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Butler v. Oregon Health & Science University

United States District Court, D. Oregon

February 6, 2017

JANELL BUTLER, Plaintiff,
v.
OREGON HEALTH & SCIENCE UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants.

          Janell Butler Forest Grove, Pro se Plaintiff

          OPINION & ORDER

          MARCO A. HERNÁNDEZ United States District Judge

         Pro se Plaintiff Janell Butler brings this action against Oregon Health & Science University (“OHSU”) and Dr. Kathryn Schabel. Plaintiff also moves to proceed in forma pauperis. The Court finds that Plaintiff is unable to pay the filing fee and grants the Motion. However, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff's case and dismisses her Complaint.

         STANDARDS

         A court may dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis at any time, if the court determines that:

         (B) the action or appeal-

(i) is frivolous or malicious;
(ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief

28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). As the Ninth Circuit has instructed, however, courts must “continue to construe pro se filings liberally.” Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). A pro se complaint “must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Id. (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam)). A pro se litigant will be given leave to amend his or her complaint unless it is clear that the deficiencies of the complaint cannot be cured by amendment. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000).

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff marked the checkbox in her Complaint indicating that the basis for federal court jurisdiction in this case is federal question. Compl. at 3, ECF 2. When prompted to list the specific federal law at issue in her case, Plaintiff wrote: “patient violation - malpractice - experimental procedure.” Id. In her handwritten attachment to the Complaint, Plaintiff explains that OHSU and Dr. Schabel negligently performed an unauthorized experimental procedure on her which has caused her immense pain and suffering. See Pl's. Handwritten Compl. at 6-8, ECF 1. Plaintiff seeks damages commensurate with settlement awards from allegedly similar cases ranging in the millions of dollars.

         Federal district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, meaning they can only hear certain types of cases. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). As a general rule, there are two ways to invoke a district court's subject matter jurisdiction: by raising a so-called “federal question” or by bringing a suit in which the plaintiff and all defendants are residents of different states and the amount in controversy is more than $75, 000 (“diversity jurisdiction”). Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 552 (2005).

         Federal question jurisdiction is controlled by 28 U.S.C. § 1331, which states that “[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” In other words, to invoke federal question jurisdiction, the plaintiff must plead in ...


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