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Granville H. Marshall, Jr v. Hal Meadows

March 15, 2011



This matter came before the court on September 24, 2010, for hearing of defendants' motions to strike plaintiff's exhibits, dismiss plaintiff's complaint and for a more definite statement. Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, appeared on his own behalf. J. Hawken Flanagan, Esq. appeared on behalf of defendant Meadows and Jennifer Pruski appeared on behalf of defendant Banner Lassen Medical Center. Oral argument was heard, and the motions were taken under submission.

Upon consideration of the briefing on file, the parties' arguments at the hearing, and the entire file, the court will grant defendants' motion to dismiss. However, in light of the plaintiff's pro status and for the reasons set forth below, the court will also grant plaintiff leave to amend his complaint to attempt to allege a cognizable claim.


Plaintiff, a medical doctor, alleges that beginning in 2008, defendant Banner Lassen Medical Center ("Banner Lassen") and defendant Hal Meadows, a medical doctor employed by Banner Lassen, began discriminating against plaintiff based on his race. Plaintiff alleges that the defendants refused to give him an application for "hospital privileges," treated plaintiff's patients with "intentional[] negligent treatment," and, on some occasions, refused to treat plaintiff's patients. (Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at 4.)*fn1

Sometime in January of 2010, defendant Meadows in the course and scope of his employment with defendant Banner Lassen attempted to injure plaintiff's reputation and ability to practice medicine by altering the medical records of one of plaintiff's patients and by providing false information about plaintiff to the patient and the patient's family. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that defendant Meadows contacted the wife of one of plaintiff's patients and told her that plaintiff was unstable, incompetent, was poisoning her husband and referred to plaintiff as "the pot doctor."*fn2 (Id.)


On May 25, 2010, plaintiff filed this complaint alleging claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985(3) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as several state law causes of action. (Id. at 1, 5-14.) On June 24, 2010, counsel for defendant Banner Lassen filed a motion to strike the exhibits attached to plaintiff's complaint (Doc. No. 6) and a motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint. ("Def. Banner Lassen's Mot. to Dismiss" (Doc. No. 10 & 11.)) On June 28, 2010, counsel for defendant Meadows filed a motion to dismiss and a motion for a more definite statement. ("Def. Meadows' Mot. to Dismiss" (Doc. No. 17.)) Plaintiff filed an opposition to defendants' motions on September 3, 2010. ("Pl.'s Opp'n." (Doc. No. 26.)) On September 8, 2010, defendant Meadows joined in defendant Banner Lassen's motion to strike. (Doc. No. 27.) Defendants Banner Lassen and Meadows filed replies to plaintiff's opposition on September 13, 2010. (Doc. No. 30 ("Def. Banner Lassen's Reply"); Doc. No. 32 ("Def. Meadows' Reply").)


Defendants seek dismissal of plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on the grounds that he has failed to state any cognizable claim. Specifically, defendants advance the following arguments. Plaintiff has failed to allege that the defendants acted under the color of state law and has failed to allege all the elements necessary to support a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3). Plaintiff cannot state a cognizable Title VII claim for employment discrimination because plaintiff and defendants did not have an employment relationship. Finally, plaintiff has failed to allege facts sufficient to support each of his state law claims.

In his opposition to the pending motion, plaintiff explains in greater detail the alleged history and relationship between himself and the defendants. Plaintiff states that this conflict with defendants began in 2002 when he enjoyed hospital privileges at Banner Lassen Medical Center. Plaintiff alleges that at that time the nursing staff at Banner Lassen refused to carry out his orders because of his race. Plaintiff complained to the Nursing Board and the Board of Health.

In 2004 plaintiff filed suit against Banner Lassen, the City of Susanville and Lassen County. Summary Judgment was granted in favor of the City of Susanville and Lassen County, while defendant Banner Lassen and plaintiff reached a settlement agreement. In 2007 plaintiff filed another civil action against Banner Lassen, claiming that the hospital and Michelle Joy, a co-defendant in the 2007 action, communicated with a potential employer resulting in plaintiff being denied an employment opportunity.

Plaintiff claims that on August 31, 2009, one of his patient's was transferred from plaintiff's office to Banner Lassen Medical Center Emergency Room by ambulance but was denied medical care by Banner Lassen because he was plaintiff's patient. Similarly, plaintiff alleges that on September 3, 2009, another patient arrived at the Banner Lassen Medical Center Emergency Room and was denied care because he was plaintiff's patient.

Defendants' argue in reply that plaintiff's opposition to the pending motion to dismiss does not address the fatal lack of sufficient factual allegations or legal deficiencies of his complaint. Moreover, defendants argue that plaintiff cannot cure those pleading defects by providing the factual details of prior lawsuits in an effort to re-litigate those matters.


A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint. North Star Int'l v. Arizona Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 581 (9th Cir. 1983). Dismissal of the complaint, or any claim within it, "can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). See also Robertson v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 749 F.2d 530, 534 (9th Cir. 1984). Thus, the court may dismiss a complaint or any claim within it as frivolous where the claim is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). The critical inquiry is whether a claim, even if inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227 (9th Cir. 1984). As the Supreme Court has explained, in order to state a claim on which relief may be granted, the plaintiff must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

In determining whether a complaint states a claim, the court accepts as true the material allegations in the complaint and construes those allegations, as well as the reasonable inferences that may be drawn from them, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trustees of Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976); Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the court also resolves doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969).

Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, the court may disregard allegations in the complaint that are contradicted by facts established by exhibits attached to the complaint. Durning v. First Boston Corp., 815 F.2d 1265, 1267 (9th Cir. 1987). In addition, the court need not accept as true conclusory allegations, unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. Western Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981).


I. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 & The Fourteenth Amendment

Plaintiff alleges that this action was "brought pursuant to" 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourteenth Amendment. (Compl. (Doc. No. 1.) at 1-2.) Plaintiff does not, however, provide any additional factual allegations or analysis with respect to either § 1983 or the Fourteenth Amendment and does not cite either with respect to any specific claim he has alleged in his complaint. In this regard, plaintiff's claim is so vague and conclusory that it could be properly dismissed on that basis alone. See Jones v. Community Redev. Agency, 733 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1984) (pro se plaintiff's conclusory allegations unsupported by facts properly dismissed by district court).

Morever, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides as follows: Every person who, under color of [state law] ... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States ... to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution ... shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute requires that there be an actual connection or link between the actions of the defendants and the deprivation alleged to have been suffered by plaintiff. See Monell v. Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976).

"To make out a cause of action under section 1983, plaintiff[] must plead that (1) the defendants acting under color of state law (2) deprived plaintiff[] of rights secured by the Constitution or federal statutes." Gibson v. United States, 781 F.2d 1334, 1338 (9th Cir. 1986). "[F]or state involvement with a private entity to confer jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 the involvement must be with the specific activity of which a party complains." Watkins v. Mercy Medical Center, 520 F.2d 894, 896 (9th Cir. 1975) (citing Chrisman v. Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, 506 F.2d 308, 313 (9th Cir. 1974). Further, "where the impetus for the discrimination is private, the State must have 'significantly involved itself with invidious discrimination,' . . ...

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