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Mohsin v. Cal. Dep't of Water Res.

United States District Court, E.D. California

October 1, 2014

SYED MOHSIN, Plaintiff,
v.
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF WATER RESOURCES, DAVID GUTIERREZ, MICHAEL WAGGONER, Defendant

September 30, 2014

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1008

For Syed Mohsin, Plaintiff: Marianne Elizabeth Malveaux, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices Of Marianne Malveaux, ElSobrante, CA; Yvette Claudia Sterling, LEAD ATTORNEY, Sterling Law Firm, Burlington City, NJ; Barbara E. Ransom, PHV, PRO HAC VICE, Sterling Law Firm, Burlington, NJ.

For California Department of Water Resources, David Gutierrez, Michael Waggoner, Defendants: Amy Lindsey-Doyle, LEAD ATTORNEY, Attorney General's for the State of California, Department of Justice, Sacramento, CA.

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ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

Troy L. Nunley, United States District Judge.

This matter is before the Court pursuant to Defendants' California Department of Water Resources (" DWR" ), David Gutierrez, and Michael Waggoner (collectively " Defendants" ) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. (ECF No. 9.) Plaintiff Syed Mohsin (" Plaintiff" ) filed an Opposition to Defendants' motion. (ECF No. 20.) The Court has carefully considered the arguments raised in Defendants' motion and reply, as well as Plaintiff's opposition. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.[1]

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was employed as an assistant engineering specialist by DWR from August 2000 to April 13, 2012. (Complaint, ECF No. 1 at ¶ 8.) He was diagnosed with right temporal lobe epilepsy at the age of 10 and, as a result, he suffered from various types of seizures throughout his life. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 21.) Plaintiff alleges that at the time he was hired, his neurologist completed a medical form that served as the basis for DWR to accommodate certain restrictions on Plaintiff's duty statement as required by his condition.[2] (ECF No. 1 at ¶ ¶ 26-29.) Plaintiff states these accommodations remained in place until February 2002, when they were removed from his duty statement over his protest. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ ¶ 39-40.)

On August 5, 2002, Plaintiff had brain surgery that lessened the degree of his seizures, but negatively impacted his mental processing speed and the use of his executive functions. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 43.) Plaintiff alleges that he attempted to receive accommodations for his condition following the surgery, but that Mr. Gutierrez " effectively refused" to provide those accommodations. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ ¶ 49-50.) The complaint states that DWR sought evaluations proposing accommodations for Plaintiff's condition from multiple doctors, including Plaintiff's own doctor. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ ¶ 51-54.) Ultimately, DWR issued a " Notice of Medical Action" pursuant to Cal. Gov't. Code § 19991.10 on March 12, 2012. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 65.)

Plaintiff states that his medical termination was preceded by tens years of harassment led by Defendant Waggoner, in an effort to force Plaintiff to resign. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 61.) Plaintiff also alleges that he was rejected from approximately 20 other positions within DWR for which he applied and that those positions were filled by individuals with lesser qualifications. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ ¶ 69-71.)

Plaintiff brings this suit against Defendants DWR, Gutierrez, Waggoner, and DOES 1-10 for violations of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Section 1983 (42 U.S.C. § 1983), Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.),

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Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. § 794), the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (Cal. Gov't. Code § 12900, et seq.), and for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Negligence, and Wrongful Termination.

II. STANDARD OF LAW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a pleading contain " a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). Under notice pleading in federal court, the complaint must " give the defendant fair notice of what the claim . . . is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (internal quotations omitted). " This simplified notice pleading standard relies on liberal discovery rules and summary judgment motions to define disputed facts and issues and to dispose of unmeritorious claims." Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 512, 122 S.Ct. 992, 152 L.Ed.2d 1 (2002).

On a motion to dismiss, the factual allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322, 92 S.Ct. 1079, 31 L.Ed.2d 263 (1972). A court is bound to give plaintiff the benefit of every reasonable inference to be drawn from the " well-pleaded" allegations of the complaint. Retail Clerks Int'l Ass'n v. Schermerhorn, 373 U.S. 746, 753 n.6, 83 S.Ct. 1461, 10 L.Ed.2d 678 (1963). A plaintiff need not allege " 'specific facts' beyond those necessary to state his claim and the grounds showing entitlement to relief." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. " 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." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).

Nevertheless, a court " need not assume the truth of legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations." United States ex rel. Chunie v. Ringrose, 788 F.2d 638, 643 n.2 (9th Cir. 1986). While Rule 8(a) does not require detailed factual allegations, " it demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A pleading is insufficient if it offers mere " labels and conclusions" or " a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (" Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." ). Moreover, it is inappropriate to assume that the plaintiff " can prove facts that it has not alleged or that the defendants have violated the . . . laws in ways that have not been alleged[.]" Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Cal. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526, 103 S.Ct. 897, 74 L.Ed.2d 723 (1983).

Ultimately, a court may not dismiss a complaint in which the plaintiff has alleged " enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 697 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Only where a plaintiff fails to " nudge[] [his or her] claims . . . across the line from conceivable to plausible[,]" is the complaint properly dismissed. Id. at 680. While the plausibility requirement is not akin to a probability requirement, it demands more than " a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. at 678. This plausibility inquiry

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is " a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679.

In ruling upon a motion to dismiss, the court may consider only the complaint, any exhibits thereto, and matters which may be judicially noticed pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 201. See Mir v. Little Co. of Mary Hosp., 844 F.2d 646, 649 (9th Cir. 1988); Isuzu Motors Ltd. v. Consumers Union of United States, Inc., 12 F.Supp.2d 1035, 1042 (C.D. Cal. 1998).

If a complaint fails to state a plausible claim, " '[a] district court should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.'" Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (quoting Doe v. United States, 58 F.3d 494, 497 (9th Cir. 1995)); see also Gardner v. Martino, 563 F.3d 981, 990 (9th Cir. 2009) (finding no abuse of discretion in denying leave to amend when amendment would be futile). Although a district court should freely give leave to amend when justice so requires under Rule 15(a)(2), " the court's discretion to deny such leave is 'particularly broad' where the plaintiff has previously amended its complaint[.]" Ecological Rights Found. v. Pac. Gas & Elec. Co., 713 F.3d 502, 520 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Miller v. Yokohama Tire Corp., 358 F.3d 616, 622 (9th Cir. 2004)).

III. ANALYSIS

a. Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the 14th Amendment (Count I)

Plaintiff seeks to bring a claim against Defendants under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ ¶ 72-75.) Defendants move to dismiss this claim under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), arguing that no cause of action exists directly under the United States Constitution. Defendants also move to dismiss this claim under Rule 41(b), arguing that Plaintiff fails to comply with Rules 8(a) and 10(b). (ECF No. 9-1 at 6.) The Court finds cause to dismiss Count I without leave to amend under 12(b)(6) and therefore does not reach Defendants' arguments under Rules 12(b)(1) and 14(b).

Defendants correctly state under Azul-Pacifico, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles that no cause of action exists directly under the United States Constitution. 973 F.2d 704, 705 (9th Cir. 1992). A cause of action under the Constitution may stand only when no other remedy exists at federal law. Ward v. Caulk, 650 F.2d 1144, 1147 (9th Cir. 1981). By enacting 42 U.S.C. § 1983, " Congress has supplied the exclusive remedy for constitutional violations committed under color of state authority." Molina v. Richardson, 578 F.2d 846, 850 (9th Cir. 1978). Plaintiff not only has a remedy under § 1983, but he has made use of that remedy by alleging Count IV. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ ¶ 98-106.) Moreover, Plaintiff's Opposition provides no ...


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