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Finley v. Northern Ca. Carpenters Pension Trust Fund Trustees

United States District Court, E.D. California

February 18, 2015

KEVIN FINLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
NORTHERN CA. CARPENTERS PENSION TRUST FUND TRUSTEES, ET AL., BOB ALVARADO, MIKE KNAB, CHARLENE MARTINEZ, BILL FEYLING, FIELD REPRESENTATIVES RIGO LAGUARDIA LOCAL 217, SHAWN LEONARD LOCAL 2236, JAY STREETS LOCAL 405, Defendants.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

EDMUND F. BRENNAN, Magistrate Judge.

On February 4, 2015, this matter was before the court for hearing on defendants Carpenters Pension Trust Fund for Northern California (the "Pension Fund"), Carpenters Board of Trustees and its trustees Mike Knab, Bon Alvarado, and Bill Feyling, the Carpenters Fund Administrative Office of Northern California, Inc., [1] Carpenters Health & Welfare Trust Fund, Carpenters Union Local # 22, Carpenters Union Local # 217, Rigo LaGuardia, and Jay Streets' motion to dismiss plaintiff's second amended complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). ECF No. 70.[2] For the reasons state below, it is recommended that the motion be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff initiated this action on June 5, 2013. ECF No. 1. On September 30, 2013, the Pension Fund, Knab Alvarado, Feyling, and Charlene Martinez moved to dismiss the complaint. ECF No. 13. Plaintiff subsequently filed a motion to amend together with a first amended complaint. ECF Nos. 14, 15, 16. The amended complaint was filed within 21 days of defendants' responsive pleading, and under Rule 15(a) plaintiff was permitted to amend his compliant as a matter of course. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). For that reason, the motion to dismiss was denied as moot, and defendants were instructed to file a response to the first amended complaint. ECF No. 20.

On October 22, 2013, the same defendants moved to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) and 12(b)(6), arguing that the Eastern District of California was not a proper venue and that the complaint failed to state a claim. ECF No. 30. In what appeared to be a duplicative motion, defendants Bob Alvarado, Mike Knab, Bill Feyling, Rigo LaGuardia, and Jay Streets moved to dismiss on the identical grounds but in their "individual" capacities. ECF No. 29. Defendants' motions were granted in part and denied in part. ECF Nos. 59, 61. The motion based on improper venue was denied, but the complaint was dismissed for failure to state a claim. Id.

After receiving two extensions of time, plaintiff filed his second amended complaint, incorrectly styled as a first amended complaint. ECF No. 68. The second amended complaint added three new defendants: Gene Price, Carpenters Fund Administrative Office of Northern California, Inc. ("CFAO"), [3] and the Carpenters Health & Welfare Trust Fund ("H&W Fund"). All defendants, with the exception of Shawn Leonard, have moved to dismiss the second amended complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. ECF No. 70. Plaintiff, rather than filing an opposition to that motion, filed a "Final Amended 2nd Complaint, " which the court construes as a motion for leave to amend the complaint.[4] As explained below, defendants' motion to dismiss must be granted in part and denied in part. Further, plaintiff's motion to amend should be denied.

II. Motion to Dismiss

A. Rule 12(b)(6) Standards

To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain more than a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action"; it must contain factual allegations sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "The pleading must contain something more... than... a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action." Id. (quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-236 (3d ed. 2004)). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting 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." Id. Dismissal is appropriate based either on the lack of cognizable legal theories or the lack of pleading sufficient facts to support cognizable legal theories. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

In considering a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hosp. Trs., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976), construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, and resolve all doubts in the pleader's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421, reh'g denied, 396 U.S. 869 (1969).

The court is also cognizant of plaintiff's pro se status. Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). However, although the court must construe the pleadings of a pro se litigant liberally, Bretz v. Kelman, 773 F.2d 1026, 1027 n. 1 (9th Cir. 1985), that liberal interpretation may not supply essential elements of a claim that are not plead. Pena v. Gardner, 976 F.2d 469, 471 (9th Cir. 1992); Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). Furthermore, "[t]he court is not required to accept legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations if those conclusions cannot reasonably be drawn from the facts alleged." Clegg v. Cult Awareness Network, 18 F.3d 752, 754-55 (9th Cir. 1994). Neither need the court accept unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. W. Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981).

In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court may consider facts established by exhibits attached to the complaint. Durning v. First Boston Corp., 815 F.2d 1265, 1267 (9th Cir. 1987). The court may also consider facts which may be judicially noticed, Mullis v. U.S. Bankr. Ct., 828 F.2d at 1338, and matters of public record, including pleadings, orders, and other papers filed with the court. Mack v. South Bay Beer Distribs., 798 F.2d 1279, 1282 (9th Cir.1986).

B. Factual Allegations

Plaintiff worked as a carpenter and joined the carpenters union in San Francisco, Carpenters Local # 22, in 1978. ECF No. 68 ¶ 8. Between 1979 and 1980, plaintiff worked as a union carpenter in Palm Springs, California, before taking a short break from carpentry to work as a locksmith. Id. In 1982, plaintiff joined the carpenters union in San Bruno, California, and continued to work as a union carpenter without a break in service until his retirement. Id. ¶¶ 8, 10. As a union member, he participated in a pension plan that was governed by the Pension Fund. Id. ¶ 13. Plaintiff alleges that defendants ...


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