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Hood Canal Sand and Gravel, LLC v. Brady

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

April 13, 2015

HOOD CANAL SAND AND GRAVEL, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL D. BRADY, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS AND GRANTING PLAINTIFF LEAVE TO AMEND

BENJAMIN H. SETTLE, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Michael Brady, Ray Mabus, the Department of Navy, and the United States of America's ("Federal Defendants") motion to dismiss (Dkt. 29). The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion and the remainder of the file and hereby grants the motion in part, denies it in part, and grants leave to amend for the reasons stated herein.

I. PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On July 7, 2014, the United States Navy purchased an easement from the State of Washington. Dkt. 23 ("Comp.") ¶¶ 1, 35. The easement encompasses portions of state-owned aquatic lands located on the bed of the Hood Canal ("bedlands"). Id. ¶ 1. Plaintiff Hood Canal Sand and Gravel, LLC ("Hood Canal") owns property adjacent to the bedlands. Id. ¶ 2. Although the easement does not physically encroach on Hood Canal's property, the easement blocks Hood Canal's ability to construct a pier. Id. ¶ 37.

On August 4, 2014, Hood Canal filed suit in this Court ("instant action") against Federal Defendants, as well as Defendants Peter Goldmark, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, and State of Washington ("State Defendants"). Dkt. 1. On August 5, 2014, Hood Canal filed a nearly identical suit in Jefferson County Superior Court, which Federal Defendants removed to this Court ("removed action"). C14-5662, Dkt. 1.

On August 27, 2014, State Defendants filed motions to dismiss in both actions. Dkt. 10. On October 22, 2014, the Court granted State Defendants' motions to dismiss on Eleventh Amendment immunity grounds. Dkt. 20. The Court dismissed all claims against State Defendants in the instant action and remanded the state claims against State Defendants in the removed action. Id.

On November 6, 2014, Hood Canal filed a second amended complaint against Federal Defendants in the instant action. Comp. Hood Canal alleges claims under (1) the Quiet Title Act ("QTA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2409a; (2) the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 701; (3) the Declaratory Judgment Act ("DJA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2201; and (4) Washington state law. Id. Hood Canal seeks a declaratory judgment that the easement is invalid. Id. Hood Canal also seeks injunctive relief preventing Federal Defendants from enforcing the easement. Id.

On February 12, 2015, Federal Defendants moved to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(c) and 12(h)(3). Dkt. 29. On March 2, 2015, Hood Canal responded. Dkt. 30. On March 6, 2015, Federal Defendants replied. Dkt. 32.

II. DISCUSSION

Federal Defendants seek to dismiss all of Hood Canal's claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. Dkt. 29.

A. Rule 12(h)(3)

Challenges to a federal court's subject matter jurisdiction "may be raised by the parties at any time pursuant to [Rule] 12(h)(3)...." Augustine v. United States, 704 F.2d 1074, 1075 n.3 (9th Cir. 1983). Like a motion under Rule 12(b)(1), a Rule 12(h)(3) jurisdictional challenge can be either facial or factual. See White v. Lee, 227 F.3d 1214, 1242 (9th Cir. 2000). "In a facial attack, the challenger asserts that the allegations contained in a complaint are insufficient on their face to invoke federal jurisdiction." Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004). "By contrast, in a factual attack, the challenger disputes the truth of the allegations that, by themselves, would otherwise invoke federal jurisdiction." Id. The burden falls on the plaintiff to establish that subject matter jurisdiction is proper. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1993).

B. Rule 12(c)

"After the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). "Judgment on the pleadings is proper when the moving party clearly establishes on the face of the pleadings that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co. Inc., 896 F.2d 1542, 1550 (9th Cir. 1990). The standard applied on a Rule 12(c) motion is essentially the same as that applied on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim: "the allegations of the non-moving party must be accepted as true, while the allegations of the moving party which have been denied are assumed to be false." Id. The Court, however, is not required to accept as true mere legal conclusions unsupported by alleged facts. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 681 (2009). To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is ...


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