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Fleming v. Cigna Health Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 23, 2016



          EDWARD M. CHEN United States District Judge.


         On October 7, 2015 Plaintiff Jeffrey Fleming commenced the instant action against Defendants Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, Cigna Healthcare of California, Inc., Starwood Hotels & Resorts Management Company, Inc., Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, and John/Jane Does 1-100. Docket No. 1. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on February 17, 2016, which was denied as moot after the Court adopted Judge Westmore’s report and recommendation to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted, with leave to amend. Docket No. 27. Plaintiff then filed an Amended Complaint on April 6, 2016, which Defendants again moved to dismiss. Docket Nos. 29 (First Amended Complaint) (FAC), 30 (Mot.). After Plaintiff failed to respond to Defendants’ motion, this Court entered an Order to Show Cause, to which Plaintiff responded on May 26, 2016. Docket Nos. 34, 36.

         The Court has reviewed Plaintiffs’ response to the Order to Show Cause and is satisfied that the case should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute. The Court therefore discharges the order to show cause. However, for the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint.


         This complaint arises out of Plaintiff’s allegation that Defendants refused to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and a number of federal antidiscrimination statutes (42 U.S.C. 2000a-1, a-2, a-3(a), and bb-1(c)). FAC ¶ 6. Plaintiff alleges that he demanded medical records from Defendants after they admitted an unidentified doctor had billed them for blood. Id. Plaintiff claims that after stating he was a Jehovah’s Witness, Defendants refused to give copies of his medical records to him, another unidentified doctor, and HHR.[1] Id. Defendants then allegedly came up with “every possible reason or objective to not provide them, to the point of when [sic] [Plaintiff] was sent to go through the same people again and they just stopped answering the numbers . . . .” Id. Plaintiff now demands: the immediate release of all actions billed to Cigna Health Insurance since August 20, 2008, enforcement of 42 U.S.C. 2000h (intervention by the Attorney General), and ten million dollars ($10, 000, 000) for mental anguish. Id.


         Defendants challenge the entirety of Plaintiff’s complaint and move for either dismissal with prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or in the alternative, for dismissal with prejudice pursuant to Rule 41(b). Mot. at 3. This Court dismisses with prejudice Plaintiff’s HIPAA claims, along with all claims against Starwood Hotels & Resorts Management Company, Inc. and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. Plaintiff is granted leave to amend with respect to his civil rights claims against Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company and Cigna Healthcare of California, Inc.

         A. Dismissal Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

         Rule 12(b)(6) allows a party to file a motion to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” In order to survive a 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint must meet the Rule 8(a)(2) pleading standard, which requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” This standard requires “that the pleading . . . give[ ] the opposing party fair notice of the nature and basis or grounds of the claim.” Immigrant Assistance Project of Los Angeles Cty. Fed’n of Labor (AFL-CIO) v. I.N.S., 306 F.3d 842, 865 (9th Cir. 2002) (emphasis added).

         Here, Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s FAC failed to give them the requisite notice because it neither identified the elements of any of the alleged claims, nor the specific conduct attributable to each defendant. Mot. at 5. Defendants argue that with lack of notice they “remain in the dark” with respect to claims alleged against them and the factual basis for such claims. Id.

         This Court finds that Plaintiff’s complaint fails to satisfy Rule 8(a)(2)’s pleading standard. In his complaint, Plaintiff lists all six defendants on page two and never again makes specific reference to each. Instead, Plaintiff refers to them collectively as “Defendants” throughout the rest of the complaint. FAC ¶ 1. Plaintiff also provides a list of statutes, annotated with colloquial versions of their titles (i.e., 2000a-2 (depravation)), id. at ¶ 6, but never identifies the necessary factual basis for each cause of action. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The absence of any facts linking specific defendants to specific statutory violations does not provide the notice Rule 8(a) is designed to afford defendants. It is true that courts liberally construe pro se complaints, but even under the most liberal interpretation, the court “may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled.” Ivey v. Bd. Of Regents of Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982); see also Brazil v. U.S. Dep’t of Navy, 66 F.3d 193, 199 (9th Cir. 1995) (explaining that although pro se pleadings are construed liberally, even pro se “pleadings must meet some minimum threshold in providing a defendant with notice of what it is that it allegedly did wrong”).

         Plaintiff’s complaint is even more problematic with respect to his allegations against Starwood Hotels & Resorts Management Company, Inc. and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. because Plaintiff provides no plausible basis for these defendants’ connection to the alleged grievances. Plaintiff claims that the association between his alleged grievance and the hotel chain is “Starwood Hotels is self insured and has Cigna handle its portfolio, which makes Starwood responsible for Cigna’s actions.” In short, Plaintiff is suggesting that Starwood is liable under a theory of vicarious liability. However, vicarious liability only applies to particular legal relationships: generally, parent/child, employer/employee, etc. See Burlington Indus., Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742 (1998). There is no authority that portfolio-holder/portfolio-owner is a legal relationship to which vicarious liability applies, and Plaintiff pleads no facts to otherwise suggest that the Starwood defendants had any connection to the challenged conduct. For that reason, the Court will dismiss with prejudice the Starwood defendants.

         If Plaintiff files a Second Amended Complaint against the remaining Defendants, he must: (1) identify the legal and factual basis for each cause of action, (2) identify which cause of action is brought against which Defendant, and (3) provide a specific statement of how each Defendant engaged in the conduct that is the basis for the claims asserted against ...

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