an amended pleading must also comply with California Rules of Court, rule 3.1324 which requires that the motion:


(1)   Include a copy of the proposed amendment or amended pleading, 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.


(Cal. R. Ct., rule 3.1324(a).) Additionally, the accompanying declaration of counsel must specify:


(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;

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


(Cal. R. Ct., rule 3.1324(b).)


Procedural Requirements of Rule 3.1324


As an initial matter, the Court notes Plaintiff’s reliance upon Code of Civil Procedure section 426.50 is misplaced. (Notice at 1:12-14; Mot. at 3:22-28.) This statute is contained in the Article involving compulsory cross-complaints and therefore does not apply to Plaintiff’s request to file an amended complaint.


Plaintiff’s motion attaches a copy of the proposed pleading and identifies the additional allegations by page number and line both in the body of the memorandum and in a bluelined version of the amended complaint. (Mot. at 5:1-12:6, Zambrano Decl. Ex. B-C.) The motion complies with the requirements of California Rules of Court, rule 3.1324(a).


The motion is supported by the declaration of Ronald Zambrano who generally states he “filed Plaintiff ANNE VAN LEYNSEELE’s complaint against Defendant ZLD, on May 5, 2020, and the complaint was sent for service. Thereafter, while investigating the matter with Plaintiff in this matter, it became apparent that Plaintiff suffered damages as a result of ZLD’s breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.” (Zambrano Decl. ¶ 2.) Zambrano states “[t]his investigation led [him] to conclude that the complaint failed to properly include a Cause of Action for Breach of Contract and a Cause of Action for Breach of the Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing.” (Id. ¶ 3.) Zambrano prepared the motion for leave to amend “[a]fter making attempts to meet and confer with counsel for Defendants, and upon counsel’s refusal to stipulate to allow Plaintiff to amend her complaint.” (Id. ¶ 4.)


Zambrano’s declaration lacks any specificity as to “[w]hen the facts giving rise to the amended allegations were discovered” and “[t]he reasons why the request for amendment was not made earlier” as required by California Rules of Court, rule 3.1324(b).


Plaintiff Unreasonably Delayed Seeking the Amendment, Provided No Excuse for the Delay, and Defendant Will Suffer Prejudice as a Result of the Amendment at this Late Stage of the Proceedings


Plaintiff filed this action on May 5, 2020. The Court granted Defendant’s motion for summary adjudication on June 3, 2022. Plaintiff filed the instant motion on July 11, 2022 and obtained the instant August 18, 2022 hearing date via an ex parte application granted on July 18, 2022.


In opposition, Defendant argues Plaintiff unreasonably delayed in seeking to amend the complaint and failed to provide any excuse for the delay. (Opp. at 4:16-5:12.) As noted above, Plaintiff’s counsel’s declaration does not contain any specificity as to when the facts giving rise to the amendment were discovered. Based upon the evidence before the Court, it appears the facts supporting Plaintiff’s contract claims based upon non-payment were known to Plaintiff prior to filing the original complaint. (Record v. Reason (1999) 73 Cal.App.4th 472, 486–487 (“Appellant had knowledge of the circumstances on which he based the amended complaint on the day he was injured, almost three years before he sought leave to amend.”); Duchrow v. Forrest (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 1359, 1380 (“Before filing the complaint, [plaintiff] had all of the necessary information to include the appropriate allegations if he wanted to recover damages under paragraph 9.”).)


Additionally, Plaintiff does not provide any excuse or explanation for not seeking leave to amend earlier. (Roemer v. Retail Credit Co. (1975) 44 Cal.App.3d 926, 939–940 (“The law is also clear that even if a good amendment is proposed in proper form, unwarranted delay in presenting it may—of itself—be a valid reason for denial. The cases indicate that the denial may rest upon the element of lack of diligence in offering the amendment after knowledge of the facts, or the effect of the delay on the adverse party.”); Huff v. Wilkins (2006) 138 Cal.App.4th 732, 746 (“he failed to offer any explanation for his delay in seeking leave to amend.”); Bedolla v. Logan & Frazer (1975) 52 Cal.App.3d 118, 136 (“The law is well settled that a long deferred presentation of the proposed amendment without a showing of excuse for the delay is itself a significant factor to uphold the trial court's denial of the amendment.”); Le Mere v. Los Angeles Unified School Dist. (2019) 35 Cal.App.5th 237, 245 (“appellant offered no explanation for her delay in asserting this new cause of action. . . . Here, there was an unexplained delay of 14 months in raising the new cause of action. We find the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying leave to amend to add the claim.”).)


“Leave to amend may be denied if there is prejudice to the opposing party, such as delay in trial, loss of critical evidence, or added costs of preparation.” (Kolani v. Gluska (1998) 64 Cal.App.4th 402, 412.) Plaintiff contends the amendment, only a month from the trial date, “does not require a delay of trial, does not result in the loss of critical evidence, and will not add to the cost of preparation or an increased burden of discovery” and therefore will not prejudice Defendant. (Mot. at 4:20-22.) In opposition, Defendant notes the amendment would require it to “issue and analyze additional written discovery, conduct additional witness interviews, and conduct new depositions” and “will need to be provided the opportunity to do discovery and file a dispositive motion that may not be heard for several months based on the Court’s current hearing calendar.” (Opp. at 6:1-25.)


The Court finds Defendant will be prejudiced by Plaintiff’s proposed amendment only one month prior to the trial date. Plaintiff’s original complaint asserted claims based upon allegations that Plaintiff was entitled to extra-contractual compensation via claims for unjust enrichment and quantum meruit. Defendant was successful on its dispositive motion as to these claims. Plaintiff’s proposed amendment alters her claims to seek unpaid compensation under the terms of the contract, which is an entirely different claim. (Estate of Murphy (1978) 82 Cal.App.3d 304, 311 (“the proposed amendment opened up an entirely new field of inquiry without any satisfactory explanation as to why this major change in point of attack had not been made long before trial.”).) The amendment will likely necessitate further discovery, additional motion practice, and an undue delay of the trial.


Finally, while the Court generally does not address the merits of a proposed pleading, the Court notes the proposed sixth cause of action for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing is identical to the proposed fifth cause of action for breach of contract. (Zambrano Decl. Ex. C ¶¶ 48-66.) Accordingly, the sixth cause of action is duplicative and would be vulnerable to a demurrer. (See Careau & Co. v. Security Pacific Business Credit, Inc. (1990) 222 Cal.App.3d 1371, 1395 (“If the allegations do not go beyond the statement of a mere contract breach and, relying on the same alleged acts, simply seek the same damages or other relief already claimed in a companion contract cause of action, they may be disregarded as superfluous as no additional claim is actually stated.”); Guz v. Bechtel Nat. Inc. (2000) 24 Cal.4th 317, 352 (“But insofar as the employer's acts are directly actionable as a breach of an implied-in-fact contract term, a claim that merely realleges that breach as a violation of the covenant is superfluous.”).) 


Under the circumstances, denial of leave to amend is appropriate. (P&D Consultants, Inc. v. City of Carlsbad (2010) 190 Cal.App.4th 1332, 1345 (“We also find no merit to P & D's argument the court abused its broad discretion by denying it leave to amend the complaint to add causes of action for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and ‘breach of the duty to negotiate in good faith.’ The court's ruling was based on unreasonable delay. P & D did not seek leave to amend until after the trial readiness conference, an amendment would require additional discovery and perhaps result in a demurer or other pretrial motion, and P & D offered no explanation for the delay.”).)