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Jammeh v. HNN Associates, LLC

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

October 15, 2019

ADAMA JAMMEH, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
HNN ASSOCIATES, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' UNOPPOSED MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE A SECOND AMENDED CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT

          JAMES L. ROBART UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the court is Plaintiffs Adama Jammeh and Oumie Sallah's (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) motion for leave to file a second amended class action complaint, which seeks to (1) add William Wojdak-the allegedly controlling principle of Defendant Columbia Debt Recovery, LLC, d/b/a Genesis (“Columbia”)-as a defendant, (2) add a claim under the Washington Landlord Tenant Act, RCW ch. 59.18, and (3) bring class allegations on behalf of two classes of Washington residents who were former tenants of apartments managed by Defendant HNN Associates, LLC (“HNN”) and who paid various move-out charges to HNN or its collection agency Columbia. (See Mot. (Dkt. # 12); see also Praecipe (Dkt. # 15) (attaching corrected Ex. B to Mot.).) Defendants HNN, Gateway, LLC (“Gateway”), and Columbia (collectively, “Defendants”) failed to timely file an opposition to Plaintiffs' motion. (See generally Dkt.) The court has considered the motion, the submissions filed in support of the motion, the relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law. Being fully advised, [1] the court GRANTS Plaintiffs' motion for leave to file a second amended class action complaint. The court ORDERS Plaintiffs to file their proposed second amended complaint (see Mot., Ex. A) within seven (7) days of the filing date of this order. The court also DIRECTS the Clerk to file a schedule for the motion for class certification.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs are sisters who co-signed a lease on rental property in which Ms. Jammeh lived with her children. (FAC (Dkt. # 1-5) ¶¶ 4.10-4.12.) Gateway owned the property, and HNN managed it. (Id. ¶¶ 3.2-3.3.) Approximately four months into the lease, HNN and Gateway evicted Plaintiffs for reasons Plaintiffs allege are pretextual and immaterial. (See Id. ¶¶ 4.23-4.33.) HNN and Gateway then allegedly declared Plaintiffs' security deposit forfeited and claimed additional fees, which Plaintiffs dispute. (See Id. ¶¶ 4.34-4.61.) HNN then referred Plaintiffs' account to Columbia for collections. (See Id. ¶¶ 4.62-4.71.) Plaintiffs assert that Mr. Wojdak controls Columbia. (Mot. at 1.) // Plaintiffs filed their complaint in King County Superior Court on March 7, 2019, and filed a first amended complaint on April 25, 2019, which added a claim under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1962, et seq. (See Compl. (Dkt. # 1-1); FAC (Dkt. # 3 at 51-71).) On April 26, 2019, Defendants removed the action to federal court on the basis of 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1441(c). (Not. of Removal (Dkt. # 1).) Plaintiffs did not oppose removal. (See generally Dkt.)

         On June 14, 2019, the court issued a scheduling order setting July 12, 2019, as the deadline for joining additional parties, and April 16, 2020, as the deadline for amending pleadings. (Sched. Order (Dkt. # 9) at 1.) Thus, Plaintiffs' July 12, 2019, motion seeking to add a defendant and amend the allegations of their first amended complaint is timely. (See id.; see also Mot.) As of the date Plaintiffs filed their motion, no party has taken any depositions or engaged in formal written discovery beyond providing the required initial disclosures under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a). (Leonard Decl. (Dkt. # 13) ¶ 2.)

         Nevertheless, Plaintiffs assert that the documents HNN produced in informal discovery on May 10, 2019, “reveal[] specific ways that HNN and Gateway . . . engaged in practices that violate[] the Residential Landlord Tenant Act[, RCW ch. 59.18, ] along with the Washington Consumer Protection Act [(“CPA”), RCW ch. 19.86].” (Mot. at 2 (citing Leonard Decl. ¶¶ 3-5).) Plaintiffs also assert that these documents and further investigation revealed the basis for class action allegations on behalf of two classes of Washington residents. The two proposed classes are based on (1) the conduct of HNN and Gateway, and (2) Columbia's debt collection practices. (Id. at 2-3.) Finally, Plaintiffs assert that initial disclosures and independent investigation reveal the basis for individual allegations against Mr. Wojdak based on his control of the conduct and practices of Columbia. (Id. at 3-4 (citing Leonard Decl. ¶¶ 6-14, Exs. B-I).)

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         A party may amend its complaint with leave of court, and “[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). “[T]his policy is to be applied with extreme liberality.” Desertrain v. City of L.A., 754 F.3d 1147, 1154 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Morongo Band of Mission Indians v. Rose, 893 F.2d 1074, 1079 (9th Cir. 1990)). 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. Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003) (per curiam). These factors do not carry equal weight, however, and prejudice is the touchstone of the analysis. See id. It is also proper for courts to deny leave to amend if the amendment would be futile or the amended complaint would be dismissed. Platt Elec. Supply, Inc. v. EOFF Elec., Inc., 522 F.3d 1049, 1060 (9th Cir. 2008). 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).

         B. No Delay

         “In evaluating whether there has been undue delay, the Court must consider ‘whether the moving party knew or should have known the facts and theories raised by the amendment' at an earlier time.” Dunbar v. Google, Inc., No. 5:12-cv-003305-LHK, 2012 WL 6202797, at *12 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 12, 2012). As discussed above, Plaintiffs only recently learned of the bases for their proposed amendments. (See Leonard Decl. ¶¶ 3-14, Exs. B-I.) Further, Plaintiffs' motion is timely under the scheduling order. (See Sched. Order at 1 (setting July 12, 2019, as the deadline for joining additional parties, and April 16, 2020, as the deadline for amending pleadings).) The court concludes that this factor favors permitting the proposed amendments.

         C. No Bad Faith

         Bad faith occurs when “the plaintiff merely is seeking to prolong the litigation by adding new but baseless legal theories.” Griggs v. Pace Am. Grp., Inc., 170 F.3d 877, 881 (9th Cir. 1999). The operative facts that form the basis of Plaintiffs' claims remain substantially the same. Plaintiffs seek to add only (1) a legal claim based on the Residential Landlord Tenant Act, RCW ch. 59.18, (2) an individual defendant who is the chief executive officer of and allegedly controls the conduct and policies of one of the business defendants, and (3) class ...


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