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Rawson v. Recovery Innovations, Inc.

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

October 25, 2017

KENNETH RAWSON, Plaintiff,
v.
RECOVERY INNOVATIONS, INC., et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          BENJAMIN H. SETTLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on the motion to dismiss of Defendants Recovery Innovations, Inc. (“Recovery Innovations”), Sami French (“French”), Jennifer Clingenpeel (“Clingenpeel”), and Dr. Vasant Halarnakar, M.D. (“Halarnaker”) (collectively “Defendants”). Dkt. 9. The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion and the remainder of the file and hereby denies the motion for the reasons stated herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 8, 2018, Plaintiff Kenneth Rawson (“Plaintiff”) filed his complaint. Dkt. 1. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on June 8, 2017. Dkt. 5. Plaintiff brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and various state laws. Id. Plaintiff alleges that he was both wrongfully involuntarily committed at Recovery Innovations and wrongfully forced to take antipsychotic medication. Id.

         On July 20, 2017, Defendants moved to dismiss. Dkt. 9. On August 8, 2017, Plaintiff responded. Dkt. 14. On August 24, Defendants replied. Dkt. 16.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         Motions to dismiss brought under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure may be based on either the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under such a theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Department, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). Material allegations are taken as admitted and the complaint is construed in the plaintiff's favor. Keniston v. Roberts, 717 F.2d 1295, 1301 (9th Cir. 1983). To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint does not require detailed factual allegations but must provide the grounds for entitlement to relief and not merely a “formulaic recitation” of the elements of a cause of action. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007). Plaintiffs must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 1974.

         B. Color of State Law

         “To establish a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must show that an individual acting under the color of state law deprived him of a right, privilege, or immunity protected by the United States Constitution or federal law.” Levine v. City of Alameda, 525 F.3d 903, 905 (9th Cir. 2008). Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to state a § 1983 claim on the basis that their actions were not taken “under color of state law” because they are comprised of a private entity and its employees.

         “An individual acts under color of state law when he or she exercises power possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because the wrongdoer is clothed with the authority of state law.” Naffe v. Frey, 789 F.3d 1030, 1036 (9th Cir. 2015) (quotation omitted). As a general rule, it is presumed that actions by private parties are not taken under color of state law. Florer v. Congregation Pidyon Shevuyim, N.A., 639 F.3d 916, 922 (9th Cir. 2011) (“We start with the presumption that conduct by private actors is not state action.”). However, “[i]f the [Constitution] is not to be displaced, . . . its ambit cannot be a simple line between States and people operating outside formally governmental organizations, and the deed of an ostensibly private organization or individual is to be treated sometimes as if a State had caused it to be performed.” Brentwood Acad. v. Tennessee Secondary Sch. Athletic Ass'n, 531 U.S. 288, 295 (2001). Therefore, “a private entity may be designated a state actor for some purposes but still function as a private actor in other respects.” Caviness v. Horizon Cmty. Learning Ctr., Inc., 590 F.3d 806, 814 (9th Cir. 2010). “In § 1983 actions, “color of state law” is synonymous with state action.” George v. Pac.-CSC Work Furlough, 91 F.3d 1227, 1229 (9th Cir. 1996).

         The Ninth Circuit has “recognize[d] at least four different criteria, or tests, used to identify state action: (1) public function; (2) joint action; (3) governmental compulsion or coercion; and (4) governmental nexus.” Kirtley v. Rainey, 326 F.3d 1088, 1092 (9th Cir. 2003) (quotation omitted). The “public function” test is perhaps the most clearly defined theory out of those listed above, and it has been set forth by the Ninth Circuit as follows:

Under the public function test, “when private individuals or groups are endowed by the State with powers or functions governmental in nature, they become agencies or instrumentalities of the State and subject to its constitutional limitations.” Evans v. Newton, 382 U.S. 296, 299 (1966). To satisfy the public function test, the function at issue must be both [1] ...

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