Simmler v. Simmons, Case No. 2:18-cv-00981-DAK-JCB

CourtUnited States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Utah
Writing for the CourtMagistrate Judge Jared C. Bennett
PartiesCHRISTOPHER SIMMLER, Plaintiff, v. HARRIS H. SIMMONS, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCase No. 2:18-cv-00981-DAK-JCB
Decision Date04 September 2020

HARRIS H. SIMMONS, et al., Defendants.

Case No. 2:18-cv-00981-DAK-JCB


September 4, 2020


District Judge Dale A. Kimball
Magistrate Judge Jared C. Bennett

This case was referred to Magistrate Judge Paul M. Warner pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).1 Due to Judge Warner's retirement, this case is now referred to Magistrate Judge Jared C. Bennett.2 Plaintiff Christopher Simmler ("Mr. Simmler") brings this action against various public and private entities, social service agencies, and associated individuals. Mr. Simmler asserts claims under various federal and state laws against the below-named Defendants—either individually or in some combination—for alleged substandard conditions, negligent treatment, and corruption at a homeless shelter and supportive housing facility. Mr. Simmler seeks relief in the form of compensatory and punitive damages.

Before the court are multiple motions to dismiss3 filed by the following Defendants: Salt Lake County; Valerie Wilde; The Road Home ("Road Home"); Shelter the Homeless ("STH");

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Shelter the Homeless II; Harris H. Simmons; STH Management; Matthew Minkevitch; Palmer Court Apartments ("Palmer Court"); Karen Grenko; Nathan Stapley; Salt Lake City Corporation; Salt Lake City Police Department ("SLCPD"); Uppsen Downes; Zions Bancorporation; Zions First National Bank; Gary R. Herbert; and the State of Utah. Defendants move to dismiss this action for failure to state claims upon which relief can be granted.4 Based upon the analysis below, the court recommends Defendants' motions to dismiss be granted and the case be dismissed in its entirety.

At the outset, the court recognizes that Mr. Simmler is proceeding pro se in this case. Consequently, the court will construe his pleadings liberally. See e.g., Ledbetter v. City of Topeka, 318 F.3d 1183, 1187 (10th Cir. 2003).


The following facts are taken from Mr. Simmler's amended complaint.5 Mr. Simmler lived intermittently in the Road Home homeless shelter from 2012 to 2016. Mr. Simmler now lives in a supportive housing development operated by the Road Home called Palmer Court. This facility is devoted to serving individuals who are chronically homeless and have a disabling condition. Mr. Simmler has been a resident at Palmer Court since June 2016.

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Although the Road Home operates the homeless shelter and Palmer Court, these facilities are owned by STH, a separate nonprofit organization. This organization works with a broad coalition of stakeholders to end homelessness by, inter alia, coordinating and distributing resources throughout Salt Lake County. Defendants are all connected to STH in some fashion, and all claims alleged are connected in some way to the Road Home, Palmer Court, or STH.

The Road Home and Palmer Court receive federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") and must comply with HUD regulations to receive this funding. Mr. Simmler alleges that the poor living conditions at the Road Home and Palmer Court violate HUD regulations. Specifically, he contends that Defendants violated 24 C.F.R. § 576.403 by failing to provide a safe and secure environment for program participants.

Next, Mr. Simmler alleges Defendants violated his right to privacy under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ("HIPAA") by disclosing his confidential health information to a police officer. Specifically, Plaintiff claims the notes in the January 27, 2017 police report describing him as a "mentally ill offender" and "disabled by alcohol/drug addiction" violated his right to privacy under HIPAA because the notes "identified him by diagnoses only known through access to protective medical records."6

Finally, Mr. Simmler alleges Defendants "commence[d]" the program "advertised as 'Housing the Homeless Initiative'"7 as a means to advance their "latent agenda" and "capitaliz[e]

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on people's vulnerabilities."8 He further alleges that the Road Home coordinated with police to falsify police reports and maintains that the "SLCPD routinely acts under color of law, with favorable bias toward and prejudice against certain individuals and entities."9 In doing so, Mr. Simmler claims Defendants conspired to deprive him of his constitutional rights in violation of 28 U.S.C. § 1985.10


To survive a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A court should "assume the factual allegations are true and ask whether it is plausible that the plaintiff is entitled to relief." Gallagher v. Shelton, 587 F.3d 1063, 1068 (10th Cir. 2009). "The court's function on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is not to weigh potential evidence that the parties might present at trial, but to assess whether the plaintiff's complaint alone is legally sufficient to state a claim for which relief may be granted." Miller v. Glanz, 948 F.2d 1562, 1565 (10th Cir. 1991). Thus, "the complaint must give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims." Ridge at Red Hawk, L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007) (emphasis omitted). In

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evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, courts may consider not only the complaint itself, but also documents attached thereto, and any external documents that are referenced in the amended complaint the authenticity of which is not in dispute. Jacobsen v. Deseret Book Co., 287 F.3d 936, 941 (10th Cir. 2002); Oxendine v. Kaplan, 241 F.3d 1272, 1275 (10th Cir. 2001).

Additionally, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 is incorporated into the court's Rule 12(b)(6) analysis. U.S. ex rel. Lemmon v. Envirocare of Utah, Inc., 614 F.3d 1163, 1171 (10th Cir. 2010). Rule 8(a)(2) 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). "A pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557) (citations omitted) (alteration in original). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. Rule 8 requires, at least, that the allegations of a complaint put the defendant fairly on notice of the claims against him. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The twin purposes of a complaint are to give the opposing party fair notice of the basis for the claims against him so that he may respond and to allow the court to conclude that the allegations, if proven, show that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Monument Builders of Greater Kan. City, Inc. v. Am. Cemetery Ass'n of Kan., 891 F.2d 1473, 1480 (10th Cir. 1989).

As mentioned above, the court recognizes that Mr. Simmler is proceeding pro se. Therefore, the court will "construe his pleadings liberally and hold the pleadings to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Riddle v. Mondragon, 83 F.3d 1197, 1202 (10th Cir. 1996). That said, Mr. Simmler's pro se status does not discharge him from

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complying with the court's rules and procedures, and the court will not assume an advocacy role on Mr. Simmler's behalf. Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991) ("[W]e do not believe it is the proper function of the district court to assume the role of advocate for the pro se litigant.").


Mr. Simmler's amended complaint asserts the following causes of action against various Defendants: (I) violation of HUD regulations under 24 C.F.R. § 576.403; (II) violation of HIPAA under 42 U.S.C. § 1320d; (III) conspiracy to deprive constitutional rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985; and (IV) state-law claims for breach of contract, negligence, harassment, stalking, trespass, and falsification of public records. The court will address Mr. Simmler's claims in that order. Based upon the following analysis, the court concludes that all of Mr. Simmler's federal claims fail and, therefore, the court should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over his state-law claims. Accordingly, the court recommends Mr....

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