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Shanklin v. Coulee Medical Center

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

April 15, 2019

MILDRED SHANKLIN, individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of John Shanklin, Plaintiff,
v.
COULEE MEDICAL CENTER, a medical care facility that is fully owned and operated by the Douglas, Grant, Lincoln, & Okanogan County Hospital District No. 6; DOUGLAS, GRANT, LINCOLN, and OKANOGAN COUNTIES PUBLIC HOSPITAL DISTRICT NO. 6, a public entity doing business as the Coulee Medical Center; ROGER ST. CLAIRE, acting in his capacity as an employee of Coulee Medical Center; LARRY J. RUSE, acting in his capacity as an employee of Coulee Medical Center; JOYCE BODEAU, acting in her capacity as an employee of Coulee Medical Center; and KARIE SCHULER, acting in her capacity as an employee of Coulee Medical Center; Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          ROSANNA MALOUF PETERSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         BEFORE THE COURT is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, ECF No. 15. Defendants Coulee Medical Center; Grant, Lincoln, & Okanogan County Hospital District No. 6; Roger St. Claire; Larry J. Ruse; Joyce Bodeau; and Karie Schuler move to dismiss Plaintiff Mildred Shanklin's Complaint, ECF No. 1. A hearing was held in this matter on March 22, 2019. Ms. Shanklin was represented by Jerry Moberg. Defendants were represented by James King. The Court has considered the parties' arguments, briefing, and the record, and is fully informed.

         BACKGROUND

         The following are the facts as alleged in Ms. Shanklin's complaint, ECF No. 1. Ms. Shanklin is the surviving spouse of John Shanklin. Id. at 4. In May of 2014, Ms. Shanklin alleges that Mr. Shanklin suffered a stroke that left him weak on one side of his body. Id. This made Mr. Shanklin a high risk to fall and confined him to a wheelchair at most times. Id. For over a year following Mr. Shanklin's stroke, Ms. Shanklin cared for him at their home. Id. Ms. Shanklin alleges that Mr. Shanklin did not fall a single time under her care. Id.

         By May of 2016, Ms. Shanklin alleges that she was unable to provide her husband with the 24-hour care that he needed. ECF No. 1 at 4. She claims that she placed him in a nursing home care facility in a town sixty miles away from Ms. Shanklin's home for about six months. Id. Throughout those six months, Ms. Shanklin claims that Mr. Shanklin did not fall a single time. Id. However, Ms. Shanklin claims that she was unhappy with the distance that she had to travel to see her husband, so she sought a closer nursing home in which to place Mr. Shanklin. Id. at 4-5. She alleges that she placed her husband into the care of Defendant Coulee Medical Center (“CMC”). Id. at 5.

         At CMC, Ms. Shanklin alleges that her husband was identified as a patient with a high risk of falling. ECF No. 1 at 5. According to Ms. Shanklin, however, CMC and the individual Defendants, who were all responsible for Mr. Shanklin's care, failed to or refused to develop a care plan that would protect him from falling. Id. As a result, Ms. Shanklin alleges that Mr. Shanklin fell four times over a period of four months. Id. at 5-7. Ms. Shanklin claims that Defendants failed to properly supervise Mr. Shanklin to keep him from falling or take precautions to prevent any injury resulting from the falls. Id. Three days after Mr. Shanklin's fourth fall, Mr. Shanklin passed away. Id. at 7-8.

         Ms. Shanklin filed this complaint individually and as the personal representative of her husband's estate against Defendants for violations of the Federal Nursing Home Reform Amendments (“FNHRA”) and several claims under state law. ECF No. 1 at 8-13. Defendants now move to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the FNHRA does not apply to them and that the FNHRA is not enforceable through section 1983. ECF No. 15.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         After a defendant files its answer, the defendant may move for judgment on the pleadings.[1] Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). Similar to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court accepts all factual allegations in the complaint as true and construes them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Fleming v. Pickard, 581 F.3d 922, 925 (9th Cir. 2009). The analysis for a Rule 12(c) motion is “substantially identical” to the analysis for a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Chavez v. United States, 683 F.3d 1102, 1108 (9th Cir. 2012). Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate when there is no issue of material fact in dispute and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fleming, 581 F.3d at 925.

         A plaintiff's complaint must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is plausible when the plaintiff pleads “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While the Court construes the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, a court is not required to “assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations.” Fayer v. Vaughn, 649 F.3d 1061, 1064 (9th Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (internal quotation omitted). A plaintiff's complaint cannot survive if it is solely supported by “conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences.” Adams v. Johnson, 355 F.3d 1179, 1183 (9th Cir. 2004).

         DISCUSSION

         Defendants make two arguments as to why Ms. Shanklin's FNHRA claim should be dismissed. First, they argue that CMC is not a “nursing facility” that is regulated by the FNHRA. ECF No. 15 at 4. Second, they argue that the FNHRA is not enforceable through section 1983 litigation. Id. at 8.

         Coulee Medical Center's Status as a Nursing Facility as Defined by the FNHRA

         The parties dispute whether CMC is a “nursing facility” under the FNHRA. ECF No. 15 at 4; ECF No. 21 at 8.

         When interpreting a statute, the Court begins with the statute's text. United States v. Neal, 776 F.3d 645, 652 (9th Cir. 2015). “We interpret statutory terms in accordance with their ordinary meaning, unless the ...


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