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Fonseca v. Smith

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 27, 2017

JONEE FONSECA, Plaintiff,
v.
KAREN SMITH, M.D., in her official capacity as Director of the California Department of Public Health, Defendant.

          ORDER

         This matter comes before the court again following the tragic death of young Israel Stinson. Plaintiff is Israel's mother, Jonee Fonseca. Defendant is Karen Smith, M.D., whom plaintiff is suing in her official capacity as Director of the California Department of Health. On August 31, 2016, defendant filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's second amended complaint. ECF No. 68. Plaintiff opposes. ECF No. 70. On October 7, 2016, the court heard arguments, in which Kevin Snider appeared on behalf of plaintiff and Ashante Norton appeared on behalf of defendant. Oct. 7, 2016 Hr'g Mins., ECF No. 77. For the reasons stated below, defendant's motion to dismiss is GRANTED.

         I. JUDICIAL NOTICE

         Defendant requests the court take judicial notice of the following documents:

Exhibit A: documents from the Assembly Health Committee Analysis of Senate Bill 2004;
Exhibit B: a copy of the Uniform Determination of Death Act drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws;
Exhibit C: plaintiff's Ex Parte Petition for a Temporary Restraining Order/Injunction and Request for Order of Independent Neurological Exam, filed August 18, 2016, in Fonseca v. Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Superior Court, Case No. BS164387;
Exhibit D: a copy of the Temporary Restraining Order and Order to Show Cause Re Preliminary Injunction filed August 18, 2016, in Fonseca v. Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Superior Court, Case No. BS164387; and
Exhibit E: Order on Ex Parte Application to Dissolve Temporary Restraining Order filed August 25, 2016, in Fonseca v. Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Superior Court, Case No. BS164387.

Def.'s Req. for Judicial Notice (“RJN”), ECF No. 68-2.

         Although legislative history is properly a subject of judicial notice, Anderson v. Holder, 673 F.3d 1089, 1094 n.1 (9th Cir. 2012), the court declines to take judicial notice of Exhibits A and B because they are not relevant to the court's decision on the pending motion. The court does take judicial notice of Exhibits C through E, as state court filings and orders also are properly subjects of judicial notice, and they are relevant to the court's decision. See Holder v. Holder, 305 F.3d 854, 866 (9th Cir. 2002) (taking judicial notice of a state court opinion and briefs filed in that proceeding).[1]

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On April 1, 2016, Israel Stinson suffered a severe asthma attack and was taken to Mercy General Hospital, where he was intubated. Second Am. Compl. (“SAC”) ¶ 6, ECF No. 64. Israel was eventually transferred to University of California Davis Medical Center in Sacramento (“UC Davis”) and admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit. Id. On April 10, after performing a series of tests, including a magnetic resonance imaging (“MRI”) and computed tomography (“CT”) scan, doctors at UC Davis concluded Israel had suffered brain death. Id. ¶ 19.

         The next day, on April 11, Israel was transferred to Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center - Women and Children's Center (“Kaiser”). Id. ¶ 20. On April 14, doctors performed further tests that confirmed Israel had suffered brain death. See Id . ¶¶ 20-23. That day a doctor at Kaiser, Dr. Myette, filled out and signed a Certificate of Death that declared Israel deceased, id. ¶ 36, and Kaiser sought to remove him from life support, id. ¶ 40. Also on that day, the Placer County Superior Court granted plaintiff's application for a temporary restraining order requiring Kaiser to maintain life support. Id. ¶¶ 40-41. After the Superior Court found on April 27, 2016 that Kaiser had satisfied all medical protocols in determining Israel's death, plaintiff filed this action in federal court. Id. ¶¶ 41-42; Ex. G, April 27, 2016 Hr'g Mins., ECF No. 14-8.

         On April 28, plaintiff's original complaint in this case named Kaiser and Dr. Myette, alleging violation of, inter alia, plaintiff's right to privacy as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. ECF No. 1. On May 2, the court heard arguments and granted plaintiff's request for a temporary restraining order requiring Kaiser to maintain life support. ECF No. 22.

         On May 3, plaintiff filed an amended complaint in which she added as a defendant Karen Smith, M.D., in her official capacity as Director of the California Department of Public Health, alleging, inter alia, defendants violated plaintiff's right to due process as guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. First Am. Compl. (“FAC”), ECF No. 29. Plaintiff also sought a declaration that the California Uniform Determination of Death Act (“CUDDA”), a statute that defines death in California, is unconstitutional on its face. FAC Prayer ¶ 3.

         On May 6, plaintiff filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against Kaiser, seeking to enjoin Kaiser from removing Israel from life support pending trial. ECF No. 33. On May 13, the court issued an order denying plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction; however, the court allowed the temporary restraining order to remain in place until May 20 to give plaintiff time to appeal. ECF No. 48.

         On May 14, plaintiff filed a notice of interlocutory appeal to the Ninth Circuit. ECF No. 49. On May 20, the Ninth Circuit stayed dissolution of this court's temporary restraining order to afford the Circuit time to review the matter. ECF No. 55. Days later, a medical facility outside the United States admitted Israel as a patient, SAC ¶ 42, and plaintiff withdrew her Ninth Circuit appeal, ECF No. 59.

         On June 8, plaintiff stipulated to the dismissal of Kaiser and Dr. Myette as defendants in this case. ECF No. 60. On July 1, plaintiff filed the operative second amended complaint. See SAC. Plaintiff's second amended complaint names only one defendant: Karen Smith, M.D., in her official capacity as Director of the California Department of Health. Id. As Director of the California Department of Health, Karen Smith, M.D., has a supervisorial, regulatory, and enforcement role over California hospitals, and her Department issues death certificates. Id. ¶ 4. The second amended complaint includes five claims, all stemming from California's definition of death under CUDDA: (1) Deprivation of Life and Liberty in violation of Due Process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments (42 U.S.C. § 1983); (2) Deprivation of Parental Rights in violation of Due Process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments (42 U.S.C. § 1983); (3) Deprivation of Life (Cal. Const. Art. I § 1); (4) violation of federal Privacy Rights (42 U.S.C. § 1983); and (5) violation of state Privacy Rights (Cal. Const. Art. I § 1). Id. Plaintiff also seeks a declaration that CUDDA is unconstitutional on its face and as applied to the facts in this case. SAC Prayer ¶¶ 2-3.

         Following July 1, the following events have taken place and are referenced in the motion to dismiss; they also are relevant to whether plaintiff should be granted leave to amend. On August 6, 2016, plaintiff transported Israel back to the United States, where he was admitted to Children's Hospital of Los Angeles (“Children's Hospital”). Ex. C, Def.'s RJN at 29, ECF No. 68-3. On August 16, Children's Hospital informed plaintiff it intended to remove Israel from life support. Id. at 30. Two days later, the Los Angeles County Superior Court ...


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