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Sconiers v. California Dep't of Social Services

September 10, 2008

JANETTA SCONIERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anthony W. Ishii Chief United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS (Documents # 30 & 33)

This case comes before the Court on motions to dismiss brought by defendants Fresno Community Hospital and Medical Center ("FCH"), Nellie Go ("Go"), and Valley Family Medical Center ("VFMC") (collectively as "Defendants"). For the reasons that follow, the motions to dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Janetta Sconiers filed the underlying complaint in this Court after the termination of her In Home Supportive Services ("IHSS") benefits. The IHSS program is a statewide mandated program administered by each county under the direction of the California Department of Social Services. It provides those with limited income who are disabled, blind or over the age of 65 with in-home care services to help them remain safely in their own homes. Plaintiff received IHSS benefits from approximately April 2004 to December 2005.

On May 9, 2008, Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint against some seventeen parties (some in both their individual and official capacities) with fifty-four causes of action. The complaint seeks injunctive relief from the termination of Plaintiff's IHSS benefits and actual and punitive damages totaling $45 million. Plaintiff claims that the named defendants unlawfully obtained her confidential medical information and that Fresno In Home Supportive Services wrongfully terminated her IHSS benefits based on that information.

Defendant FCH filed its motion to dismiss on June 3, 2008, and defendants Go and VFMC filed their motion to dismiss on June 11, 2008. Both motions are filed pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), seeking dismissal of the complaint against Defendants for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, respectively.

Plaintiff filed oppositions on July 1, 2008 and July 10, 2008. Defendants Go and VFMC filed a reply on July 3, 2008, and Defendant FCH filed a reply on July 11, 2008.

A. MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF JURISDICTION

1. Legal Standard

Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows for a motion to dismiss based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(1). It is a fundamental precept that federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Limits upon federal jurisdiction must not be disregarded or evaded. Owen Equipment & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 374 (1978).

A Rule 12(b)(1) motion may be either facial, where the inquiry is confined to the allegations in the complaint, or factual, where the court is permitted to look beyond the complaint to extrinsic evidence. Wolfe v. Strankman, 392 F.3d 358, 362 (9th Cir. 2004); Savage v. Glendale Union High School Dist. No. 205, 343 F.3d 1036, 1040 n.2 (9th Cir. 2003). The plaintiff has the burden to establish that subject matter jurisdiction is proper. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); In re Ford Motor Co., 264 F.3d 952, 957 (9th Cir. 2001). This burden, at the pleading stage, must be met by pleading sufficient allegations to show a proper basis for the court to assert subject matter jurisdiction over the action. McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936); Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(1). The pleading must show "affirmatively and distinctly the existence of whatever is essential to federal jurisdiction, and if [it] does not do so, the court, on having the defect called to its attention or on discovering the same, must dismiss the case, unless the defect be corrected by amendment." Tosco Corp. v. Communities For A Better Env't, 236 F.3d 495, 499 (9th Cir. 2001).

When a defendant challenges jurisdiction "facially," all material allegations in the complaint are assumed true, and the question for the court is whether the lack of federal jurisdiction appears from the face of the pleading itself. See Wolf, 392 F.3d at 362; Miranda v. Reno, 238 F.3d 1156, 1157 n.1 (9th Cir. 2000); Thornhill Publishing Co. v. General Telephone Electronics, 594 F.2d 730, 733 (9th Cir. 1979); Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F. 2d 884, 891 (3d Cir.1977). When a defendant makes a factual challenge "by presenting affidavits or other evidence properly brought before the court, the party opposing the motion must furnish affidavits or other evidence necessary to satisfy its burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction." Safe Air For Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004); Savage, 343 F.3d at 1039 n.2. The court need not presume the truthfulness of the plaintiff's allegations under a factual attack. White v. Lee, 227 F.3d 1214, 1242 (9th Cir. 2000).

2. Discussion

Defendants argue that their motions to dismiss should be granted, thereby dismissing the complaint as against Defendants, because this Court lacks the statutory authority to hear the claims brought against them. Defendants concede, however, that Plaintiff brings claims under the Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution; Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act; 42 U.S.C. sections 12132-12133; section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act; and 42 U.S.C. section 1983. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."), there is no question then that this Court has subject matter jurisdiction over such matters. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1367, the Court has authority to hear the additional claims through the principle of supplemental jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) ("district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution. Such supplemental jurisdiction shall include claims that involve the joinder or intervention of additional parties."). Assuming all material allegations in the complaint are true, the lack of federal jurisdiction does not appear from the face of the pleading itself.

Accordingly, Defendants' 12(b)(1) motions are denied.

B. MOTION TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM

1. Legal Standard

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a claim may be dismissed because of the plaintiff's "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). This rule provides for dismissal of a claim if, as a matter of law, "it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989); Parks Sch. of Business, Inc. v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 1484 (9th Cir. 1995). Thus, the determinative question is whether there is any set of "facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations of the complaint" that would entitle plaintiff to some relief. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002). A dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) may be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or on the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001); Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).In reviewing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), all allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Newman v. Sathyavaglswaran, 287 F.3d 786, 788 (9th Cir. 2002); Vignolo v. Miller, 120 F.3d 1075, 1077 (9th Cir. 1999). The Court must also assume that general allegations embrace the necessary, specific facts to support the claim. Smith v. Pacific Prop. and Dev. Corp., 358 F.3d 1097, 1106 (9th Cir. 2004); Peloza v. Capistrano Unified Sch. Dist., 37 F.3d 517, 521 (9th Cir. 1994). But, the Court is not required "to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001); see also Warren v. Fox Family Worldwide, Inc., 328 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2003); Western Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981). ...


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