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French v. Washington State Department of Health

United States District Court, W.D. Washington

March 27, 2017

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

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION AND VACATING JUDGMENT

          JAMES L. ROBART, United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the court is Plaintiff Nina French's motion for reconsideration of the court's February 13, 2017, order of dismissal and judgment. (MFR (Dkt. ## 35, 36); 2/13/17 Order (Dkt. # 33); Judgment (Dkt. # 34).) The court has considered Ms. French's motion, Defendant Washington State Department of Health's (“the DOH”) response to the motion (MFR Resp. (Dkt. # 38)), the relevant portions of the record, and // the applicable law. Being fully advised, [1] the court GRANTS Ms. French's motion for reconsideration 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)).)

         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 alleged that the DOH engaged in “[w]histleblower retaliation, sexual harassment[, ] and use of disability to do psychological damage.” (FAC at 2.) Ms. French asserted a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and alleged that this discrimination occurred between about January 1, 2013, and the “present.” (Id.) Ms. French also contended that she filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“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 a motion for judgment on the pleadings for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. (See MJOP (Dkt. # 23) at 1.) On January 25, 2017, the court dismissed Ms. French's amended complaint. (1/25/17 Order (Dkt. # 32).) The court concluded that Ms. French had failed to meet her burden of establishing the court's subject matter jurisdiction (id. at 7) and to state a claim under federal and state law (id. at 8).[3] The court nevertheless granted Ms. French leave to amend and ordered her to file a second amended complaint, if any, no later than 14 days after the entry of the court's order-February 8, 2017. (Id. at 8-9.) In light of Ms. French's difficulty following the applicable rules and the court's orders, the court instructed Ms. French to “carefully consider the deficiencies” in her amended complaint and that the court would “interpret a failure to cure those deficiencies as an indication that further amendment would be futile.” (Id. at 8.) The court also instructed Ms. French that any amended complaint she filed would supersede her earlier complaints and that she could not rely solely on exhibits to construct a cognizable claim. (Id. at 9.) Finally, the court cautioned Ms. French that it would not “entertain further requests for favorable treatment” and instructed Ms. French to comply with all applicable Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Civil Rules for the Western District of Washington. (Id.)

         Ms. French's deadline for filing a second amended complaint passed on February 8, 2017, and Ms. French had filed nothing further in this matter. (See generally Dkt.; 2/13/17 Order.) Accordingly, on February 13, 2017, the court dismissed Ms. French's case with prejudice and entered judgment. (2/13/17 Order; Judgment.)

         Several days later, Ms. French alerted the court that she had attempted to file a second amended complaint on February 9, 2017, one day after the deadline the court imposed. (See MFR.) However, Ms. French had again inadvertently opened a new case instead of filing a second amended complaint in this matter. (See id.) Ms. French then filed two letters with the court in which she explained her mistake and petitioned the court to keep this case open. (See id.)

         After Ms. French's first letter was docketed in both matters, the Honorable Richard A. Jones transferred Ms. French's newly opened case-Case No. C17-0210-to the undersigned judge as related to Ms. French's earlier case-Case No. C15-0859. French v. Wash. State Dep't of Health, No. C17-0210JLR, Dkt. # 5 (W.D. Wash.). The court consolidated Ms. French's new case with this matter and construed Ms. French's letters as a motion for reconsideration of the court's February 13, 2017, order of dismissal and judgment. (3/2/17 Order (Dkt. # 37) at 4-6.) The court stated that Ms. French appeared to raise a new fact that she could not have reasonably brought to the court's attention earlier-that her intended second amended complaint was not placed on the docket in this matter prior to the court entering its order of dismissal and judgment. (Id. at 5-6.) The court ordered the DOH to respond to Ms. French's motion for reconsideration. (Id.; see also MFR Resp.); Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 7(h)(3).

         The court now addresses Ms. French's motion for reconsideration and the DOH's response.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Ms. French asks the court to reconsider its order of dismissal and reopen this case. (See MFR.) The DOH opposes Ms. French's motion to reconsider because even though Ms. French's “error in properly filing her amended complaint and inability to notify the court of her error prior to entry of the [o]rder of [d]ismissal may constitute new facts, ” Ms. French's “failure to offer [an] excuse or justification for her untimely filing in the first instance” does not merit the court's reconsideration. (MFR Resp. at 2.) The DOH also argues that the court should not grant Ms. French relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60 because Ms. French presents no new allegations or evidence supporting such relief. (Id. at 3.) Finally, the DOH argues that “the net effect of granting [Ms. French's motion for] reconsideration . . . is to allow [her] to proceed under her second amended complaint, ” and that her intended second amended complaint merely “repackag[es] . . . the claims and facts she had pleaded twice before.” (Id. at 4.)

         A. ...


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