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Rynn v. McKay

United States District Court, D. Arizona

August 16, 2018

Richard Rynn, Plaintiff,
Gregory A. McKay, et al., Defendants.


          Honorable John J. Tuchi United States District Judge.

         At issue are four Motions to Dismiss (Docs. 9, 12, 15, 52) and a Joinder (Doc. 21) filed by Defendants in this matter, to which Plaintiffs filed two Responses (Docs. 36, 56) and the moving Defendants filed Replies (Docs. 41, 43, 44, 57). The Court resolves the Motions without oral argument. See LRCiv 7.2(f).

         I. BACKGROUND

         According to the Complaint (Doc. 1-1 at 6-18, Compl.), Plaintiff Richard Rynn appears pro se in this matter on behalf of both himself and M.R., his minor daughter. Rynn names 14 Defendants in the Complaint: Arizona Department of Economic Security (“DES”); Arizona Department of Child Safety (“DCS”); DES Director Cara Christ; DCS Director Gregory A. McKay; employees of these agencies Cathee Cottee, Maria Rojas, Sarah Ferrell, Candy Zammit, [1] and Christine Miles; La Frontera Arizona EMPACT-SPC (“EMPACT”); EMPACT's employees Renee Miller and Nathan Thorpe; UHS of Phoenix, LLC d/b/a Quail Run Behavioral Health; and Desert Vista Behavioral Health Center.[2]

         In the Complaint, Rynn alleges that, on an unspecified date, he and his wife checked their daughter M.R. into Quail Run for treatment of an anxiety disorder. After between seven and ten days passed, they went to retrieve M.R., who was under an order from her doctor to be discharged. At the discharge meeting, Quail Run employees asked to keep M.R. for three more days, to which Rynn's wife agreed but he did not. Quail Run did not discharge M.R.

         When Rynn and his wife went downstairs to inquire about M.R.'s extended stay, Zammit said she was calling the police and DCS. When DCS arrived, Zammit reported that Rynn “threatened to kill them all, ” which Rynn denied. DCS took custody of M.R. and did not return her to her parents.

         Rynn, on behalf of himself and M.R., sued Defendants in state court, and Defendants removed the action to this Court. Rynn raises six claims against all Defendants grouped together: (1) interference with parent/child relational interest; (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (3) wrongful imprisonment; (4) violation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“§ 1983”); and (5) and (6) negligence. The moving Defendants now ask the Court to dismiss all of the claims against them by way of four Motions: Quail Run joined by Zammit (collectively, “Quail Run”) (Doc. 9, QR MTD; see also Doc. 21); Desert Vista (Doc. 12, DV MTD); and two Motions by EMPACT, Miller and Thorpe (collectively, “EMPACT”) (Doc. 15, EMPACT 1st MTD; Doc. 52, EMPACT 2d MTD).


         A complaint must include “only ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). A dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) 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). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). The complaint must thus 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 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “[A] well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that ‘recovery is very remote and unlikely.'” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Rynn's Pro Se Appearance

         All moving Defendants argue that Rynn cannot act as lawyer for his daughter, M.R., and the Court agrees. (E.g., QR MTD at 9-10.) A party may represent himself in federal court, even if he is not a licensed attorney. 28 U.S.C. § 1654. And, as Rynn argues, a parent may act as a “next friend” to sue on behalf of a minor child. Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(c)(2). But a non-attorney parent cannot act as an attorney for his child, even if the parent is appearing on behalf of the child as “next friend.” Johns v. Cty. of San Diego, 114 F.3d 874, 876 (9th Cir. 1997) (holding “a non-attorney parent must be represented by counsel in bringing an action on behalf of his or her child” (quoting Meeker v. Kercher, 782 F.2d 153, 154 (10th Cir. 1986))). The Court will thus require Rynn to obtain licensed counsel to proceed with the claims of his daughter in this Court. If Rynn does not obtain counsel, he may proceed in this action only on behalf of himself and his own claims, not those of M.R.

         B. Failure to Plead with Requisite Particularity

         To begin with, Rynn's Complaint is deficient under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, because it does not adequately distinguish between the 14 Defendants in terms of their alleged conduct; indeed, the only specific conduct alleged in the Complaint is that of Quail Run and Zammit-who allegedly reported to DCS that Rynn “threatened to kill them all”-and DCS-who allegedly did not return M.R. to her parents. A plaintiff may not collectively accuse multiple defendants of committing misdeeds through the expedience of the title “Defendants.” Such group pleading fails to comply with Rule 8(a)(2) because it does not give fair notice of the claims against each Defendant with the requisite specificity. Riehle v. Bank of America, N. A., No. CV-12-00251-PHX-NVW, 2013 WL 1694442, at *2 (D. Ariz. Apr. 18, 2013). For this initial reason, the Court will dismiss the entire Complaint.

         The Court also notes that Count 6, for negligence, appears to be duplicative, because it is a copy ...

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