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Watchman-Moore v. United States

United States District Court, D. Arizona

August 28, 2018

Derrith Watchman-Moore, et al., Plaintiffs,
United States of America, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiffs have filed a second motion for leave to file an amended complaint. (Doc. 51.) Defendant United States of America opposes the motion. (Doc. 55.) Plaintiffs have filed a reply in support of their motion. (Doc. 66.) The Court denies the motion for the reasons below.

         I. Background

         On September 14, 2017, Plaintiffs commenced a wrongful death action under the Federal Tort Claim Act (“FTCA”). (Doc. 1.) In the Complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that on February 7, 2014, Chantal Moore (the decedent) was admitted to Fort Defiance Indian Hospital with a diagnosis of pneumonia. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 31.) On February 12, 2014, the decedent fell in the hospital bathroom, hit her head, and was found actively seizing on the floor. (Id. at ¶ 37.) The decedent suffered another seizure later that day. (Id. at ¶ 38.) A CT-scan showed hemorrhages, and the decedent showed signs of brain damage. (Id. at ¶¶ 38-39.) The decedent was transferred to Flagstaff Medical Center where, after surgery, she died on February 15, 2014. (Id. at ¶¶ 40, 42, 44.) After filing an administrative claim, which was denied, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint in this Court. (Id. at ¶¶ 10-11.) In addition to the United States of America (“Defendant” or “the government”), the Complaint named numerous other defendants. (Doc. 1; Doc. 34 at 2.) The government filed a motion to partially dismiss the Complaint and the assigned magistrate judge issued a report and recommendation on that motion.[1] (Doc. 11.)

         On June 22, 2018, District Judge Stephen M. McNamee adopted the report and recommendation. (Doc. 47.) Pursuant to that order, the Court concluded that Arizona law applied to Plaintiffs' wrongful death claim under the FTCA. (Id. at 3-4.) The Court dismissed, without prejudice, Plaintiffs' claims for negligent supervision, hiring, and retention. (Doc. 47 at 3, 5.) The Court dismissed all of the named Defendants except for the United States of America and dismissed the named Plaintiffs except for Derrith Watchman-Moore and Henry K. Moore, as the surviving parents of the decedent. (Id. at 3-5.) Therefore, after the June 22, 2018 Order, the only remaining claim in the Complaint is the wrongful death claim under the FTCA brought by Plaintiffs Derrith Watchman-Moore and Henry K. Moore, as decedent's surviving parents, against Defendant the United States of America.

         In the June 22, 2018 Order, the Court denied Plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend without prejudice to filing another motion to amend by July 31, 2018. (Id. at 5.) The Court noted that Plaintiffs' proposed amended pleading was an “extensive narrative” that did not comply with Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and to which Defendant could not file “a meaningful answer.” (Id.) The Court cautioned that a proposed amended pleading must comply with Rule 8 and cure any deficiencies noted in the Report and Recommendation and its order. (Id. at 4-5.)

         II. Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint

         On July 31, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a timely motion to amend, a proposed first amended complaint, and a supporting memorandum. (Docs. 51, 51-1, 51-2.) In their motion and memorandum, Plaintiffs state that they seek leave to amend to add: (1) a claim under Arizona's survival statute, Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 14-3110 brought by Plaintiff Derrith Watchman-Moore, in her role as personal representative of decedent's estate (Doc. 51 at 4; 51-2 at 3); and (2) a claim of negligent supervision and training. (Doc. 51 at 5; Doc. 51-2 at 4.) Defendant opposes the inclusion of certain allegations in the proposed pleading. (Doc. 55 at 2-10.) Defendant also argues that the proposed amended complaint fails to comply with Rule 8 or the June 22, 2018 Order. (Id. at 10-11.)

         A. Pleading Requirements

         A complaint must include “a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1). A complaint must also include “a demand for the relief sought . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(3). Finally, a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “Each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1). When a complaint includes the factual elements of a cause of action, but those facts are not organized into a “short and plain statement of the claim, ” it may be dismissed for failure to satisfy Rule 8(a). See Sparling v. Hoffman Constr. Co., 864 F.2d 635, 640 (9th Cir. 1988).

         Additionally, a party's claim must be stated “in numbered paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(b); see Bautista v. Los Angeles Cty., 216 F.3d 837, 840-41 (9th Cir. 2000). Failure to set forth claims in such a manner places the burden “on the court to decipher which facts support which claims, as well as to determine whether a plaintiff is entitled to the relief sought.” Haynes v. Anderson & Strudwick, Inc., 508 F.Supp. 1303, 1306 n.1 (E.D. Va. 1981). Whether to enforce Rule 10's requirements is discretionary, but it is appropriate to do so when it is necessary to facilitate a clear presentation of the claims. See Benoit v. Ocwen Fin. Corp., Inc., 960 F.Supp. 287 (S.D. Fla. 1997) (requiring compliance with Rule 10 where allegations were confusing and conclusory, claims were commingled, and it was impossible to determine nature of claims).

         B. The Proposed Pleading does not Comply with Rule 10

         The proposed first amended complaint (FAC) alleges that the action arises under the FTCA. (Doc. 51-1 at 3.) Under the FTCA, Congress authorized suits against the United States for money damages “for injury or loss of property, or personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment, under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1). The Act gives federal courts exclusive jurisdiction over such claims. Id. The FTCA's waiver of immunity permits causes of action against the United States arising out of certain torts committed by federal employees acting within the scope of their employment. See Dolan v. U.S. Postal Service, 546 U.S. 481, 483 (2006). “[T]he extent of the United States' liability under the FTCA is generally determined by reference to state law.” Molzof v. United States, 502 U.S. 301, 305 (1992); Erlin v. United States, 364 F.3d 1127, 1132 (9th Cir. 2004) (stating that underlying cause of action in an FTCA suit comes from state law); Schwarder v. United States, 974 F.2d 1118, 1127 (9th Cir. 1992) (stating that “state law governs the scope of the United States' substantive tort liability . . . .”) (emphasis in original).

         Further, under the statutory procedure set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2675(a), a “tort claimant may not commence proceedings in court against the United States without first filing [his] claim with an appropriate federal agency and either receiving a conclusive denial of the claim from the agency or waiting for six months to elapse without a final disposition of the claim being made.” Jerves v. United States, 966 F.2d 517, 519 (9th Cir. 1992); see Brady v. United States, 211 F.3d 499, 502 (9th Cir. 2000) (a claimant under the FTCA must comply with § 2675(a) before a district court can exert subject matter jurisdiction over the claim). The “‘claim ...

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