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Easton v. Shulkin

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division

October 9, 2018

DAVID J. SHULKIN, in his official capacity as the Secretary of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, CAROLINE M. HOWELL, FNP, individually and in her official capacity as employee of Veterans Affairs Eugene Clinic, KRISTOPHER G. KYES, individually and in his official capacity as DMV/Medical Programs Coordinator, and OREGON DOT/DMV, Defendants.



         Plaintiff Thomas D. Easton brings this action against defendants Kristopher G. Kyes and Oregon Department of Transportation/Department of Motor Vehicles ("Oregon DOT/DMV") (collectively, "state defendants") as well as defendants Caroline M. Howell, FNP, and David J. Shulkin (collectively, "federal defendants"[1]) for wrongfully depriving plaintiff of his Oregon driver's license. State defendants have moved to dismiss all claims asserted against them. For the reasons stated below, the Motion to Dismiss (doc. 10) is GRANTED, and the claims against the state defendants are dismissed.


         Plaintiff is an 82 year old veteran of the U.S. Air Force and Navy, and received medical care at Veterans Affairs' Eugene Health Care Center in Eugene, Oregon. On November 6, 2017, Howell, plaintiffs primary care provider, reported plaintiff to the Oregon DOT/DMV under Oregon's mandatory referral program for medical impairments. Howell asserted that plaintiff refused to take necessary blood pressure medication and was thus a serious risk to the public while driving:

82 year old male veteran presents to clinic at risk for sudden death due to persistent malignant hypertension (Blood pressure greater than 200/100). Veteran has been counseled he is at risk of sudden stroke or heart attack when driving and at risk to other individuals on the road as long as he refuses treatment.

Pl's Resp. to State Def Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. B, pp. 4

         State defendants took action on this referral and suspended plaintiffs driver's license effective November 27, 2017. Plaintiff filed an online request for a hearing on the same day. On December 22, 2017, plaintiff appeared before the Oregon Office of Administrative Hearings to contest the suspension of his license. There, plaintiff asserted that the chronic malignant hypertension diagnosis was "bogus" as the condition "involv[es] the failure of three organs and requires immediate hospitalization," symptoms that plaintiff did not suffer. Pl's Am. Compl. ¶ 21.

         On February 5, 2018, plaintiff filed the present action with this Court, naming only the federal defendants. On February 12, 2018, plaintiff amended his complaint to include the state defendants. Plaintiff alleges claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law, asserting that deprivation of his driver's license without a prior hearing violated his due process rights. Soon after this date, plaintiff received the Administrative Law Judge's final order directing Oregon DOT/DMV to continue suspension of plaintiffs license.

         State defendants filed this Motion to Dismiss, which seeks dismissal of all plaintiffs claims against them, on March 30, 2018. At hearing before this Court on April 30, 2018, plaintiff represented that he intends to file a petition for judicial review of the Administrative Law Judge's order. The Court ordered consideration of motions to be stayed pending a settlement conference before Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin. Settlement efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.


         State defendants move for dismissal due to plaintiffs "failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive the motion to dismiss, plaintiffs pleading must allege facts sufficient to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007). In considering the motion, this Court accepts all of the allegations in the complaint as true and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Kahle v. Gonzales, 474 F.3d 665, 667 (9th Cir. 2007).

         Although the pleading standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 "does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), "A pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Id.


         I. Plaintiff's Claims Against ...

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