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Michael Dean v. Spring Leaf Financial Services Inc

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


July 19, 2011

MICHAEL DEAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SPRING LEAF FINANCIAL SERVICES INC., DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff is proceeding without counsel and in forma pauperis.*fn1 In an order entered July 7, 2011, the undersigned: (1) granted plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis; (2) screened plaintiff's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915; and (3) dismissed plaintiff's complaint with leave to amend. (Order, July 7, 2011, Dkt. No. 4.) Plaintiff timely filed an Amended Complaint on July 18, 2011 (Dkt. No. 5). In this order, the undersigned screens plaintiff's Amended Complaint and dismisses it with leave to amend.

I. SCREENING STANDARDS

As conveyed to plaintiff in a prior order, the determination that a plaintiff may proceed in forma pauperis does not complete the required inquiry. The court is also required to screen complaints brought by parties proceeding in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the court is directed to dismiss a case filed pursuant to the in forma pauperis statute if, at any time, it determines that the allegation of poverty is untrue, the action is frivolous or malicious, the complaint fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or the action seeks monetary relief against an immune defendant.

A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); see also Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227-28 (9th Cir. 1984). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous if that claim is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or if the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327.

In assessing whether a plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted, the court adheres to the "notice pleading" standards. Under the notice pleading standards of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff's complaint must provide, in part, a "short and plain statement" of plaintiff's claims showing entitlement to relief. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2); see also Paulsen v. CNF, Inc., 559 F.3d 1061, 1071 (9th Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 130 S. Ct. 1053 (2010). A complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim if, taking all well-pleaded factual allegations as true, it does not contain "'enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" See Coto Settlement v. Eisenberg, 593 F.3d 1031, 1034 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)). "'A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'" Caviness v. Horizon Cmty. Learning Ctr., Inc., 590 F.3d 806, 812 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949). The court accepts all of the facts alleged in the complaint as true and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Corrie v. Caterpillar, 503 F.3d 974, 977 (9th Cir. 2007). The court is "not, however, required to accept as true conclusory allegations that are contradicted by documents referred to in the complaint, and [the court does] not necessarily assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations." Paulsen, 559 F.3d at 1071 (citations and quotation marks omitted). The court must construe a pro se pleading liberally to determine if it states a claim and, prior to dismissal, tell a plaintiff of deficiencies in the complaint and give the plaintiff an opportunity to cure them if it appears at all possible that the plaintiff can correct the defect. See Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1130-31.

II. PLAINTIFF'S AMENDED COMPLAINT IS SUBJECT TO DISMISSAL

Plaintiff's Amended Complaint contains very few factual allegations regarding defendant's conduct. In regards to defendant's conduct that gives rise to liability, plaintiff alleges:

SPRING LEAF FIN.CO INC,ILEGALY SOLD PROPERTY AT 420 LAS PALMAS AVE IN SACRAMENTO.S.L.F. DISREGARDS SB. 1137 INTRODUCING WRONG STATEMENTS TO BC.11U.S.C. 342

[B][2][A] FORECLOSURE SCAM REPORTED TO DPT OF JUSTICE . . . . UNLAWFUL DETAINER ILLEGALLY POSTED NOTICE ON PROPERTY THUS PRESENTING "BAD" PERSON TO NEIGHBOURHOOD INTENT TO INDUCE HARM TO DISABLED PERSON.PROPOSAL TO SETLE CASE IS PENDING.

(Am. Compl. at 2.)

Plaintiff alleges five claims for relief against defendant. First, plaintiff alleges a claim for "Discrimination." (Am. Compl. at 3.) Plaintiff only alleges that as a result of defendant's "discriminatory acts," plaintiff suffered damages in the form of "substantial losses in earnings and job benefits." (Id.) He further alleges that defendant is "guilty of want disregard of the rights and feelings" of plaintiff. (Id.) Plaintiff does not allege that he was employed by defendant, and nothing in plaintiff's Amended Complaint otherwise suggests that plaintiff's claims stem from an employment relationship.

Second, plaintiff alleges a claim for "wrongful termination." (Amended Compl. at 3-4.) This claim does not appear to be an employment-related claim. Instead, this claim appears to seek relief based on defendant's alleged violation of an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing under California law. Plaintiff's claim is premised on unidentified "acts and omissions and conduct stated herein." (Id. at 4.)

Third, plaintiff alleges a claim for "Violation CFRA" (Am. Coml. at 4), which appears to allege a violation of the "California Family Rights Act," also referred to as the "Moore-Brown-Roberti Family Rights Act." See Cal. Govt. Code §§ 12945.1, 12945.2, 19702.3. These statutory provisions generally concern employers' obligations to grant requests for family care and medical leave under certain circumstances. It is not at all clear why defendant's act of selling plaintiff's home-apparently after executing a foreclosure-would violate the California Family Rights Act. Again, nothing in plaintiff's Amended Complaint suggests that plaintiff's claims stem from an employment relationship.

Fourth, plaintiff alleges a claim for "Failure to Accommodate Refinancing." (Am. Compl. at 4-5.) Plaintiff alleges no factual or legal basis for this claim whatsoever. Instead, plaintiff simply incorporates prior allegations by reference, all of which shed no light on this claim.

Fifth, plaintiff alleges a claim for "Failure to Accommodate Disability," which is premised on defendant's "failure to accommodate [plaintiff's] refinancing." (Am. Compl. at 5.) Again, plaintiff does not allege what facts give rise to this claim other than allegations regarding plaintiff's "on-going heart related health problem" and an unexplained failure on defendant's part to "accommodate" plaintiff's apparent desire for refinancing of some loan.

The undersigned dismisses plaintiff's complaint with leave to amend. As an initial matter, plaintiff simply has not alleged enough facts to place defendant on notice of its alleged wrongful conduct that gives rise to plaintiff's claims. Plaintiff alleges only that defendant "illegally" sold a property that appears to have once belonged to plaintiff, and that plaintiff was not permitted to refinance his loan. Without more, the undersigned cannot order service of the Amended Complaint on defendant. Plaintiff should pay close attention to the pleading standards set forth above in attempting to file a further amended complaint, and should only file a further amended complaint if he believes in good faith that a factual and a legal basis for his claims against defendant actually exists.

More fundamentally, plaintiff's Amended Complaint fails to state a basis for this court's subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's claims, which is fatal to plaintiff's entire action. In relevant part, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(1) provides that a complaint "must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction." Plaintiff failed to meet this pleading requirement, and his complaint is dismissed on this additional ground. However, plaintiff is granted leave to file a further amended complaint that alleges a basis for this court's subject matter jurisdiction. If plaintiff does not believe he can state a good faith basis for this court's subject matter jurisdiction, he should dismiss this case and re-file the action in state court. The undersigned provides the following guidance for plaintiff's consideration in further amending his complaint.

Federal district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction that "may not grant relief absent a constitutional or valid statutory grant of jurisdiction," and "[a] federal court is presumed to lack jurisdiction in a particular case unless the contrary affirmatively appears." A-Z Int'l v. Phillips, 323 F.3d 1141, 1145 (9th Cir. 2003) (citations and quotation marks omitted); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3) ("If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action."). Generally, original federal subject matter jurisdiction may be premised on two grounds: (1) federal question jurisdiction, or (2) diversity jurisdiction. District courts have federal question jurisdiction over "all civil actions that arise under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. "A case 'arises under' federal law either where federal law creates the cause of action or 'where the vindication of a right under state law necessarily turn[s] on some construction of federal law.'" Republican Party of Guam v. Gutierrez, 277 F.3d 1086, 1088-89 (9th Cir. 2002) (modification in original) (citing Franchise Tax Bd. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 8-9 (1983)). "[T]he presence or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the 'well-pleaded complaint rule,' which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint." Provincial Gov't of Marinduque v. Placer Dome, Inc., 582 F.3d 1083, 1091 (9th Cir. 2009). District courts have diversity jurisdiction over "all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs," and the action is between: "(1) citizens of different States; (2) citizens of a State and citizens or subjects of a foreign state; (3) citizens of different States and in which citizens or subjects of a foreign state are additional parties; and (4) a foreign state . . . as plaintiff and citizens of a State or of different States." 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

Again, plaintiff has not alleged any basis for this court's subject matter jurisdiction. Additionally, all of plaintiff's claims appear to be premised on California law, which precludes the exercise of federal question jurisdiction. Moreover, plaintiff has alleged no facts substantiating that this court possesses diversity jurisdiction over plaintiff's claims. Accordingly, plaintiff's Amended Complaint is dismissed with leave to amend.

III. CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff's Amended

Complaint (Dkt. No. 5) is dismissed with leave to amend. Plaintiff is granted 30 days from the date of this order to file a further amended complaint that is complete in itself and that addresses the deficiencies herein. The further amended complaint must bear the docket number assigned to this case and must be entitled "Second Amended Complaint." Plaintiff must file an original and one copy of the Second Amended Complaint. Failure to timely file a further amended complaint in accordance with this order will result in a recommendation that this action be dismissed.*fn2

Additionally, plaintiff is informed that the court cannot refer to prior pleadings in order to make an amended complaint complete. Eastern District Local Rule 220 requires that an amended complaint be complete in itself. This requirement is because, as a general rule, an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint. See Loux v. Rhay, 375 F.2d 55, 57 (9th Cir. 1967) ("The amended complaint supersedes the original, the latter being treated thereafter as non-existent."). Accordingly, once plaintiff files the Second Amended Complaint, the original complaint and Amended Complaint no longer serve any function in the case.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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