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King v. Garfield County Public Hospital District No. 1

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

June 6, 2014

DENNIS KING and TRICIA KING, husband and wife, Plaintiffs,
GARFIELD COUNTY PUBLIC HOSPITAL District No. 1, a municipal corporation, et al., Defendant.


THOMAS O. RICE, District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT is Defendants Garfield County Public Hospital District No. 1, Susan Morrow, Andrew Craigie, and Michele Beehler's Motion for Reconsideration (ECF No.102). This matter was submitted for consideration without oral argument and according to the Court's scheduling order, ECF No. 15 at 7, without a response from Plaintiff. The Court has reviewed the briefing and the record and files herein, and is fully informed.


This case concerns a hospital employee's termination for alleged drug diversion and use after the employee tested positive in a drug test. Plaintiff Dennis King sued his former employer, Garfield County Hospital District No. 1 and hospital employees (collectively, "GCHD"), as well as a company and physician allegedly involved in the drug test. The Court granted in part and denied in part GCHD's motion for summary judgment. In the motion now before the Court GCHD seeks reconsideration of the Court's denial of its request for summary judgment on Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment due process violation and its request for summary judgment on the issue of qualified immunity for hospital officials.


A motion for reconsideration may be reviewed under either Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) (motion to alter or amend a judgment) or Rule 60(b) (relief from judgment). Sch. Dist. No. 1J v. ACandS, Inc., 5 F.3d 1255, 1262 (9th Cir. 1993). Under Rule 59(e), "[r]econsideration is appropriate if the district court (1) is presented with newly discovered evidence, (2) committed clear error or the initial decision was manifestly unjust, or (3) if there is an intervening change in controlling law." Id. at 1263; United Nat. Ins. Co. v. Spectrum Worldwide, Inc., 555 F.3d 772, 780 (9th Cir. 2009). Rule 60(b) allows a district judge to provide relief from a final judgment if the moving party can show

(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59(b); (3) fraud..., misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party; (4) the judgment is void; (5) the judgment has been satisfied, released, or discharged; it is based on an earlier judgment that has been reversed or vacated; or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable; or (6) any other reason that justifies relief.

Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 60(b). Whether to grant a motion for reconsideration is within the sound discretion of the court. Navajo Nation v. Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Indian Nation, 331 F.3d 1041, 1046 (9th Cir. 2003). The Ninth Circuit has held that

A district court does not abuse its discretion when it disregards legal arguments made for the first time on a motion to amend, and a party that fails to introduce facts in a motion or opposition cannot introduce them later in a motion to amend by claiming that they constitute "newly discovered evidence" unless they were previously unavailable.

Zimmerman v. City of Oakland, 255 F.3d 734, 740 (9th Cir. 2001) (internal citations omitted). Reconsideration is also properly denied when a litigant "present[s] no arguments in his motion for [reconsideration] that had not already been raised in opposition to summary judgment." Taylor v. Knapp, 871 F.2d 803, 805 (9th Cir. 1989).

A. Deprivation of a Tangible Interest

Defendant first requests reconsideration of the Court's ruling that due process protections are triggered when an employer makes a charge of dishonesty or attaches stigma to an employment decision, arguing that because there is no "stigma-plus" here, King's due process claim should be dismissed. ECF No. 102 at 3.

The Court declines to reconsider its ruling because GCHD again misstates the legal standard. As clearly stated in the Order Re: Pending Motions, ECF NO. 101 at 23, in the public-employment context an employee may claim the right to a name-clearing hearing if "1) the accuracy of the charge is contested; 2) there is some public disclosure of the charge; and 3) it is made in connection with the termination of employment or the alteration of some right or status recognized by law." Llamas v. Butte Cmty. Coll. Dist., 238 F.3d 1123, 1129 (9th Cir. 2001). Defendant argues that something more than defamation by a state official must be involved to establish a due process claim-"stigma-plus, " citing Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693 (1976). The stigma-plus requirement is appropriate in situations like that in Paul, which involved police officials' distribution of a flyer stating that plaintiff had shoplifted. But as the Paul court went on to explain, citing public employment, "it was not thought sufficient to establish a claim under ยง 1983 and the Fourteenth Amendment that there simply be defamation by a state official; the defamation had to occur in the course of termination of employment." Id. at 710 (citing Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564 (1972) ("[The State] did not base the nonrenewal of [Plaintiff's] contract on a charge, for example, that he had been guilty of dishonesty or immorality. Had it done so, this would be a different case. For (w)here a person's good name, reputation, honor, or integrity is at stake because of what the ...

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