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Moreland v. Raytheon Co.

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 15, 2019




         Plaintiff is proceeding in this action pro se. This matter was accordingly referred to the undersigned by Local Civil Rule 302(c)(21). Plaintiff has filed a request for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”), and has submitted the affidavit required by that statute. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). The motion to proceed IFP will therefore be granted.

         I. SCREENING

         The federal IFP statute requires federal courts to dismiss a case if the action is legally “frivolous or malicious, ” fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Plaintiff must assist the court in determining whether or not the complaint is frivolous, by drafting the complaint so that it complies with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Fed. R. Civ. P.”). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are available online at

         Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the complaint must contain (1) a “short and plain statement” of the basis for federal jurisdiction (that is, the reason the case is filed in this court, rather than in a state court), (2) a short and plain statement showing that plaintiff is entitled to relief (that is, who harmed the plaintiff, and in what way), and (3) a demand for the relief sought. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Plaintiff's claims must be set forth simply, concisely and directly. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1). Forms are available to help pro se plaintiffs organize their complaint in the proper way. They are available at the Clerk's Office, 501 I Street, 4th Floor (Rm. 4-200), Sacramento, CA 95814, or online at

         A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the court will (1) accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, unless they are clearly baseless or fanciful, (2) construe those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and (3) resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor. See Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327; Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena, 592 F.3d 954, 960 (9th Cir. 2010), cert. denied, 564 U.S. 1037 (2011).

         The court applies the same rules of construction in determining whether the complaint states a claim on which relief can be granted. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (court must accept the allegations as true); Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974) (court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, the court need not accept as true conclusory allegations, unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. Western Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981). A formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action does not suffice to state a claim. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         To state a claim on which relief may be granted, the plaintiff must allege enough facts “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” 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. Pro se pleadings are liberally construed. See Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). A pro se litigant is entitled to notice of the deficiencies in the complaint and an opportunity to amend, unless the complaint's deficiencies could not be cured by amendment. See Noll v. Carlson, 809 F.2d 1446, 1448 (9th Cir. 1987), superseded on other grounds by statute as stated in Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122 (9th Cir.2000)) (en banc).

         A. The Complaint

         Plaintiff has filed a form complaint naming her former employer, Raytheon Company. ECF No. 1 at 2, 5. In the section regarding jurisdictional basis, plaintiff checked only the box indicating diversity jurisdiction, but she provided information requested for both the federal question and diversity jurisdiction sections. As the basis for federal question jurisdiction, she wrote “29 U.S.C. § 502(a)(1)(B).” Id. at 5. In the section for diversity jurisdiction, plaintiff asserted that she is a citizen of California and that Raytheon is incorporated, and has its principal place of business in, Massachusetts. Id. at 4-5.

         Plaintiff's entire statement of her claim consists of the following text: “Plaintiff retired at normal date and did not withdraw employee contributions. Defendant alleges plaintiff withdrew $8, 331 with interest, thereby reducing pension pay 50%.” Id. at 5. In her request for relief, she adds: “Plaintiff should have received $374.61 starting Feb. 1, 2016 instead of $174.49 per month.” Id. at 6. Plaintiff seeks “backpay of $7, 804.68” and $250, 000 in punitive damages. Id.

         B. Analysis

         As best the court can tell, plaintiff intends to bring this action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 88 Stat. 832, as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001 et seq. There is no statutory provision codified as “29 U.S.C. § 502(a)(1)(B).”[1]However, Section 502(a)(1)(B) of ERISA, codified at 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B), allows plan participants or beneficiaries to sue to recover wrongfully denied benefits. This appears to be what plaintiff is trying to accomplish through this suit. Although 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B) provides a valid basis for federal subject matter jurisdiction, this action cannot proceed on the current pleading for the following reasons.

         First, it is not clear from the face of the complaint whether the court may exercise personal jurisdiction over Raytheon, a nonresident defendant. Personal jurisdiction refers to the power of the court to render an enforceable judgment against the defendant. See Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714, 720-22 (1877). The burden is on plaintiff to show that personal jurisdiction is appropriate. See Dole Food v. Watts, 303 F.3d 1104, 1108 (9th Cir.2002). The court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant if permitted by the state's long-arm statute and “if the exercise of that jurisdiction does not violate federal due process.” In re W. States Wholesale Nat. Gas Antitrust Litig., 715 F.3d 716, 741 (9th Cir. 2013). The defendant must have “minimum contacts” with the forum state such that the exercise of jurisdiction “does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Id. (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)). A federal district court may exercise general or specific jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant. Id. General jurisdiction may be established if the plaintiff demonstrates that the ...

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