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Meeker v. Starfish Children's Services

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

February 8, 2018

ROBERT MEEKER and AMY MEEKER, individually, the marital community comprised thereof, and on behalf of C.M., a minor, Plaintiffs,
STARFISH CHILDREN'S SERVICES, PATRICK McLAUGHLIN and CYNTHIA McLAUGHLIN and the marital community comprised thereof, MICHAEL BOSMANN and LISA ANN BOSMANN and the marital community comprised thereof, and JANE DOES 1-2, Defendants.


          Richard A. Jones United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Michael and Lisa Ann Bosmann's motion to dismiss. Dkt. # 20. Plaintiffs do not oppose the motion as to Ms. Bosmann but do so as to Mr. Bosmann. Dkt. # 25[1]. Therefore, the Court GRANTS the motion as to Ms. Bosmann and GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the motion as to Mr. Bosmann.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following is taken from Plaintiffs' Complaint, which is assumed to be true for the purposes of this motion to dismiss. Sanders v. Brown, 504 F.3d 903, 910 (9th Cir. 2007).

         Plaintiffs adopted C.M. from a foster home in China run by Starfish Children's Services (“Starfish”). See generally Dkt. # 1 (Complaint). Plaintiffs learned that C.M. suffered from spina bifida, which “limited her physical, cognitive, behavioral, and social abilities.” Id. at ¶ 3.03. Plaintiffs were familiar with adopting children with special needs, and therefore were not dissuaded from adopting C.M. with knowledge of her spina bifida. Id. However, upon arriving in China to pick up C.M. and bring her home to the U.S., Plaintiffs realized that C.M. might have medical issues beyond the spina bifida. Id. at ¶ 3.04.

         Plaintiffs sought information from Starfish to learn the extent of C.M.'s health issues but received few answers. Id. at ¶ 3.07. After engaging several health practitioners, Plaintiffs were informed that C.M. suffered from epilepsy, severely rotten teeth, hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, scoliosis, brain cerebella dysplasia, self-harm, blindness, deafness, sleep troubles, and hepatitis C. Id. Plaintiffs soon learned that C.M. would have a much shorter lifespan than they were prepared to accept. Id.

         Plaintiffs allege that Starfish was aware of C.M.'s health issues beyond the spina bifida but chose not to disclose the information to Plaintiffs for fear that Plaintiffs would decide against adopting C.M. Id. at ¶¶ 3.08, 3.17-3.19. Plaintiffs have already incurred more than $500, 000 in medical bills to treat C.M. and expect more bills in the future. Id. at ¶ 3.24.

         In March 2017, Plaintiffs sued Starfish and its Board of Directors for various claims arising out of fraud and misrepresentations. See Id. The Bosmanns-Mr. Bosmann was a member of Starfish's Board-are now before the Court seeking dismissal of the claims asserted against them.


         Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim. The rule requires the court to assume the truth of the complaint's factual allegations and credit all reasonable inferences arising from those allegations. Sanders, 504 F.3d at 910. A court “need not accept as true conclusory allegations that are contradicted by documents referred to in the complaint.” Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008). The plaintiff must point to factual allegations that “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 568 (2007). If the plaintiff succeeds, the complaint avoids dismissal if there is “any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint” that would entitle the plaintiff to relief. Id. at 563; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         A court typically cannot consider evidence beyond the four corners of the complaint, although it may rely on a document to which the complaint refers if the document is central to the party's claims and its authenticity is not in question. Marder v. Lopez, 450 F.3d 445, 448 (9th Cir. 2006). A court may also consider evidence subject to judicial notice. United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003).


         Plaintiffs plead seven causes of action in their Complaint. Dkt. # 1 (Complaint) at ¶¶ 4.01-4.35. The Court will analyze the claims in turn below.

         A. Wrongful Adoption

         1. Choice of Law

         Plaintiffs bring a wrongful adoption claim, arguing that Defendants induced them into adopting C.M., causing them to incur significant monetary losses. Dkt. # 1 (Complaint) at ¶¶ 4.01-4.06. Mr. Bosmann first argues that Texas law governs this claim, and because Texas does not recognize a wrongful adoption cause of action, this claim fails. Dkt. # 20 at 6. ...

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