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Ferguson v. California Department of Justice

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 4, 2017

PHILLIP FERGUSON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS RE: DKT. NOS. 4, 7

          HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court are two motions to dismiss: one filed by the State of California by and through the California Department of Justice (“California DOJ”) (collectively, “State Defendants”), Dkt. No. 4 (“State's Mot.”), and the other filed by six special agents employed by the California DOJ (“Agents”), Dkt. No. 7 (“Agents' Mot.”). Both motions seek dismissal of the first amended complaint, Dkt. No. 1, Ex. A (“FAC”), filed by twenty patients (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) who received medical treatment from the Bay Area Consortium for Quality Healthcare (“BAC”), id. ¶ 1. Plaintiffs filed a single opposition to both motions, Dkt. No. 9 (“Opp.”), [1] and Defendants filed a single reply, Dkt. No. 10 (“Reply”). The Court finds that this matter is appropriate for disposition without oral argument and the matter is deemed submitted. See Civil L.R. 7-1(b). Having carefully considered the arguments made by the parties, the Court hereby GRANTS the State Defendants' motion to dismiss as to all causes of action and GRANTS the Agents' motion to dismiss as to Plaintiffs' cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court does not reach the merits of Plaintiffs' state law claims against the Agents, as it would decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over them absent a viable federal claim.

         I. REQUESTS FOR JUDICIAL NOTICE

         The Court first addresses Defendants' requests for judicial notice because they are relevant to the facts of the case. Each of the motions to dismiss is accompanied by a substantively identical request for judicial notice. See Dkt. Nos. 5, 8 (collectively, “RJNs”). Each RJN attaches the same March 6, 2015 search warrant issued by the California Superior Court, County of Alameda, ordering the search and seizure of evidence of felony criminal activity located at 405 14th Street, Suite 300, Oakland, California (“Premises”), and other locations. See RJNs, Ex. A (“Warrant”).

         Courts may take judicial notice of facts outside the pleadings on a motion to dismiss. Mack v. S. Bay Beer Distribs., 798 F.2d 1279, 1282 (9th Cir. 1986), abrogated on other grounds by Astoria Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n v. Solimino, 501 U.S. 104 (1991). “The court may judicially notice a fact that is not subject to reasonable dispute because it . . . can be accurately and readily determined from sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned.” Fed.R.Evid. 201(b). Under Federal Rule of Evidence 201(b), a court may judicially notice “matters of public record.” Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 689 (9th Cir. 2001), overruled on other grounds by Galbraith v. County of Santa Clara, 307 F.3d 1119, 1125-26 (9th Cir. 2002). Courts regularly find that search warrants are public records properly subject to judicial notice. See, e.g., Bennett v. County of Shasta, No. 2:15-cv-01764-MCE-CMK, 2016 WL 3743151, at *1 (E.D. Cal. July 13, 2016); Assali v. City of Simi Valley, No. CV 13-09201-R (VBK), 2014 WL 3818062, at *4-5 (C.D. Cal. July 31, 2014). Here, Plaintiffs do not dispute the existence or the authenticity of the search warrant. The Court GRANTS the RJNs because the search warrant is not subject to reasonable dispute and is a matter of public record.

         II. FACTS

         On March 11, 2015, the Agents executed a search warrant at the Premises, which included not only BAC's medical offices but also a law office. FAC ¶¶ 10-15. See generally Warrant. The target of the search warrant was BAC, a medical services corporation under investigation for criminal activity. See generally id. Among other property, the search warrant authorized the seizure of medical records. Id. ¶ 25. The Agents searched the entire premises. FAC ¶ 10. Agents took boxes of Plaintiffs' original medical records that BAC's health care professionals maintained for treating Plaintiffs. Id. ¶¶ 14-15. The firm's principal partner and at least one other staff member were present during the search. Id. ¶¶ 11, 13. However, the FAC does not plead that Plaintiffs were present during the search. At some time after the search was complete, Plaintiffs requested that Defendants return their original medical records. Id. ¶ 16. As of November 15, 2016, Defendants still had not returned Plaintiffs' original medical records. Id. ¶ 16. Consequently, Plaintiffs have been forced to receive treatment from new medical providers without those providers having access to Plaintiffs' medical history. Id. ¶ 16.[2]

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief[.]” A defendant may move to dismiss a complaint for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). “Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate only where the complaint lacks a cognizable legal theory or sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory.” Mendiondo v. Centinela Hosp. Med. Ctr., 521 F.3d 1097, 1104 (9th Cir. 2008). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible when a plaintiff pleads “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         In reviewing the plausibility of a complaint, courts “accept factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe the pleadings in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008). Nonetheless, courts do not “accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences.” In re Gilead Scis. Secs. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). If dismissal is appropriate under Rule 12(b)(6), a 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) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         The Court first addresses the motion to dismiss filed by the State Defendants, followed by the motion to dismiss filed by the Agents.

         A. State Defendants

         The Court first considers Plaintiffs' cause of action against the State Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Next, the Court assesses how the disposition of that federal cause of action impacts Plaintiffs' remaining causes of action ...


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