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Curevo, Inc v. Choe

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

November 4, 2019

CUREVO, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
SENYON TEDDY CHOE, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO AMEND HIS COUNTERCLAIM

          ROBERT S. LASNIK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on “Defendant's Motion for Leave to File Amended Counterclaim Joining an Additional Party.” Dkt. # 47. Between April and December 2018, defendant Senyon Teddy Choe was a member of Curevo's Scientific Advisory Board (“SAB”). The relationship was terminated on or about December 5, 2018, and Curevo filed this action seeking a determination that Choe was an independent contractor and therefore has no right to stock options that had not vested at the time of the termination. Choe filed a counterclaim of wrongful termination in violation of public policy, alleging that Curevo terminated him because he had filed a lawsuit in South Korea against Curevo's minority shareholder, Mogam Institute for Biomedical Research (“MIBR”), and because Choe refused to participate in unlawful business practices in his role as director and trustee of MIBR.

         Choe seeks leave to amend his answer to add MIBR as a defendant in this matter. The original complaint alleges that:

• MIBR' had a 17% ownership interest in Curevo;
• Green Cross Corporation owns the other 83% of Curevo's shares;
• Curevo, MIBR, and Green Cross are part of a family of companies, and the chairman of Green Cross holds the same position at MIBR;
• Choe accepted a position on Curevo's SAB as part of his employment with MIBR;
• Choe performed critical services for Curevo;
• “Curevo's high-level business decisions were all subject to the final approval of its parent Green Cross as part of Choe's duties as the former Director of MIBR” (Dkt. # 45 at 6-7);
• Choe and members of Green Cross disagreed in 2018 regarding business practices at MIBR, and the chairman of Green Cross/MIBR asked Choe to resign from MIBR: when he declined, Choe was terminated as a director at MIBR, although he retained his position on MIBR's board;
• Choe filed a wrongful termination claim against MIBR in South Korea; and
• the chairman of Green Cross/MIBR and the president/trustee of Green Cross/MIBR engineered Choe's ouster from Curevo.

         The proposed complaint adds an assertion of personal jurisdiction over MIBR and alleges that MIBR was his employer and that it wrongfully terminated his employment with Curevo in violation of public policy. Curevo opposes the proposed amendment on the grounds that (1) it is futile and (2) adding MIBR, a foreign corporation that Choe has already sued in South Korea, would improperly allow Choe to pursue litigation against MIBR in two fora, squandering the Court's and the parties' resources and causing prejudice.

         Courts “should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). There is a “strong policy in favor of allowing amendment” (Kaplan v. Rose, 49 F.3d 1363, 1370 (9th Cir. 1994)), and “[c]ourts may decline to grant leave to amend only if there is strong evidence of undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, or futility of amendment, etc.” Sonoma Cty. Ass'n of Retired Employees v. Sonoma Cty., 708 F.3d 1109, 1117 (9th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). ...


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