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Newell v. Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Idaho

April 16, 2018

MIKE NEWELL, Plaintiff,
v.
FARM BUREAU MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF IDAHO, an Idaho corporation; IDAHO FARM BUREAU FEDERATION, INC., an Idaho corporation; and, FARM BUREAU LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, an Iowa company, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          David C. Nye U.S. District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Mike Newell seeks leave of the Court to add a claim to his Complaint for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Defendants oppose the proposed amendment. 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.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On December 22, 2016, [1] Newell filed suit in State Court. On June 28, 2017, Defendant Farm Bureau removed the case to this Court. On November 10, 2017, Newell filed a Motion for Extension of Time to Amend Complaint. Dkt. 34. None of the Defendants opposed the Motion and the Court granted the same on December 5, 2017. Dkt. 36. The Court's order gave Newell until January 12, 2018, to file any motion regarding amendment. Id.

         On January 12, 2018, Newell filed the instant Motion to Amend, seeking to add a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress[2] against Farm Bureau and the Federation.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) states that leave to amend “shall be freely given when justice so requires.” Leave to amend lies within the sound discretion of the trial court, which “must be guided by the underlying purpose of Rule 15 to facilitate decisions on the merits, rather than on the pleadings or technicalities.” United States v. Webb, 655 F.2d 977, 979 (9th Cir. 1981). The Rule 15 “policy is ‘to be applied with extreme liberality.'” Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1051 (9th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). “A district court, however, may in its discretion deny leave to amend due to 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, [and] futility of amendment.” Zucco Partners, LLC v. Digimarc Corp., 552 F.3d 981, 1007 (9th Cir. 2009), as amended (Feb. 10, 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The party opposing amendment bears the burden of showing why the Court should not grant leave to amend. See DCD Programs, Ltd. v. Leighton, 833 F.2d 183, 187 (9th Cir. 1987).

         In this case, Defendants oppose Newell's Motion only on the grounds that amendment would be futile. “An amendment is futile when ‘no set of facts can be proved under the amendment to the pleadings that would constitute a valid and sufficient claim or defense.'” Missouri ex rel. Koster v. Harris, 847 F.3d 646, 656 (9th Cir. 2017) (quoting Miller v. Rykoff-Sexton, Inc., 845 F.2d 209, 214 (9th Cir. 1988)). “When a motion to amend is opposed on the grounds that amendment would be futile, the standard of review in considering the motion is akin to that undertaken by a court in determining the sufficiency of a complaint which is challenged for failure to state a claim under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 12(b)(6).” Arbon Valley Solar LLC v. Thomas & Betts Corp., No. 4:16-cv-00070-DCN, 2017 WL 5613009 (D. Idaho Nov. 21, 2017) (quoting Doe v. Nevada, 356 F.Supp.2d 1123, 1125 (D. Nev. 2004)).

         “A Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal may be based on either a ‘lack of a cognizable legal theory' or ‘the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.'” Johnson v. Riverside Healthcare Sys., LP, 534 F.3d 1116, 1121 (9th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). “[I]n considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must view the “complaint in the light most favorable to” the claimant and “accept[] all well-pleaded factual allegations as true, as well as any reasonable inference drawn from them.” Id. at 1122.

         IV. ANALYSIS

         In Farm Bureau's opposition to this Motion, which the other two Defendants subsequently joined, it asserts that Newell's proposed amendment is futile because (1) Idaho law does not allow negligence infliction of emotional distress claims in an at-will employment circumstance such as this, and (2) Newell has not put forth any evidence to support a negligence infliction claim. As Farm Bureau bears the burden of showing why the Court should not grant leave to amend, the Court will address each argument in turn.

         A. Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Claims under State Law

         Negligent infliction of emotional distress requires a showing of “(1) a legally recognized duty, (2) a breach of that duty, (3) a causal connection between the defendant's conduct and the breach, and (4) actual loss or damage.” Bollinger v. Fall River Rural Elec. Co-op., Inc., 272 P.3d 1263, 1273 (Idaho 2012). Additionally, the plaintiff must demonstrate a physical manifestation of the alleged ...


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