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French v. Washington State Department of Health

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

January 25, 2017

NINA FRENCH, Plaintiff,
v.
WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS AND GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND

          JAMES L. ROBART United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the court is Defendant Washington State Department of Health's (“the DOH”) motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Mot. (Dkt. # 23).) The court has reviewed the motion, Plaintiff Nina French's letter in response to the motion, the DOH's reply in support of the motion, the relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law.

         Being fully advised, [1] the court GRANTS the DOH's motion and GRANTS Ms. French leave to amend her complaint for the reasons set forth below.

         II. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of Ms. French's employment with divisions of the DOH at various periods between 2010 and 2014. (FAC (Dkt. # 18) Ex. 2 at 1.) On June 4, 2015, Ms. French, who is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis (“IFP”), filed her first complaint against the DOH. (See Compl. (Dkt. # 3); IFP Mot. (Dkt. # 1); Order Granting IFP Status (Dkt. # 2).) Pursuant to Ms. French's request, the court ordered the United States marshal to serve the DOH within 30 days of July 8, 2016. (7/8/16 Order (Dkt. # 13) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d) (Upon an IFP plaintiff's request, “the officers of the court shall issue and serve all process.”)).)

         After the DOH was served, Ms. French filed another action, which the court consolidated with this matter. (10/4/16 Order (Dkt. # 17).) Because Ms. French intended to amend her complaint rather than file a new case, the court construed Ms. French's filing as her amended complaint when it consolidated the two cases. (Id.; FAC.) In her amended complaint, Ms. French alleges that the DOH engaged in “[w]histleblower retaliation, sexual harassment[, ] and use of disability to do psychological damage.” (FAC at 2.) Ms. French asserts a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and alleges that this discrimination occurred between about January 1, 2013, and the “present.” (Id.) Ms. French also contends that she filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“the EEOC”) charge against the DOH on May 29, 2014, and received a right to sue letter on March 18, 2014.[2] (Id.)

         On October 31, 2016, the DOH filed the instant motion for judgment on the pleadings for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim.[3] (See Mot. at 1.) On November 29, 2016, the DOH filed a reply brief in support of its motion and noted that Ms. French had not filed any opposition to the DOH's motion. (Reply (Dkt. # 28) at 2 (“While plaintiff's failure to respond to the motion is not dispositive, her failure to respond with facts or counter arguments leaves [the] DOH's arguments to stand or fall on their own merits in the evaluation of the [c]ourt.”).) After the DOH filed its reply, Ms. French left a voicemail message in which she announced that she did not know she had to respond to the DOH's motion (see 12/2/16 Order (Dkt. # 30) at 1) and filed a letter requesting “forgiveness for my lack of education regarding Civil Rights law . . . and how the legal system operates (12/5/16 Letter (Dkt. # 31) at 1 (ellipsis in original).) Ms. French's December 5, 2016, letter also repeats some of the factual allegations included in her amended complaint and makes new factual allegations. (Compare FAC, with 12/5/16 Letter.) Ms. French does not, however, respond to the DOH's motion. (See 12/5/16 Letter.)

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), “[a]fter 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).

         When a Rule 12(c) motion “‘raises an issue as to the court's subject matter jurisdiction . . ., the district judge will treat the motion as if it had been brought under Rule 12(b)(1).'” Ass'n of Apartment Owners of Pomaikai v. McDonough, No. 13-00254 DKW KSC, 2014 WL 692917, at *3 (D. Haw. Feb. 20, 2014) (quoting 5C Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1367 (3d ed. 2004)); see also Leigh v. Salazar, No. 3:11-cv-00608-HDM-WGC, 2013 WL 1249824, at *1 (D. Nev. Mar. 26, 2013). “Under Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction.” See Leigh, 2013 WL 1249824, at *1.

         Where the moving party seeks dismissal for failure to state a claim, “[a] Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings and a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss are virtually interchangeable.” Manchester v. Ceco Concrete Constr., LLC, No. C13-0832RAJ, 2014 WL 6684891, at *3 (W.D. Wash. Nov. 24, 2014). “In fact, the same standard applies to both.” Id. Accordingly, “[i]n considering a motion for judgment on the pleadings, a court must accept as true all material allegations in the complaint and must construe those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” United States v. In re Seizure of One Blue Nissan Skyline Auto. & One Red Nissan Skyline, 683 F.Supp.2d 1087, 1088 (C.D. Cal. 2010) (citing Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro v. Lerner, 31 F.3d 924, 928 (9th Cir. 1994)). To survive a motion for judgment on the pleadings, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Telesaurus VPC, LLC v. Power, 623 F.3d 998, 1003 (9th Cir. 2010). “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.

         The court, however, need not accept as true a legal conclusion presented as a factual allegation. Id. Although Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 does not require “detailed factual allegations, ” it demands more than “an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). A pleading that offers only “labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” will not survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Id. A complaint does not survive dismissal where “it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). In addition, “[a] plaintiff suing multiple defendants ‘must allege the basis of [her] claim against each defendant to satisfy Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), which requires a short and ...


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