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Naini v. King County Hospital District No. 2

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

January 3, 2020

ALI J. NAINI, Plaintiff,
v.
KING COUNTY HOSPITAL DISTRICT NO. 2 d/b/a EVERGREEN HOSPITAL MEDICAL CENTER et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          JOHN C. COUGHENOUR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss certain claims (Dkt. No. 104). Having considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court hereby GRANTS the motion in part and DENIES the motion in part for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court previously laid out the allegations in Plaintiff's third amended complaint and will not repeat those allegations here. (See Dkt. No. 79 at 1-4.) On October 18, 2019, the Court dismissed some of Plaintiff's claims. (See generally id.) Four of those claims are relevant to the instant motion.

         The first two were Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 claims against Defendant King County Hospital District No. 2 (“Evergreen”) and the individual Defendants in their official capacities. (Id. at 17.) The Court dismissed those claims because Plaintiff failed to allege facts showing that Evergreen's Board of Commissioners ratified the decision to not renew his hospital privileges. (Id. at 16-17 & n.5.) However, the Court recognized that there was uncertainty as to whether Plaintiff was pleading that the Board ratified the decision. (Id. at 17.) Accordingly, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint to allege that the Board ratified the decision to not renew his privileges. (Id.)

         The other relevant claims were Plaintiff's defamation and false light claims. (Id. at 14.) The Court dismissed those claims because Plaintiff alleged communications that were either privileged or related to peer-review and therefore barred by Wash Rev. Code § 7.71.030. (Id. at 13-14.) But the Court recognized that certain statements about Plaintiff were unlikely to be privileged or related to peer-review. (Id. at 14.) Consequently, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint to allege such statements. (Id.) The precise wording of the Court's order was as follows:

Plaintiff could cure the deficiencies in [his defamation] claim by alleging facts establishing that Defendants made non-privileged, defamatory statements after Defendants' announcement that Plaintiff no longer had hospital privileges. The Court therefore GRANTS Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint to allege, if he can, that Defendants made such statements.
iii. False Light
Plaintiff's false light claim suffers from the same deficiencies as his defamation claim. Consequently, the Court DISMISSES Plaintiff's false light claim. The Court also GRANTS Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint to allege, if he can, that Defendants made actionable statements after Defendants sent the broadcast email.

(Id.)

         On November 13, 2019, Plaintiff filed his fourth amended complaint. (Dkt. No. 98.) In that complaint, Plaintiff renews his §§ 1983 and 1985 claims against Evergreen. (Id. at 49-51.) In doing so, Plaintiff alleges that the Board “ratified the decision to remove [Plaintiff] from the medical staff, ” that the Quality Peer Review Committee (“QPRC”) acknowledged the Board's action, and that Defendant Dr. James O'Callaghan informed Plaintiff of what the Board had done. (Id. at 39-40, 49.) Plaintiff also renews his defamation and false light claims, alleging that Defendant Dr. Melissa Lee made several defamatory and misleading statements prior to Evergreen suspending Plaintiff's privileges. (Id. at 45-47.) Defendants now move to dismiss Plaintiff's renewed defamation and false light claims and his renewed §§ 1983 and 1985 claims against Evergreen and the individual Defendants in their official capacities.[1] (Dkt. No. 104 at 2.) Defendants also move for sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. (Id. at 10-12.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         A defendant may move for dismissal when a plaintiff “fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009). A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. at 678. Although the court must accept as true a complaint's well-pleaded facts, conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences will not defeat an otherwise proper Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Vasquez v. Los Angeles County, 487 F.3d 1246, 1249 (9th Cir. 2007); Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). The plaintiff is obligated to provide grounds for their entitlement to relief that amount to more than labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007). “[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual ...


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