436 F.3d 684 (6th Cir. 2006), 05-3033, Kottmyer v. Maas

Docket Nº:05-3033.
Citation:436 F.3d 684
Party Name:Marlena H. KOTTMYER and Robert D. Kottmyer, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Aimee MAAS; Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center; Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, and Debbie Ayer, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:January 18, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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436 F.3d 684 (6th Cir. 2006)

Marlena H. KOTTMYER and Robert D. Kottmyer, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

Aimee MAAS; Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center; Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, and Debbie Ayer, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 05-3033.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

January 18, 2006

Argued: December 8, 2005

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio at Cincinnati. No. 03-00412—Susan J. Dlott, District Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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ARGUED:

John H. Metz, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellants.

James A. Comodeca, Dinsmore & Shohl, Cincinnati, Ohio, Mark C. Vollman, Michael G. Florez, Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellees.

ON BRIEF:

John H. Metz, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellants.

James A. Comodeca, Mark L. Silbersack, Margaret Maggio, Dinsmore & Shohl, Cincinnati, Ohio, Mark C. Vollman, Michael G. Florez, Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellees.

Before: MERRITT, MARTIN, and COLE, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

BOYCE F. MARTIN, Circuit Judge.

Marlena and Robert Kottmyer appeal the district court's order denying their motion for leave to amend their complaint and granting the defendants's motions to dismiss in this section 1983 case. For the reasons stated below, we AFFIRM the district court's decision.

I.

On May 15, 2001, Marlena gave birth to the Kottmyers's daughter, Arianna Marie Kottmyer, at Bethesda Hospital. Arianna was born with significant brain damage, and on May 17, 2001 she was admitted to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Due to Arianna's severe brain damage, a hospital social worker, Aimee Maas, was assigned to Arianna's case. The Kottmyers had several meetings with

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hospital staff regarding the seriousness of Arianna's brain damage. Following one of these meeting, Maas decided that Marlena was a danger to Arianna and that Marlena should not be permitted to take Arianna home. Maas informed Marlena that if she took Arianna home and anything happened to Arianna, Marlena would be accused of murder. Maas then contacted the Hamilton County Department of Jobs and Family Services which assigned social worker Debbie Ayer to initiate an investigation of the Kottmyers.

During the investigation, Arianna was transferred to another medical facility, St. Joseph's Home. Hamilton County continued its investigation of the Kottmyers despite receiving information from the medical staff treating Arianna that there was no basis for investigating the Kottmyers. The Kottmyers alleged that they were treated "like criminals" and were constantly watched and monitored while at the hospital. After conducting an investigation of the Kottmyers for several months, the Hamilton County Department of Jobs and Family Services Children's Services Appeal determined on January 31, 2002, that the Kottmyers were not a danger to Arianna. Arianna died several months later on March 25, 2002.

The Kottmyers then filed suit against Maas, Cincinnati Children's Hospital, Hamilton County, and Ayer under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the defendants violated the Kottmyers's "protected Constitutional rights." Maas and Cincinnati Children's Hospital filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The district court granted this motion on the grounds that the Kottmyers failed to "make clear of which right secured by the Constitution Maas and CCHMC deprived them." Ayer and Hamilton County then filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). In response the Kottmyers suggested that any infirmities in their complaint could be remedied by permitting them to file an amended complaint. Based on these statements, the district court ordered that the Kottmyers be permitted to move to file an amended complaint. The Kottmyers then submitted a motion for leave to file an amended opinion along with a proposed amended complaint. The amended complaint recited further details regarding the original allegations, specifically focusing on the Kottmyers's exemplary parenting skills. Additionally, the amended complaint now alleged that "once the investigation [was opened by Hamilton County] plaintiffs were not permitted to take their baby home until Debbie Ayer would allow it."

On December 8, 2004, the district court issued an order denying the Kottmyers's motion for leave to file an amended complaint and granting Ayer's and Hamilton County's motion to dismiss. The district court denied the Kottmyers leave to file an amended complaint on the grounds that the Kottmyers's "proposed amended complaint does nothing to remedy the original failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." The district court granted Ayer's and Hamilton County's motion to dismiss for the reasons stated in its earlier order granting Maas's and Cincinnati Children's Hospital's motion to dismiss. The Kottmyers then filed this appeal.

II.

The Kottmyers's appeal alleges three errors by the district court. First, the Kottmyers allege that the district court erred in dismissing the complaint against Maas and Cincinnati Children's Hospital based on Rule 12(b)(6). Second, the Kottmyers assert that the district court erred in dismissing the complaint against Ayer and Hamilton County pursuant to Rule

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12(c). Finally, the Kottmyers argue that the district court erred in denying their motion to amend their complaint on the ground that their proposed complaint still failed to state a claim. We will address each claim of error in turn.

A.

The Kottmyers allege that the district court erred in granting Maas's and Cincinnati Children's Hospital's motion to dismiss based on Rule 12(b)(6) because the Kottmyers allege that their complaint did state a section 1983 claim against Maas and Cincinnati Children's Hospital. We review de novo a district court's dismissal of a plaintiff s complaint for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). Marks v. New court Credit Group, Inc., 342 F.3d 444, 451 (6th Cir. 2003). Rule 12(b)(6) permits a district court to dismiss a plaintiff's complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Under Rule 12(b)(6) "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond 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 (1957). In considering whether to grant a defendant's motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) a district court must accept as true all the allegations contained in the complaint and construe the complaint liberally in favor of the plaintiff. Miller v. Curie, 50 F.3d 373, 377 (6th Cir. 1995). A district court need not, however, accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences. Gregory v. Shelby County, 220 F.3d 433, 446 (6th Cir. 2000).

After reviewing the Kottmyers's complaint we agree with the district court that it failed to state a claim against Maas and Cincinnati Children's Hospital. In order to state a claim under section 1983, it must be established that (1) the conduct in controversy was committed by a person acting under color of law, and (2) the conduct deprived the plaintiff of a federal right, either constitutional or statutory. Lugar v. Edmonson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 930 (1982). The Kottmyers's complaint failed to allege facts indicating that Maas and Cincinnati Children's Hospital were acting under color of law when the alleged violation of the Kottmyers's federal rights occurred.

Nothing in the Kottmyers's complaint suggests that Maas or Cincinnati Children's Hospital are state actors except for the Kottmyers's allegation that "Defendant Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center operates pursuant to licensing and authority of State and Federal governments," and the conclusory statement that defendants were acting under color of law at the time of the alleged constitutional violations. These allegations are insufficient to establish that Maas and Cincinnati Children's Hospital were state actors at the time of the alleged constitutional violations. First, the Kottmyers's mere conclusory statements that the defendants were acting under color of law is insufficient as we are not required to accept as true conclusory legal statements when determining whether a plaintiff has stated a claim under section 1983. See Lillard v. Shelby County Board of Education, 76 F.3d 716, 726-27 (6th Cir. 1996). More importantly, however, our precedent indicates that the mere fact that a hospital is licensed by the state is insufficient to transform it into a state actor for purposes of section 1983. See Crowder v. Conlan, 740 F.2d 447, 451 (6th Cir. 1984) (citing Jackson v. Metro. Edison Co., 419 U.S. 345, 350 (1975)) ("State regulation of a private entity, even if it is 'extensive and detailed,' is not enough to support a finding of state

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action."); see also Lansing v. City of Memphis, 202...

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