Anderson et al v. SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment

Northern District of California, cand-4:2015-cv-02172

ORDER GRANTING 509 Motion for Voluntary Dismissal with Prejudice on Conditions. Deadline to accept conditions 4:00 p.m. on 3/5/2020. Deadline to joint updated witness list 12:00 p.m. on 3/6/2020. Signed by Judge Jeffrey S. White on March 4, 2020. (jswlc3S, COURT STAFF)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 MARC ANDERSON, et al., Case No. 15-cv-02172-JSW Plaintiffs, ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF 8 MARC ANDERSON'S MOTION FOR v. VOLUNTARY DISMISSAL WITH 9 PREJUDICE ON CONDITIONS SET 10 SEAWORLD PARKS AND FORTH HEREIN ENTERTAINMENT, INC., Dkt. No. 509 11 Defendant. 12 Northern District of California United States District Court 13 This matter comes before the Court upon consideration of Plaintiff Marc Anderson's 14 motion for voluntary dismissal with prejudice. The Court has considered the parties' papers, 15 relevant legal authority, and the record in this case, and it concludes the motion can be resolved 16 without oral argument. The Court will GRANT the motion for voluntary dismissal, and it 17 GRANTS, IN PART, AND DENIES, IN PART, Defendant's requested conditions. 18 The Court shall not repeat the facts or procedural history of this case with respect to Mr. 19 Anderson's claims, which have been set forth in several prior orders. Mr. Anderson moves to 20 dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41. Because Defendant answered and moved 21 for summary judgment and has not stipulated to dismiss Mr. Anderson's claims, he may only 22 dismiss his claims by a court order "on terms that the court considers proper." Fed. R. Civ. P. 23 41(a)(1)(i)-(ii), 41(a)(2). 24 In order to resolve this motion, the Court must answer three questions: (1) whether to 25 dismiss; (2) whether the dismissal should be with or without prejudice; and (3) whether any 26 conditions should be imposed. See, e.g., Williams v. Peralta Cmty. Coll. Dist., 227 F.R.D. 538, 27 539 (N.D. Cal. 2005). Ultimately, the decision is a matter within the Court's discretion. 28 1 Westlands Water Dist. v. United States, 100 F.3d 94, 96 (9th Cir. 1996). However, a court "should 2 grant a motion for voluntary dismissal unless a defendant can show that it will suffer some plain 3 legal prejudice as a result." Smith v. Lenches, 263 F.3d 972, 975 (9th Cir. 2001).1 4 With respect to the first two questions, Defendant does not oppose dismissal with prejudice 5 if the Court adopts four proposed conditions. The Court concludes the request to dismiss should 6 be granted. Based on the parties' agreement, it also concludes that dismissal with prejudice is 7 warranted. The Court turns to the third and final question, what conditions – if any – should be 8 imposed? 9 First, Defendant argues the dismissal order should state the dismissal is not the result of 10 any kind of settlement. Mr. Anderson does not oppose that condition. Accordingly, the Court's 11 Order will include the following language: "The dismissal is not the result of any settlement 12 reached between Mr. Anderson and SeaWorld, and SeaWorld is not providing any compensation Northern District of California United States District Court 13 or other benefit of any kind to Mr. Anderson, his counsel or any other person or entity as a 14 condition of or result of this dismissal." 15 Second, Defendant argues that a dismissal order should make clear that it preserves its 16 right to pursue any claims or remedies against Mr. Anderson or his counsel. Mr. Anderson does 17 not oppose this request but asks the Court to include additional language, which would clarify that 18 Defendant's reservation of rights does not create or revive any rights that Defendant may have 19 waived or abandoned. The Court has considered Defendant's proposal and it will adopt the 20 abbreviated version of the condition set forth in Defendant's proposed order. For that reason, the 21 Court concludes that Mr. Anderson's proposed language is not required to protect his rights or 22 interests. 23 Accordingly, the Court's dismissal Order shall state that "SeaWorld's rights to pursue any 24 claims and remedies against Mr. Anderson or his counsel are preserved." (See Dkt. No. 512-17, 25 Defendant's Proposed Order at 2:6-7.) 26 1 27 The term "legal prejudice" has been construed to mean "prejudice to some legal interest, some legal claims, some legal argument." Smith, 263 F.3d at 976 (quoting Westlands, 100 F.3d at 28 97). 2 1 Third, Defendant argues it should be declared the prevailing party on Mr. Anderson's 2 claims, but it states it is not asking for an award of fees or costs as a condition of dismissal. Mr. 3 Anderson argues that this condition is unnecessary and premature. The Court declines to adopt 4 this condition. However, the Court will clearly state that Defendant reserves all rights to argue 5 that it is the prevailing party if it files a motion for costs or a motion for attorneys' fees. 6 Finally, Defendant argues that it should be entitled to present evidence relating to Mr. 7 Anderson's claims, including evidence adduced from Mr. Anderson's sister, either by way of live 8 testimony, deposition designations, or the inclusion of findings of fact in Ms. Nelson's and Ms. 9 Morizur's trial on standing. In support of this condition, Defendant primarily relies on cases in 10 which courts granted a plaintiff's motion for a voluntary dismissal on the condition that the 11 plaintiff respond to outstanding discovery. See, e.g., Roz v. Nestle Waters N. Am., Inc., No. CV 12 16-4418 SVW (JEMx), 2017 WL 6940512 (C.D. Cal. June 21, 2017) (granting motion to compel Northern District of California United States District Court 13 deposition of named plaintiff and class representative where deposition noticed before plaintiff 14 indicated his desire to withdraw from suit); Opperman v. Path, Inc., No. 13-cv-00453-JST, 2015 15 WL 9311888, at *3-*4 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 22, 2015) (conditioning dismissal on plaintiff responding 16 to outstanding discovery that would be relevant to class certification but denying request to require 17 plaintiff to "respond[] to potential or hypothetical discovery"). 18 Assuming for the sake of argument that it would be within the Court's discretion to impose 19 such a condition, the Court declines to do so in this case. In many of the cases on which 20 Defendant relies, the courts determined that – at the discovery phase – the plaintiff at issue was 21 likely to have "discoverable" information about issues that would be relevant to issues of class 22 certification. As the Opperman court noted, "[t]he inability to conduct sufficient discovery for a 23 defense can constitute legal prejudice." 2015 WL 9311888, at *2 (citing Westlands Water Dist., 24 100 F.3d at 97). Here, Defendant has the discovery it needs to defend against Ms. Morizur's and 25 Ms. Nelson's arguments on standing. The Court views this as an evidentiary issue, and contrary to 26 Defendant's argument it concludes that Mr. Anderson's testimony would not be relevant at trial. 27 Accordingly, the Court denies Defendant's request to condition dismissal on the admission of such 28 3 1 testimony. Further, the Court will not hear that evidence at trial.2 2 CONCLUSION 3 For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS the motion for voluntary dismissal on the 4 conditions set forth in this Order. Because the Court did not adopt Mr. Anderson's proposal with 5 respect to Defendant's second condition, he shall file a notice by no later than 4:00 p.m. on March 6 5, 2020, as to whether he accepts the Court's conditions. See Lau v. Glendora Unified Sch. Dist., 7 792 F.2d 929, 931 (9th Cir. 1986). 8 In addition to their arguments on dismissal, the parties have argued about whether the 9 Court should maintain or constrict the time limits it imposed at the pretrial conference. When the 10 Court set the time limits for trial, Mr. Anderson still was a party and he and his sister were 11 expected to testify. The Court also had not revisited its ruling excluding Ms. Fay as a witness. 12 The parties SHALL file a joint updated witness list with time estimates for each witness by 12:00 Northern District of California United States District Court 13 p.m. on March 6, 2020, so that it may determine whether it should adjust the previously set time 14 limitations. 15 Finally, Mr. Anderson's decision not to pursue his claims and this motion came on the eve 16 of a bench trial, which placed additional burdens on the parties and on the Court. The parties 17 clearly have strong feelings about their respective positions on the merits of the standing issue as 18 well as the merits of this case. However, the parties can engage in zealous advocacy without 19 negatively characterizing of the opposing parties, their counsel, or their litigation strategies and 20 positions. Therefore, the Court ADMONISHES the parties that it expects them to conduct this 21 trial and all subsequent proceedings that may be necessary with civility and respect. 22 IT IS SO ORDERED. 23 Dated: March 4, 2020 24 ______________________________________ JEFFREY S. WHITE 25 United States District Judge 26 27 2 28 The Court's decision is premised on its view that the evidence is not relevant. It is not based on Federal Rule of Evidence 403. 4