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Wright v. Bassett Healthcare Network

United States District Court, N.D. New York

October 27, 2014

LAURI WRIGHT and THOMAS WRIGHT, Plaintiffs,
v.
BASSETT HEALTHCARE NETWORK, MIKE TREEN, UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT, INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendants.

Lauri Wright and Thomas Wright, South New Berlin, New York, Plaintiffs, pro se.

Nixon Peabody LLP, Andrew C. Rose, Esq., of counsel, Kacey E. Houston, Esq., of counsel, Albany, New York, Attorney for Defendants Bassett Healthcare Network and Mike Treen

United States Department of Justice - Tax Division, Stephanie Chernoff, Esq., of counsel Washington, DC, Attorney for United States Defendants.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

NORMAN A. MORDUE, Senior District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Presently before the Court are (1) a motion (Dkt. No. 21) by defendants Bassett Healthcare Network and Mike Treen ("Bassett defendants") to dismiss the amended complaint (Dkt. No. 17); and (2) a motion (Dkt. No. 40) by defendants United States Government, Internal Revenue Service, and the United States of America ("United States") for a more definite statement, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e). In a previous decision herein (Dkt. No. 14), this Court gave Lauri Wright, the sole plaintiff in the initial complaint, leave to file an amended complaint. Lauri Wright and Thomas Wright filed an amended complaint (Dkt. No. 17), and, apparently in response to the pending motions, a second amended complaint (Dkt. No. 44, attachment 1). The Court accepts the second amended complaint (Dkt. No. 44, attachment 1) as the operative pleading. As set forth below, the Court deems the Bassett defendants' motion (Dkt. No. 21) to dismiss the amended complaint to be directed towards the second amended complaint, and grants the motion with prejudice and without leave to replead. The Court denies the United States' motion (Dkt. No. 40) for a more definite statement, and directs the United States to serve and file an answer within 14 days.

SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

The Court accepts the second amended complaint as the operative pleading in the action. The Clerk of the Court is directed to docket the second amended complaint (Dkt. No. 44, attachment 1) separately as the Second Amended Complaint.

MOTION BY BASSETT DEFENDANTS

To survive a dismissal motion, "a complaint must plead enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ruotolo v. City of New York, 514 F.3d 184, 188 (2d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The plaintiff "must provide the grounds upon which his claim rests through factual allegations sufficient to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" ATSI Commc'n, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). The Court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See ATSI, 493 F.3d at 98. "A complaint should be especially liberally construed when it is submitted pro se and alleges civil rights violations." Jacobs v. Mostow, 271 Fed.Appx. 85, 87 (2d Cir. 2008). The submissions of a pro se litigant should be interpreted "to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Triestman v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006) (citations omitted). A court should not dismiss a pro se complaint without granting leave to amend at least once when a liberal reading of the complaint gives any indication that a valid claim might be stated. See Cuoco v. Moritsugu, 222 F.3d 99, 112 (2d Cir. 2000). Where, however, the problem with a pro se plaintiff's claim is substantive, and repleading would be futile, leave to replead should be denied. Id.

With respect to plaintiffs' claims against Bassett Healthcare Network, Lauri Wright's employer, and Mike Treen, manager of Bassett Healthcare Network's accounting department, the amended complaint and the second amended complaint are indistinguishable. Therefore, the Court deems the Bassett defendants' dismissal motion to be directed to the second amended complaint. Plaintiffs' claims against the Bassett defendants stem from their compliance with an IRS notice of levy. As the Court noted in its previous Memorandum-Decision and Order herein (Dkt. No. 14), an employer's compliance with the obligation to honor an IRS levy extinguishes its liability to the claimant of the property. See 26 U.S.C. ยง 6332(e); Schiff v. Simon & Schuster, Inc ., 780 F.2d 210, 212 (2d Cir. 1985). It is clear from plaintiffs' opposition papers (Dkt. No. 24), amended pleadings (Dkt. Nos. 17, 44), and other submissions that plaintiffs' claims against the Bassett defendants are based solely on plaintiffs' challenges to the validity of the underlying tax assessments and fees and to the United States' authority to issue the IRS notice of levy to plaintiff Lauri Wright's employer. Therefore, the Bassett defendants' compliance with their obligation to honor the levy extinguishes their liability to plaintiffs as a matter of law.

Construing plaintiffs' claims most liberally, interpreting them to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest, and taking all of plaintiffs' submissions into account, the Court concludes that plaintiffs have no cognizable claim against the Bassett defendants. The problem with these claims is substantive; better pleading will not cure them. Therefore, granting plaintiffs another opportunity to amend would be futile. The Court grants the motion (Dkt. No. 21) by the Bassett defendants and dismisses the second amended complaint against them with prejudice and without leave to replead.

MOTION BY UNITED STATES

The United States moves (Dkt. No. 40) for an order directing plaintiffs to provide a more definite statement under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(e). Rule 12(e) provides: "A party may move for a more definite statement of a pleading to which a responsive pleading is allowed but which is so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response." The United States argues that the amended complaint (Dkt. No. 17) does not contain a short and plain statement of claims showing that the plaintiff is entitled to relief, and that the allegations in the complaint are not ...


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