Monday, January 12, 2015
C.A. Says Judge Duffy-Lewis Unreasonably Denied Leave to Amend a Complaint
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge acted unreasonably in denying leave to amend where a plaintiff’s causes of action were, subsequent to the filing of his complaint, rendered infirm by an appellate court decision, and the new legal theories in the proposed pleading were based essentially on the facts initially pled, the Court of Appeal for this district has ruled.
The opinion, filed Thursday and not certified for publication, reverses a summary judgment granted by Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis in favor of an employer that was sued for wrongful termination. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Allan Goodman, sitting on assignment in Div. Five, was the author.
The plaintiff in the case was Qizhao Wang, who filed his complaint on March 26, 2012, alleging that he was fired, in violation of public policy, for having sought worker’s compensation benefits based on a back injury. On Sept. 26 of that year, the Third District Court of Appeal held that the exclusive-remedy provision of the Worker’s Compensation Act barred such an action.
After the former employer filed a motion for summary judgment, Wang’s newly hired lawyer, John M. Cowden, filed a motion for leave to amend to allege new causes of action under the Fair Employment and Housing Act.
On June 10, 2013, Duffy-Lewis denied that motion, and on the following Aug. 7, she granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment, which Wang did not oppose.
Div. Five reversed based on Duffy-Lewis’s denial of leave to amend.
“The policy favoring amendment is so strong that it is a rare case in which denial of leave to amend can be justified,” Goodman wrote.
The employer, Murray Company, Inc., cited two cases in leave to amend was held to have been properly denied. In one case, Goodman said, there was a long delay in seeking leave to amend without a showing as a reason for the delay, and in the other, it was found that the proposed new cause of action was not a valid one.
Neither of those factors was present in the present case, the acting justice said.
Goodman recited that Murray Company, Inc., had argued before Duffy-Lewis that it would be prejudiced by a granting of Wang’s motion because it would cause a delay, as well as “great expense” in conducting “fresh discovery on a new set of claims.” The jurist responded in Thursday’s opinion:
“It conceded, however, that the case was barely a year old and acknowledged that Wang specifically disclaimed any need to continue the trial date. Generally speaking, prejudice cannot be shown where ‘the same set of facts support merely a different theory.’…Murray fails to explain why its completed discovery would not be useful in defending the amended complaint which alleges the same essential facts as the original complaint but seeks relief under different legal theories. In any event, Murray cites no case which supports its assertion that the expense of defending a lawsuit constitutes prejudice sufficient to deny a timely-brought motion to amend.”
The case is Wang v. Murray Co., B251749.
Sarah B. Schlehr and Morgan Ricketts of the Schlehr Law Firm represented Wang. Cowden, along with Scott Wm. Davenport of Manning & Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, Trester LLP acted for Murray Company.
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