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Grant v. Oregon City School District No. 62

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

April 27, 2018

CHRISTINA GRANT, Plaintiff,
v.
OREGON CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 62, CHERYL HOWELL, JOHN OGDEN, and LAURA POORE, Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          Youlee Yim You United States Magistrate Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Christina Grant (“Grant”), an Oregon City School District No. 62 employee, has filed a complaint alleging a single-count violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. She contends that defendants Oregon City School District No. 62, Cheryl Howell, John Ogden, and Laura Poore (collectively “defendants”), while acting under color of state law, violated her procedural due process rights by terminating her employment without providing (a) prior notice of the charges, (b) prior notice of the sanctions being considered, (c) an opportunity to refute the charges, and (d) a pre-termination hearing. Compl. ¶ 42, ECF #1. Defendants move pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(6) to dismiss the complaint on the basis that it is duplicative of a previously filed action

         (ECF #15), and seek the imposition of sanctions (ECF #19). For the reasons discussed below, the instant action is not duplicative and defendants' motions to dismiss and for imposition of sanctions should be DENIED.[1]

         PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On October 14, 2015, Grant was injured by a student while employed as a classroom assistant in a pre-kindergarten class in Oregon City School District No. 62 (the “District”). Compl. ¶¶ 11-13, ECF #1. Her workers' compensation claim was granted and she returned to work on modified duty until she was terminated for cause on February 5, 2016. Id. at ¶¶ 21, 24, 34. On November 21, 2016, Grant filed suit against the District challenging the stated reasons for termination and alleging (1) discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”); (2) discrimination and retaliation in violation of state whistleblower protection provisions, ORS 659A.199 and ORS 659A.230; (3) injured worker discrimination and retaliation in violation of ORS 659A.040; (4) violation of the Oregon Rehabilitation Act, ORS 659A.103 et seq.; and (5) wrongful termination. Grant v. Oregon City School District No. 62, No. 3:16-cv-02202-YY (“Grant I”), ECF #1.

         On January 26, 2018, Grant filed the instant action against the District and several of its employees: Cheryl Howell, the District's Early Childhood After School Age Programs Coordinator; John Ogden, the District's Director of Human Resources; and Laura Poore, the District's Community Education Supervisor. Compl. ¶¶ 6-8, ECF #1. In this second action, Grant alleges that the defendants acted under color of law in depriving her of her federally protected rights. Id. Grant alleges that although she was at all relevant times an employee of the District, not a probationary employee, she was not given a due process hearing or fair opportunity to be heard prior to termination, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. at ¶ 37. Defendants move to dismiss this second action as duplicative (ECF #15) and seek the imposition of sanctions (EFC #19).

         STANDARDS

         A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under FRCP 12(b)(6) may be granted only when there is no cognizable legal theory to support the claim or when the complaint lacks sufficient factual allegations to state a facially plausible claim for relief. Mollett v. Netflix, Inc., 795 F.3d 1062, 1065 (9th Cir. 2015); Shroyer v. New Cingular Wireless Servs., Inc., 622 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir. 2010). When evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint's factual allegations, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded material facts alleged in the complaint and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Davidson v. Kimberly-Clark Corp., 873 F.3d 1103, 1107 n.1 (9th Cir. 2017) (citing Daniels-Hall v. Nat'l Educ. Ass'n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir. 2010)); see also Dowers v. Nationstar Mortg., LLC, 852 F.3d 964, 969 (9th Cir. 2017) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). And while this Court need not credit a plaintiff's “legal conclusions, ” the presumption of truth indisputably extends to all “factual allegations” in a complaint, however “conclusory.” Iqbal, 566 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007).

         FINDINGS

         I. Relevant Law Regarding Claim Preclusion

         In determining whether a second suit is duplicative, the court looks to the doctrine of claim preclusion or res judicata. Res judicata bars all grounds for recovery that could have been asserted, whether they were or not, in a prior suit between the same parties on the same cause of action. McClain v. Apodaca, 793 F.2d 1031, 1033 (9th Cir.1986). To determine “whether successive suits involve the same cause of action, ” and thus claim preclusion applies, the Ninth Circuit looks to four factors: (1) whether rights or interests established in the prior judgment would be destroyed or impaired by prosecution of the second action; (2) whether substantially the same evidence is presented in the two actions; (3) whether the two suits involve infringement of the same right; and (4) whether the two suits arise out of the same transactional nucleus of facts. Clark v. Bear Stearns & Co., 966 F.2d 1318, 1320 (9th Cir. 1992) (citing Costantini v. Trans World Airlines, 681 F.2d 1199, 1201-02 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1087 (1982)).

         “The burden of establishing improper claim splitting is on the moving party.” Unicolors, Inc. v. Macy's, Inc., No. CV 14-08611-RGK SSX, 2015 WL 1020101, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 6, 2015) (citing Taylor, 553 U.S. at 907 (discussing the burden for claim preclusion)). “After weighing the equities of the case, the district court may exercise its discretion to dismiss a duplicative later-filed action, to stay that action pending resolution of the previously filed action, to enjoin the parties from proceeding with it, or to consolidate both actions.” Adams v. California Dep't of Health Servs., 487 F.3d 684, 692-93 (9th Cir.2007), overruled on other grounds by Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U.S. 880 (2008).

         II. Judgment in the first action would not be destroyed or ...


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