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Pope v. United States

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

January 29, 2018

AMANDA POPE and RICH POPE, Plaintiffs,



         THESE MATTERS come before the Court on Defendant United States of America's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (Dkt. 8) and Defendant United States of America's Motion to Stay Discovery (Dkt. 13). The Court has considered the Complaint (Dkt. 1), the pleadings of the parties, and the remainder of the file herein. Because the Complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted, Defendant's motion to dismiss should be denied. Defendant's motion to stay discovery should be denied as moot.


         A. The Complaint.

         The Complaint arises from the alleged negligent medical services provided by Defendant United States of America at a military hospital, Madigan Army Medical Center (MAMC). Dkt. 1 at ¶1. It is alleged that Plaintiff Amanda Pope suffered “severe neurological damage . . . rendering her unable to breathe without mechanical assistance and ventilation.” Id. at ¶2. This harm allegedly followed an operation on April 26, 2016, specifically, a “median sternotomy to remove a benign anterior mediastinal mass.” Id. at ¶5. The negligent care and treatment of MAMC's “employees, agents, and ostensible agents” caused a “bilateral phrenic nerve injury resulting in respiratory failure, ” which fell below the standard of care owed and required Plaintiff Amanda Pope to undergo diaphragm plications and resulted in post-surgery complications. Id. at ¶¶7-10.

         The Complaint alleges a single claim for Negligence. Dkt. 1 at ¶¶15-21. The Prayer for Relief seeks general and special damages, including compensation for loss of consortium for Plaintiff Rich Pope, as well as costs and fees. Id. at pp. 4, 5.

         B. Procedural history.

         Plaintiff initiated this action by Complaint on October 25, 2017. Dkt. 1. An Initial Scheduling Order issued by Magistrate Judge Theresa Fricke requires the filing of a Joint Status Report (JSR) by January 25, 2018. Dkt. 4. The Initial Scheduling Order also requires a Rule 26(f) Conference by January 11, 2018 and initial disclosures by January 18, 2018. Id.

         Defendant filed the Motion to Dismiss on January 8, 2018. Dkt. 8. The motion seeks dismissal for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and is noted for January 26, 2018. Id. On January 17, 2018, Defendant filed a Motion to Stay Discovery, seeking relief from all Initial Scheduling Order deadlines, including the Rule 26(f) deadline, which had elapsed prior to the filing of the motion. Dkt. 13. See Dkt. 4. The Motion to Stay Discovery is also noted for January 26, 2018. Id.


         Rule 8 requires the complaint to be a “short and plain statement showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1). To meet this requirement, the Supreme Court has held that “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554-55 (2007) (internal citations omitted). The complaint “must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively.” Eclectic Properties East, LLC v. Marcus & Millichap Co., 751 F.3d 990, 996 (9th Cir. 2014)(internal quotations and citation omitted). In addition, the complaint must include sufficient facts to “cross the line between possibility and plausibility, ” such that “it is not unfair to require the opposing party to be subjected to the expense of discovery and continued litigation.” Id. at 995-96. Dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) is warranted where the complaint lacks sufficient facts or a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Department, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).


         A. Motion to Dismiss.

         Defendant argues that Plaintiffs failed to plead “any facts supporting their claim, ” and that, instead, Plaintiffs “provide only a threadbare, conclusory statement that before, during, and after this [medical] procedure, the physicians . . . fell below the applicable standard of care[.]” Dkt. 8 at 2 (internal citations omitted). According to Defendant, “no factual allegations are pled that would establish a reasonable inference” of liability, id. at 3 (internal citations omitted), where the Complaint conflates breach and damages and ignores causation. Dkt. 15 at 3. Defendant maintains that it should not be subjected to the high costs of discovery, where the ...

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