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Nelson-Ricks Cheese Co. Inc. v. Lakeview Cheese Co., LLC

United States District Court, D. Idaho

September 14, 2017

NELSON-RICKS CHEESE COMPANY, INC., an Idaho corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
LAKEVIEW CHEESE COMPANY, LLC, a Nevada limited liability company, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          David C. Nye, United States District Court

         INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Nelson-Ricks Cheese Company, Inc.'s (NRCC) Motion to Amend Complaint. Dkt. 32. Having reviewed the record and briefs, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the Court will decide the motion without oral argument. Dist. Idaho Loc. Civ. R. 7.1(d)(2)(ii). For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS the Motion.

         BACKGROUND

         This lawsuit arises out of claims brought by Plaintiff NRCC that Defendant Lakeview Cheese Company infringed upon Plaintiff's registered “Nelson Ricks Creamery Company” trademark on their website. Plaintiff asserts various claims for relief, including trademark infringement. NRCC's requested relief is primarily monetary. Now, Plaintiff wishes to amend its complaint for the purpose of adding a prayer for injunctive relief.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) provides that, once a responsive pleading has been served, a party may amend its pleading “only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave. The court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Lakeview Cheese Company, LLC, has not given consent to amend the Complaint. Therefore, NRCC must have leave of the Court to amend. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recognizes that “the underlying purpose of Rule 15 [is] to facilitate [a] decision on the merits, rather than on the pleadings or technicalities, ” and, therefore, “Rule 15's policy of favoring amendments to pleadings should be applied with extreme liberality.” Chudacoff v. Univ. Med. Cent. of S. Nev., 649 F.3d 1143, 1152 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting United States v. Webb, 655 F.2d 977, 979 (9th Cir. 1981)).

         The decision whether to grant or deny a motion to amend pursuant to Rule 15(a) rests in the sole discretion of the trial court. The four factors that are commonly used to determine the propriety of a motion for leave to amend are: 1) undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant; 2) repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed; 3) undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment; and 4) futility of amendment. C.F. ex rel. Farnan v. Capistrano Unified Sch. Dist., 654 F.3d 975, 985 n.5 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)).

         The Ninth Circuit has held that although all these factors are relevant to consider when ruling on a motion for leave to amend, the “crucial factor is the resulting prejudice to the opposing party.” Howey v. United States, 481 F.2d 1187, 1189 (9th Cir. 1973). Indeed, prejudice is the touchstone of the inquiry under Rule 15(a). Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003). Ultimately, “[u]nless undue prejudice to the opposing party will result, a trial judge should ordinarily permit a party to amend its complaint.” Howey, 481 F.2d at 1190.

         ANALYSIS

         Much of the briefing surrounding this Motion focuses on ancillary issues such as inflammatory conduct by certain parties, the frivolousness of the complaint, and a prior lawsuit (and subsequent agreement that came out of that lawsuit) between the parties. While some of the topics bear on the Court's decision today, others are wholly irrelevant for the purposes of the instant motion. Specifically, questions of frivolousness and conduct can be determined at a later time through sanctions or attorney fees, but the instant motion is simply a request to amend the complaint. That is the standard the Court will use to make a determination.

         Looking at the first factor to be considered, the Court does not believe that granting this Motion will cause any undue delay in this case. Importantly, this amendment will not affect any deadlines or other aspects of case management in this suit, [1] as it simply seeks to add a request that the Court permanently enjoin Lakeview from using the mark at issue.

         Additionally, it is not clear that Plaintiff brought this Motion with bad faith or dilatory motive. Defendant argues that NRCC is only seeking to add this relief because they brought it up in a prior motion, but such is hardly a valid reason for denying a motion. Additionally, while there does seem to be some disconnect in the rationale as it relates to the cease and desist order, this subsequent lawsuit, and Plaintiff's choice of whether or not to request injunctive relief, the Court is not convinced that such decision was nefarious in nature.

         The second factor-referring to previously allowed amendments-is not applicable as this is ...


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