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Barrick v. American Airlines, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

August 8, 2017

REBECCA BARRICK, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR A PROTECTIVE ORDER AND GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO AMEND

          JOHN C. COUGHENOUR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant American Airline's motion for a protective order (Dkt. No. 35) and Plaintiff Rebecca Barrick's motion to amend (Dkt. No. 33). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby DENIES the motion for a protective order and GRANTS the motion to amend for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On an American Airlines flight from Seattle to Philadelphia, Plaintiff's chest was burned by a bag of dry ice. (Dkt. No. 31 at ¶¶ 6-10.) After, she filed this negligence and gross negligence action against Defendant. (See Dkt. No. 31.) Defendant responded to her amended complaint, admitting that it is “liable for all of Ms. Barrick's proximately caused damages.” (Dkt. No. 39 at 2; see also Dkt. No. 32 at ¶¶ 10, 14, 17, 18, 22, 23, 25.) Defendant has filed a motion for a protective order to limit Plaintiff's discovery requests to relevant information about damages. (Dkt. No. 35.) Plaintiff also filed a motion to amend her complaint a second time. (Dkt. No. 33.)

         II. DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR A PROTECTIVE ORDER

         “Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 (b)(1). However, “the court must limit the frequency or extent of discovery [if] . . . the proposed discovery is outside the scope permitted by Rule 26(b)(1).” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 (b)(2)(C). “The court may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party from . . . undue burden or expense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 (c)(1). When a defendant admits liability for all damages caused to a plaintiff, the court may limit discovery to damages. See Broncel v. H & R Transp., Ltd., 2011 WL 319822, (E.D. Cal. Jan. 28, 2011) (holding that plaintiff was not entitled to depose defendant Wilson because the defendants had already admitted liability); Ayat v. Societe Air France, 2008 WL 114936, (N.D. Cal. Jan. 8, 2008) (holding that further discovery into liability was not warranted because the defendant did not contest liability and only asserted three affirmative defenses, all related to damages).

         Here, Defendant seeks a protective order to limit discovery to damages. (Dkt. No. 35.) However, Plaintiff maintains that she is entitled to more expansive discovery because Defendant “has not admitted liability to most of Plaintiff's claims, and has expressly denied most of the offending actions.” (Dkt. No. 37 at 4.) Plaintiff's argument is persuasive because Defendant has only admitted to liability for all of Plaintiff's proximately caused damages. (See Dkt. Nos. 32, 35, 41.) While Defendant's admission is helpful to Plaintiff, there is some vagueness as to the admission. Defendant admits to liability for proximately caused damages, but does not stipulate it is in fact the cause of such damages. If Plaintiff is not entitled to discover the circumstances that led to her injury, she would be at a significant disadvantage in this litigation. While this causation issue is unresolved, the Court will prudently leave discovery open. Defendant's motion for a protective order limiting discovery to damages is DENIED.[1]

         III. PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO AMEND

         The Court is afforded discretion and “should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). When deciding whether leave should be granted, “[f]ive factors are taken into account . . . bad faith, undue delay, prejudice to the opposing party, futility of amendment, and whether the plaintiff has previously amended the complaint.” Johnson v. Buckley, 356 F.3d 1067, 1077 (9th Cir. 2004).

         Plaintiff's motion to amend builds on the issue of causation, and thus is not futile. The amendment is minimal, but the proposed complaint does allege with more specificity the types of harm suffered by Plaintiff, specifically emotional damages. (See Dkt. No. 33-3 at ¶ 26.) This newly alleged harm demonstrates a need for more expansive discovery into its cause. Plaintiff has previously amended her complaint, but the Court concludes the proposed amendment is not futile, nor is it unfair. Thus, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion to amend her complaint.

         IV. CONCLUSION

         For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's motion to amend (Dkt. No. 33) is GRANTED, and Defendant's motion for a protective order (Dkt. No. 35) is DENIED. Plaintiff is ORDERED to file her second amended complaint (Dkt. No. 33-3) within 7 days of this order.

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