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Blake v. Curry Health District

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Medford Division

June 4, 2015

SUSAN BLAKE, Plaintiff,
v.
CURRY HEALTH DISTRICT; ANDREW BAIR in his individual capacity; LORA MAXWELL, in her individual capacity; PAMELA BROWN, in her individual capacity; TERRI TOMBERLIN, in her individual capacity, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

MICHAEL McSHANE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Susan Blake ("Blake") brings this action against her former employer, Defendant Curry Health District ("CHD"), and its officers. Blake's First Amended Complaint brings claims for due process violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; age discrimination under 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq. and ORS 659A.030; disability discrimination under 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181 et seq. and ORS 659A.112 et seq.; whistleblowing under ORS 659A.199 et seq. and ORS 659A.203 et seq.; retaliation under ORS 441.174; as well as common law claims for defamation, wrongful discharge, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. See ECF No. 11. CHD filed a Motion for Partial Dismissal of Blake's First Amended Complaint for failure to provide timely notice of Blake's common law claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation pursuant to the Oregon Tort Claims Act ("OTCA"), ORS 30.275, and for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See ECF No. 14.

Blake's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress against CHD is dismissed with prejudice for failure to provide CHD with timely notice of the claim as required by the OTCA. Blake has not pleaded sufficient facts to support her claim for defamation against CHD. Accordingly, Blake's claim for defamation is dismissed with leave to amend. Defendants' motion, ECF No. 14, is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff Susan Blake is a registered nurse with 38 years of experience. In August 2012, Blake was hired by Defendant CHD to serve as a nurse at Curry General Hospital in Gold Beach, Oregon. During her tenure with CHD, Blake alleges that she and many of her fellow nurses were subjected to "harassment, unnecessary discriminatory actions and a general hostile work environment."

On September 26, 2013, Blake was formally disciplined by CHD for allegedly verbally mistreating a patient and the patient's husband; physically mistreating a student nurse; and engaging in "unacceptable behavior with a trauma patient's family." On September 30, 2013, Blake submitted a written response to CHD, contesting the September 26, 2013 discipline. Blake received no reply from CHD. On October 16, 2013, Blake was terminated for "alleged additional misconduct."

Blake experienced difficulty in securing new employment following her termination. On June 9, 2014, Blake was hired by the Humboldt Open Door Community Health Center in Arcata, California. Blake's new position offers her less pay and inferior benefits compared to her previous position with CHD.

On November 13, 2013, Blake submitted a tort claim notice to CHD ("the November letter"). Tomberlin Decl. Ex. 1. The November letter indicated that Blake intended to pursue claims for due process violations, wrongful discharge, whistleblowing, and discrimination based on age and disability. Id.

On December 13, 2013, Blake sent a second letter to Defendants ("the December letter"). Collins Decl. Ex. 1. The December letter reiterates and expands upon the allegations contained in the November letter, adding:

Since her dismissal, Ms. Blake has heard various rumors about why she was fired. By way of example, one individual told Ms. Blake that there was a rumor she was fired for stealing medications. It appears that this rumor mill has had a devastating effect in the relatively small health community.

Collins Decl. Ex. 1, at 1.

Blake commenced this action on October 1, 2014. See ECF No. 1.

STANDARDS

To survive a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter that "state[s] a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is plausible on its face when the factual allegations allow the court to infer the defendant's liability based on the alleged conduct. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, ...


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