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Winters v. F-N-F Construction

United States District Court, D. Arizona

June 14, 2018

Tanya Winters, Plaintiff,
F-N-F Construction, et al., Defendants.


          Honorable John J. Tuchi United States District Judge

         At issue is the Application to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs filed by pro se Plaintiff Tanya Winters (Doc. 2). Having determined that Plaintiff does not have the means to pay the Court's fees in this case, the Court grants the Application. However, as set forth below, upon screening Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court finds that the Complaint fails to state a claim or plausible grounds for the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. The Court therefore dismisses the Complaint without leave to amend.


         A. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)

         For cases in which a party is permitted to proceed in forma pauperis-that is, the party lacks the means to pay court fees-Congress provided that a district court “shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines” that the “allegation of poverty is untrue” or that the “action or appeal” is “frivolous or malicious, ” “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, ” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Section 1915(e) applies to all in forma pauperis proceedings. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000). “It is also clear that section 1915(e) not only permits but requires a district court to dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint that fails to state a claim.” Id. at 1127.

         B. Rule 8, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

         A complaint must include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Even where a complaint has the factual elements of a cause of action present but scattered throughout the complaint and not organized into a “short and plain statement of the claim, ” it may be dismissed for failure to satisfy Rule 8(a). Sparling v. Hoffman Constr. Co., 864 F.2d 635, 640 (9th Cir. 1988). A dismissal for failure to state a claim can be based on either (1) the lack of a cognizable legal theory or (2) insufficient facts to support a cognizable legal claim. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

         C. Subject Matter Jurisdiction in Federal Court

         Unlike state courts, federal courts only have jurisdiction over a limited number of cases, and those cases typically involve either a controversy between citizens of different states (“diversity jurisdiction”) or a question of federal law (“federal question jurisdiction”). See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332. The United States Supreme Court has stated that a federal court must not disregard or evade the limits on its subject matter jurisdiction. Owen Equip. & Erections Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 374 (1978). Thus, a federal court is obligated to inquire into its subject matter jurisdiction in each case and to dismiss a case when subject matter jurisdiction is lacking. See Valdez v. Allstate Ins. Co., 372 F.3d 1115, 1116 (9th Cir. 2004); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).

         Rule 8(a) provides that “[a] pleading that states a claim for relief must contain: (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction.” In other words, to proceed in federal court, a plaintiff must allege enough in the complaint for the court to conclude it has subject matter jurisdiction. See Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, 5 Fed. Practice & Procedure § 1206 (3d ed. 2014).

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Failure to State a Federal Claim

         In the Complaint, Plaintiff first attempts to raise a federal claim against two private entities, Defendants F-N-F Construction and Zurich American Insurance Company, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (“FLSA”), for “failing to pay workers compensation when [Plaintiff] is known to be disabled throughout many appeals.” (Doc. 1 at 3-4.) Workers' compensation is a creature of state law, not federal statutes like the FLSA, and a claim of failure to pay workers' compensation benefits thus arises only under state law. Plaintiff does not raise a state law claim here, but even if she did, this Court would lack subject matter jurisdiction over such a claim, as detailed more fully below. As a result, the Court must dismiss this claim without leave to amend. See Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1130.

         Plaintiff's second attempt to raise a federal claim is under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the same two private entity Defendants for creating an unsafe construction zone. (Doc. 1 at 20-22.) To state a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must first allege state action by Defendants. Determining whether an entity is subject to suit under § 1983 is the “same question posed in cases arising under the Fourteenth Amendment: is the alleged infringement of federal rights fairly attributable to the [government]?” Sutton v. Providence St. Joseph Med. Ctr., 192 F.3d 826, 835 (9th Cir. 1999) (citing Rendell-Baker v. Kohn, 457 U.S. 830, 838 (1982)). The Complaint contains no non-conclusory allegation supporting an inference that the Defendant construction and insurance companies were state actors, which is fatal to ...

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