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Haws v. United States

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

April 5, 2019

RICKY HAWS, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES, ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE, NEVADA TEST SITE, STATE OF NEVADA, STATE DEPARTMENT, and JOINT TEST ORGANIZATION, Defendants.

          Jill N. Parrish District Judge.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          EVELYN J. FURSE United States Magistrate Judge.

         Pro se Plaintiff Ricky Haws, proceeding in forma pauperis, filed the Complaint in this matter in October 2018. (ECF No. 3.) Subsequently, the undersigned[1] set a status conference for January 15, 2019 to give Mr. Haws the opportunity explain the claims he attempts to assert and the bases for those claims. (ECF No. 6.) Mr. Haws did not appear at the status conference. (ECF No. 7.)

         The Court has reviewed Mr. Haws's Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and finds that it fails to state a plausible claim for relief. Accordingly, the undersigned RECOMMENDS the District Judge dismiss Mr. Haws's Complaint without prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         On November 1, 2018, the undersigned granted Mr. Haws's request to proceed in forma pauperis in this matter. (ECF No. 2.) While not entirely clear, Mr. Haws's Complaint names as defendants some combination of the United States, the Atomic Energy Commission, the Department of Defense, the Department of the Air Force, Nevada Test Site, the State of Nevada, the State Department, and Joint Test Organization. (Compl., ECF No. 3.) The Complaint and its attachment allege that the Defendants exposed Mr. Haws and certain members of his family to nuclear testing at some point in time, but the Complaint does not identify when this occurred or provide other details that would put the Defendants on notice of what they each did that resulted in this lawsuit. (Id. at 4, 8.) Mr. Haws's Complaint asserts a conspiracy claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1985, alleging that “[t]hey all benefitted and conspired to blow the weapons up on my parents myself, ” and “[t]hey never let me know about it.” (Id. at 4.) In the attachment to the Complaint, Mr. Haws also alleges a violation of civil rights and refers to intentional infliction of emotional distress in both the Complaint and attachment. (Id. at 4, 8.) Among other things, Mr. Haws claims he suffered injury because he has no children and because he has Iodine 131 in his thyroid, alcoholism, and mental health issues. (Id. at 5.) He also alleges five miscarriages. (Id.) Mr. Haws seeks $40, 000, 000 in damages. (Id. at 6.)

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Whenever the Court authorizes a party to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court must “dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action . . . fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). In determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim for relief under this statute, the Court employs the same standard used for analyzing motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1217-18 (10th Cir. 2007).

         Under this standard, “ ‘[t]he court's function . . . is . . . to assess whether the plaintiff's complaint alone is legally sufficient to state a claim for which relief may be granted.' ” Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1098 (10th Cir. 2009) (quoting Sutton v. Utah State Sch. For Deaf & blind, 173 F.3d 1226, 1236 (10th Cir. 1999)). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and further provides that “[e]ach allegation must be simple, concise, and direct. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1). “Rule 8 serves the important purpose of requiring plaintiffs to state their claims intelligibly so as to inform the defendants of the legal claims being asserted.” Mann v. Boatright, 477 F.3d 1140, 1148 (10th Cir. 2007).

         To avoid dismissal, a complaint must allege “ ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' ” Hogan v. Winder, 762 F.3d 1096, 1104 (10th Cir. 2014) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007)). “ ‘A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.' ” Id. (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). In reviewing a complaint, the court accepts as true the well-pled factual allegations and views the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Wilson v. Montano, 715 F.3d 847, 852 (10th Cir. 2013). The Court need not accept the plaintiff's conclusory allegations as true. Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). “[A] plaintiff must offer specific factual allegations to support each claim.” Kan. Penn Gaming, LLC v. Collins, 656 F.3d 1210, 1214 (10th Cir. 2011) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). A complaint survives only if it “ ‘states a plausible claim for relief,' ” though courts recognize that “[t]he nature and specificity of the allegations required to state a plausible claim will vary based on context.” Id. at 1214- 15 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

         While a court construes the filings of a pro se plaintiff liberally and holds them “to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ” Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110, a pro se plaintiff must “ ‘follow the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants.' ” Garrett v. Selby Connor Maddux & Janer, 425 F.3d 836, 840 (10th Cir. 2005) (quoting Nielsen v. Price, 17 F.3d 1276, 1277 (10th Cir. 1994)). Thus, a pro se “plaintiff still has ‘the burden of alleging sufficient facts on which a recognized legal claim could be based.' ” Jenkins, 514 F.3d at 1032 (quoting Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110). While a court must make some allowances for “the [pro se] plaintiff's failure to cite proper legal authority, his confusion of various legal theories, his poor syntax and sentence construction, or his unfamiliarity with pleading requirements[, ]” Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110, the court cannot act as the litigant's advocate, supply additional factual allegations, or develop a legal theory for him/her, see, e.g., Smith, 561 F.3d at 1096.

         DISCUSSION

         Mr. Haws's Complaint falls well short of satisfying Rule 8's pleading standard. First, Mr. Haws's Complaint fails to indicate how the defendants, some of which he only identifies in the caption and not in the body of the Complaint, bear responsibility for the actions described in the Complaint or how they allegedly harmed him. The Tenth Circuit has held that

to state a claim in federal court, a complaint must explain what each defendant did to him or her; when the defendant did it; how the defendant's action harmed him or her; and, what specific legal right ...

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