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Brian T. Michaluk, D.O v. Vohra Health Services

January 3, 2013

BRIAN T. MICHALUK, D.O., PLAINTIFF,
v.
VOHRA HEALTH SERVICES, P.A., ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



ORDER

Defendant Vohra Health Services has filed a motion to dismiss the fourth and fifth causes of action and the claim for punitive damages in plaintiff's first amended complaint (FAC). Plaintiff has opposed the motion and defendant has filed a reply. The court ordered the matter submitted without argument, L.R. 230(g), and GRANTS defendant's motion.

I. BACKGROUND

On March 21, 2012, plaintiff filed a complaint in Solano County Superior Court alleging seven causes of action: (1) breach of contract; (2) failure to pay fees, wages and waiting time penalties, CAL. LAB. CODE §§ 202, 203; (3) violation of California Labor Code § 2802(a); (4) unlawful business practices, CAL. BUS. & PROF. CODE § 17200; (5) negligent and intentional misrepresentation and fraud and deceit; (6) declaratory relief; and (7) interference with contractual relations and prospective economic advantage. Complaint, ECF No. 1-1. Defendant removed the case to this court on April 30, 2012, invoking this court's diversity jurisdiction, and on May 7 filed a motion to dismiss portions of the complaint ECF Nos. 1, 8. On September 11, 2012, the court granted the motion, giving plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint. ECF No. 21.

On September 13, 2012, the court adopted the parties' stipulation, consolidating this action and Vohra Health Services, P.A. v. Brian T. Michaluk, D.O., Civ. No. S-12-1971, as both cases arise out of the contractual relationship between the parties. ECF No. 22.

On September 27, 2012, plaintiff filed his first amended complaint (FAC), comprised of six causes of action: (1) breach of contract; (2) failure to pay fees and wages and waiting time penalties; (3) violation of California Labor Code § 2802; (4) unlawful business practices (UCL), CAL. BUS. & PROF. CODE § 17200; (5) negligent and intentional misrepresentation, fraud and deceit; and (6) declaratory relief.

II. STANDARDS FOR A MOTION TO DISMISS

Under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may move to dismiss a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." A court may dismiss "based on the lack of 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). A motion to dismiss under this rule may also challenge the sufficiency of fraud allegations under the more particularlized standard of Rule 9(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Vess v. Ciba-Geigy Corp. USA, 317 F.3d 1097, 1107 (9th Cir. 2003).

Although a complaint need contain only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2), in order to survive a motion to dismiss this short and plain statement "must contain sufficient factual matter . . . to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A complaint must include something more than "an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation" or "'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Determining whether a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679. Ultimately, the inquiry focuses on the interplay between the factual allegations of the complaint and the dispositive issues of law in the action. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984).

In making this context-specific evaluation, this court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept as true the factual allegations of the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). This rule does not apply to "'a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation,'" Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986) (quoted in Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555), nor to "allegations that contradict matters properly subject to judicial notice" or to material attached to or incorporated by reference into the complaint. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988-89 (9th Cir. 2001). A court's consideration of documents attached to a complaint or incorporated by reference or matter of judicial notice will not convert a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 907-08 (9th Cir. 2003); Parks Sch. of Bus. v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 1484 (9th Cir. 1995); compare Van Buskirk v. Cable News Network, Inc., 284 F.3d 977, 980 (9th Cir. 2002) (noting that even though court may look beyond pleadings on motion to dismiss, generally court is limited to face of the complaint on 12(b)(6) motion).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Fraud, Deceit And Misrepresentation -- Fifth Cause Of Action Defendant asserts that plaintiff has not alleged defendant's misrepresentations with the particularity demanded by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff retorts that his pleading is sufficient to withstand dismissal and that he can amend, if necessary, to allege additional facts supporting the claim. In California, a claim of fraudulent misrepresentation has five elements:

(1) misrepresentation, which encompasses false representation, concealment and nondisclosure;

(2) knowledge of falsity; (3) intent to defraud; (4) justifiable reliance; and (5) damage. Lazar v. Superior Court, 12 Cal. 4th 631, 638 (1996). A claim of deceit based on intentional misrepresentation has seven elements: (1) the defendant represented to plaintiff that an important fact was true; (2) the representation was false; (3) the defendant knew the representation was false or made it recklessly without regard for the truth; (4) the defendant intended that plaintiff rely on the representation; (5) the plaintiff reasonably relied on the representation; (6) the plaintiff was harmed; and (7) the plaintiff's reliance was a substantial factor in causing the harm. Manderville v. PCG & S Group, Inc., 146 Cal. App. 4th 1486, 1498 (2007). The elements for a claim of negligent misrepresentation are (1) a misrepresentation of a past or existing material fact, (2) without reasonable grounds for believing it to be true, (3) with intent to induce another's reliance, and (4) justifiable reliance by a party who was ignorant of the truth. B.L.M. v. Sabo & Deitsch, 55 Cal. App. 4th 823, 834 (1997).

In addition to the pleading requirements of Rule 8, allegations of fraud must meet heightened pleading standards. Under Rule 9(b), a plaintiff who alleges fraud "must state with particularity the circumstances constituting the fraud," but may "aver[] generally" the state of mind animating the fraud. The pleading must "'be specific enough to give defendants notice of the particular misconduct . . . so that they can defend against the charge and not just deny that they have done anything wrong.'" Sanford v. Memberworks, Inc., 625 F.3d 550, 558 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Kearns v. Ford Motor Co., 567 F.3d 1120, 1124 (9th Cir. 2009)); Neubronner v. Milken, 6 F.3d 666, 671-72 (9th Cir. 1993) ("A pleading is sufficient under Rule 9(b) if it identifies the circumstances constituting fraud so that the defendant can prepare an adequate answer from the allegations."; internal quotation marks, citation, omitted); Odom v. Microsoft Corp., 486 F.3d 541, 553 (9th Cir. 2007) (recognizing that "plaintiffs may aver scienter generally, just as the rule states--that is, simply by saying that scienter existed"; internal quotation marks, citation, omitted). To avoid dismissal, the complaint must describe the time, place, and specific content of the false representations and identify the parties to the misrepresentations. Kearns, 567 F.3d at 1124. Because averments of fraud must meet this pleading standard, courts in the Ninth Circuit have applied the standard to claims of intentional and negligent misrepresentation, which in California are a species of fraud. ...


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