422 F.3d 1059 (10th Cir. 2005), 01-6322, Beedle v. Wilson

Docket Nº:01-6322.
Citation:422 F.3d 1059
Party Name:Larry E. BEEDLE; Peggy Lee Korn, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. William WILSON; Jimmy King; Philip Bohanon; Angela Tovar; Trisha Hasty; Jackson County Memorial Hospital; Elaine Brown; Fenton, Fenton, Smith, Reneau and Moon; Beverly Pearson; Jay Chapman; Taylor Wyand; Richard B. Darby; John Wampler; Mike Patterson, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:September 02, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
 
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422 F.3d 1059 (10th Cir. 2005)

Larry E. BEEDLE; Peggy Lee Korn, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

William WILSON; Jimmy King; Philip Bohanon; Angela Tovar; Trisha Hasty; Jackson County Memorial Hospital; Elaine Brown; Fenton, Fenton, Smith, Reneau and Moon; Beverly Pearson; Jay Chapman; Taylor Wyand; Richard B. Darby; John Wampler; Mike Patterson, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 01-6322.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.

Sept. 2, 2005

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Submitted on the briefs: Larry Beedle, Plaintiff-Appellant, Pro Se.

Peggy Korn, Plaintiff-Appellant, Pro Se.

Reggie N. Whiten, Robert W. Nelson, Simone Gosnell Fulmer, of Whitten, Nelson, McGuire, Wood, Terry, Roselius & Dittrich, Oklahoma City, OK, for Defendants-Appellees Jackson County Memorial Hospital, William Wilson, Jimmy King, and Angela Tovar.

Amy L. Alden, of Hudson & Alden, Oklahoma City, OK, for Defendants-Appellees Fenton, Fenton, Smith, Reneau & Moon, Beverly Pearson, Jay Chapman and Taylor Wyand.

Beverly S. Pearson, of Fenton, Fenton, Smith, Reneau & Moon, Oklahoma City, OK, for Defendants-Appellees Jackson County Memorial Hospital, Trisha Hasty, and Elaine Brown.

Linda Soper, Office of the Attorney General, Oklahoma City, OK, for Defendants-Appellees Richard B. Darby and John Wampler.

Gary Underwood and Darren R. Cook, of Helms & Underwood, Oklahoma City, OK, for Defendant-Appellee Philip L. Bohanon.

Michael R. Chaffin and John L. Blodgett, of Fleming, Frailey, Chaffin, Cordell, Greenwood & Perryman LLP, Chickasaw, OK, for Defendant-Appellee Mike Patterson.

Before SEYMOUR, BRISCOE and TYMKOVICH, Circuit Judges.

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SEYMOUR, Circuit Judge.

Larry E. Beedle and Peggy Lee Korn, proceeding pro se, filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Jackson County Memorial Hospital (Hospital), several of the Hospital's employees, an Oklahoma state court judge, a law firm and several of the lawyers employed there, an Oklahoma state district attorney, a local police chief, a private citizen, and the plaintiffs' former attorney. Plaintiffs' amended complaints alleged that several defendants violated Mr. Beedle's rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by participating in the malicious and wrongful filing of a state-court lawsuit against him for libel. Ms. Korn claimed the Hospital and various Hospital employees violated her rights by committing sexual battery against her, or permitting commission of the same, while she was in the Hospital's care as an inpatient. Mr. Beedle and Ms. Korn also alleged that various defendants conspired to deprive them of their constitutional rights. In addition, they raised a number of state law claims.

In five separate orders, the district court dismissed with prejudice each of plaintiffs' federal claims for failure to state a claim, pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6). The court also dismissed without prejudice plaintiffs' state law claims, a ruling Mr. Beedle and Ms. Korn do not challenge on appeal. We exercise jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

I

We review de novo an order dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim for relief under Rule 12(b)(6), using the same standard applied by the district court. See Ordinance 59 Ass'n v. United States Dep't of Interior Sec'y, 163 F.3d 1150, 1152 (10th Cir. 1998). "We accept as true all well-pleaded facts, as distinguished from conclusory allegations, and view those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Maher v. Durango Metals, Inc., 144 F.3d 1302, 1304 (10th Cir. 1998). Dismissal of a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) will be upheld only if "it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). "The issue in reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint is not whether the plaintiff will prevail, but whether the plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence to support her claims." Ruiz v. McDonnell, 299 F.3d 1173, 1181 (10th Cir. 2002). Because Mr. Beedle and Ms. Korn are proceeding pro se, we review their pleadings liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972) ("We hold [pro se pleadings] to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers."). Under these principles, the plaintiffs alleged the following basic facts.

While hospitalized, Ms. Korn, who is blind, was allegedly a victim of several incidents of sexual battery committed by Trisha Hasty, a nurse's aid employed at the Hospital. As a result, Mr. Beedle and Ms. Korn wrote two letters inquiring whether anyone else had experienced anything similar while at the Hospital, and mailed the letters to numerous local residents. Based on the letters, the Hospital sued Mr. Beedle in Oklahoma state court for libel. The case was ultimately dismissed with prejudice after the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that the Hospital was "a political subdivision of the State ... and ... therefore barred from bringing an action for libel." Beedle v. Darby, 996 P.2d 934, 934 (Okla.2000) (citations omitted). Mr. Beedle and Ms. Korn subsequently filed the underlying federal suit alleging their federal and state rights had been

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violated. Additional facts relevant to our analysis will be discussed in the course of this opinion.

On appeal, Mr. Beedle and Ms. Korn challenge the dismissal of their federal claims. They also purport to appeal the district court's denial of their recusal motion but they have not presented any argument on appeal in support of this claim. We therefore deem it waived. See Gross v. Burggraf Constr. Co., 53 F.3d 1531, 1547 (10th Cir. 1995). 1

II

A. First Amendment claim against the Hospital, and William Wilson and Jimmy King, in their official capacities

Mr. Beedle contends the Hospital violated his constitutional rights by filing the malicious and wrongful state-court libel lawsuit against him, maintaining that the libel suit was designed and intended to punish him for his speech and to chill future speech. He alleges the Hospital knew or should have known that, as a political subdivision, it was precluded from filing a malicious libel claim against a private citizen. He asserts the Hospital acted through its policy makers, Mr. Wilson and Mr. King, and therefore Mr. Wilson and Mr. King are liable in their official capacities. 2 He also brings claims against Mr. Wilson and Mr. King in their individual capacities, which we address separately below. The district court dismissed Mr. Beedle's claims, reasoning in part that Mr. Beedle failed "to point to any custom or policy of defendants ..." that would render them liable under § 1983. Rec., vol. IV, doc. 154 at 4. The court also determined that when the Hospital brought its state libel action against Mr. Beedle, it possessed a good-faith basis for believing it was not a governmental entity and that "the law and facts supported its claim." Id. at 5.

In order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege "(1) a violation of rights protected by the federal Constitution or created by federal statute or regulation, (2) proximately caused (3) by the conduct of a 'person' (4) who acted under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom[,] or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia." Summum v. City of Ogden, 297 F.3d 995, 1000 (10th Cir. 2002) (quotation omitted). Here we must determine whether Mr. Beedle sufficiently alleged the Hospital was a governmental entity and, pursuant to the official actions taken by Mr. Wilson and Mr. King, proximately caused Mr. Beedle to suffer a constitutional harm. As we discuss in

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depth below, Mr. Beedle's allegations are sufficient to meet the pleading standard articulated in Summum.

1. Hospital as governmental entity

First, we conclude the Hospital was a governmental entity for § 1983 purposes. "The ultimate issue in determining whether a person is subject to suit under § 1983 is whether the alleged infringement of federal rights is 'fairly attributable to the state.' " Tarabishi v. McAlester Reg'l Hosp., 827 F.2d 648, 651 (10th Cir. 1987) (Tarabishi I). The Hospital was created as a public trust pursuant to OKLA. STAT. ANN. tit. 60, § 176 et seq., and OKLA. STAT. ANN. tit. 19, § 781 et seq. On at least three different occasions, our court has noted that under Oklahoma law public trust and county hospitals, or the private entities who contract with such hospitals to provide day-to-day services, are state actors for § 1983 purposes. See Carnes v. Parker, 922 F.2d 1506, 1509 (10th Cir. 1991); Milo v. Cushing Mun. Hosp., 861 F.2d 1194, 1196-97 (10th Cir. 1988); Tarabishi I, 827 F.2d at 652. Moreover, as detailed in the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act (GTCA), municipal and county hospitals created as public trusts are deemed political subdivisions. See OKLA. STAT. ANN. tit. 51, § 152(8)(d). The GTCA specifically directs that a political subdivision includes

a public trust where the sole beneficiary or beneficiaries are a city, town, school, school district or county. For purposes of The Governmental Tort Claims Act, a public trust shall include a municipal hospital created pursuant to Section 30-101 et seq. of Title 11 of the Oklahoma Statutes, a county hospital created pursuant to Section 781 et seq. of Title 19 of the Oklahoma Statutes, or is created pursuant to a joint agreement between such governing authorities, that is operated for the public benefit by a public trust created pursuant to section 176 et seq. of Title 60 of the Oklahoma Statutes and managed by a...

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