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Igor Chepel and Lyudmila Rossoshanskaya v. State of California Department of Insurance

October 21, 2011


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


Plaintiff Igor Chepel ("plaintiff Chepel") and plaintiff Lyudmila Rossoshanskaya ("plaintiff Rossoshanskaya") (collectively, the "plaintiffs") are proceeding without counsel in this action.*fn1 Plaintiffs filed the operative complaint on August 5, 2011. (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Plaintiff Chepel purports to be plaintiff Rossoshanskaya's uncle, but does not purport to appear on her behalf. (Compl. ¶ 19.)

Presently before the court are both plaintiffs' applications to proceed in forma pauperis. (Dkt. Nos. 2-3.) For the reasons stated below, the undersigned grants plaintiffs' applications to proceed in forma pauperis, but dismisses plaintiffs' complaint without prejudice.

Plaintiffs are granted leave to file an amended complaint.

The undersigned orders that: (1) plaintiffs' claims against "Dave Jones -- Commissioner of Insurance," and "Craig Witt . . . a Senior Compliance Officer, employed by the Defendant, The California Department of Insurance," are dismissed without prejudice; (2) plaintiffs' claims against defendant Allied Insurance and its personnel, individual defendants Steven Weber, Jack Brier, Chris Carlson, and Sophia Williams are dismissed without prejudice; and (3) plaintiffs' claims against defendant Nationwide Insurance are dismissed without prejudice. The undersigned also orders that, in plaintiffs' amended pleading, plaintiffs are to refrain from re-alleging any claims against defendant the "State of California Department of Insurance," on the grounds that Eleventh Amendment immunity applies to that defendant, as well as to its employees named in their official capacities.

I. Plaintiffs' Application To Proceed In Forma Pauperis Plaintiffs have requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (Dkt. Nos. 2-3.) Their applications and declarations make the showing required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) and (2). (See id.) Accordingly, the undersigned grants both plaintiffs' requests to proceed in forma pauperis.

II. Screening Plaintiffs' Complaint

The determination that plaintiffs 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, or if the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against an immune defendant.

Under the "notice pleading" standard of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a 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). 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.'" 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 facts alleged as true and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff; 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. Plaintiff has the responsibility to allege facts to state a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949; Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009) ("bald allegation of impermissible motive" was conclusory and not entitled to an assumption of truth at the pleading stage).

Upon review of the complaint, the undersigned dismisses the complaint for failure to comply with the pleading standards described above and for other deficiencies described below. However, plaintiffs will be granted leave to file an amended complaint.

A. Plaintiffs' Allegations

Plaintiffs have sued a state agency - the "State of California Department of Insurance," (the "Department") - and individual defendants alleged to be employees and/or officials of the Department. Plaintiffs have also sued two private insurance companies, Nationwide Insurance ("Nationwide") and Allied Insurance ("Allied"), as well as some of their individual personnel. Plaintiffs allege three claims for relief: (1) violation of plaintiff Chepel's constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) violation of plaintiff Rossoshanskaya's constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (3) violation of plaintiff Rossoshanskaya's Fourteenth Amendment "Due Process -- Property" rights "in her state granted license as a hairstylist/barber." (Compl. ¶ 66.)

Generally, plaintiffs' claims arise from their interactions with two private insurance companies following a car accident involving plaintiff Rossoshanskaya and another driver, Yuliya Goga. (Compl. ¶¶ 17-44.) Plaintiffs allege that, following the accident, they made an insurance claim with their own insurance provider, Nationwide. (Id. ¶¶ 32-35.) Plaintiffs allege that Nationwide has discriminated against them "because of their Russian Heritage." (Id.) This alleged discrimination occurs through "stall[ing], harass[ing], drag[ging] their feet, [and] blackmail[ing]" plaintiffs in the insurance claims process. (Id.) Plaintiffs allege that the other driver's insurance provider, Allied, also discriminated against plaintiffs in the same fashion and because of their Russian heritage. (Id.) Plaintiffs allege that Nationwide and Allied "are running a scam" (id. ¶ 35) on them by requiring unidentified "claimants" to "prove their relationship" with plaintiff Rossoshanskaya and by "refusing to determine liability" (id. ¶ 25) for the car accident in a timely fashion.

Plaintiffs also allege that they "complained to the Defendant the California Department of Insurance" about alleged discrimination by Allied and Nationwide. (Id. ¶ 39-44.) Plaintiffs allege that the Department, and its "agent Mr. Craig Witt," have "ignored the Plaintiffs' complaints by stating that they cannot do anything . . . ." (Id. ¶ 40.) Plaintiffs allege that, "[b]y ignoring the complaints of [p]laintiffs," the Department and its personnel Craig Witt and Dave Jones necessarily "condone the action of the other defendants and are therefore just as guilty of [d]iscrimination." (Id. ¶ 41.) Plaintiffs also allege that the Department "ignore[d]" their complaints because they "belong to the same Mafia as the Defendant Insurance Companies." (Id. ¶ 43.) Aside from "ignoring" plaintiffs' complaints about Allied and Nationwide, plaintiffs also allege that the Department "promulgated the policies and plans and conducted the training which manifests a deliberate indifference to . . . the constitutional rights of . . . Plaintiff[s]." (Id. ¶ 51.)

Plaintiffs allege that this court has original jurisdiction over this case because plaintiffs allege a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Id. ¶ 2.) Plaintiffs also allege that this court has supplemental jurisdiction over their other claims by virtue of 28 U.S.C. § 1367. (Id. ¶ 3.)

Plaintiffs each seek $25,000,000.00 in special and exemplary damages. (Id. at 12.) Plaintiffs also seek general and punitive damages, as well as fees and costs. (Id.) ...

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