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Haltom v. Parks

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

March 8, 2017

JOHN V. HALTOM, Plaintiff,
KAREN PARKS, et al., Defendants.


          John M. Gerrard United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on John Haltom's amended complaint (filing 6). Haltom is suing the state of Nebraska, private medical practitioners, private entities, and non-profit organizations for various purported constitutional violations. Several defendants move to dismiss these claims under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(4) and (b)(6) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(m). For the reasons stated below, the defendants' motions will be granted in part and denied in part.


         Haltom's allegations are briefly summarized as follows. In 2009, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) began investigating domestic disputes between Haltom and his former wife. As part of its investigation, DHHS allegedly colluded with private health practitioners and companies to violate Haltom's constitutional rights, and ultimately, to take away his children. These actions were purportedly motivated by DHHS's "long standing resentment" of Haltom, which stems from past litigation, his operation of an adult entertainment business, and his "political ambitions within the State of Nebraska and its state departments." Filing 6 at 3; 8, 9. To accomplish its goals, at least according to Haltom, DHHS and other named defendants-all acting "under color of state law"-partook in widespread misconduct ranging from the production of false medical evaluations, to unwarranted "invasions" into Haltom's home. Filing 6 at 5-6, 12. As a result of these actions, Haltom says he has experienced "extreme emotional and physical distress" and is "[unable] to function in society." Filing 6 at 5.


         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 to relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). 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. While the Court must accept as true all facts pleaded by the nonmoving party and grant all reasonable inferences from the pleadings in favor of the nonmoving party, Gallagher v. City of Clayton, 699 F.3d 1013, 1016 (8th Cir. 2012), a pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will require the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679.


         As a preliminary matter, Haltom's multiple claim complaint spans nearly 90 pages, and includes over 40 named defendants. Twelve of these defendants-including individually named medical practitioners, private companies, and one non-profit organization-have moved to dismiss Haltom's complaint on various grounds. For clarity, the Court will address each of the individually-named defendants' motions separately.[1] The Court will then address pending motions from three private companies: KVC Behavioral Health, Alegent Creighton Health, and ORR Psychotherapy. Because these entities raise largely the same legal issues, the Court will consider their motions together. Finally, the Court will address the motion filed on behalf of CASA for Lancaster County, a non-profit organization, and a CASA volunteer, Dawn Rockey.

         Before turning to the merits of the defendants' motions, however, the Court will address two separate, yet related issues. First, in his 89-page complaint, Haltom refers to individuals and entities by different names, making it difficult for the parties (and the Court) to determine which counts apply to which defendants. For example, Haltom initially refers to Alegent Creighton Health and its individually-named employees as the "Lakeside Defendants." But in detailing his allegations, Haltom goes on to reference "Lakeside Hospital Defendants, " "Lakeshore Defendants, " and "Lakeside." See filing 47 at 3. Such inconsistencies, the defendants argue, make it "impossible to ascertain" Haltom's various claims for relief. Filing 47 at 5.

         While the Court shares in the defendants' frustration, it cannot be said that the parties, on the whole, lack adequate notice of the nature of the claims against them. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8. However, for clarity, the Court will-where appropriate-specify which claims apply to which parties. In doing so, the Court considers both the substance of the defendants' underlying motions (to which the plaintiff has not responded), and the governing standards under Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). This represents the Court's good-faith effort to make sense of Haltom's unwieldy pleading. If Haltom meant to plead a claim that the Court has failed to identify below, he may ask for leave to include it in an amended complaint that sufficiently identifies it.

         Relatedly, several defendants argue that because Haltom has not alleged facts pertaining to self-incrimination, he has failed to state a claim under the Fifth Amendment. In this way, the defendants suggest that the Fifth Amendment applies only to criminal matters, and is therefore inapplicable to the present dispute. See, filing 49 at 7, filing 44 at 7, filing 47 at 7. Although the defendants' argument misapprehends the law, the Court nevertheless recognizes that Haltom has failed to allege wrongdoing by any federal actors. Baribeau v. City of Minneapolis, 596 F.3d 465, 484 (8th Cir. 2010). Accordingly, the Court will dismiss Haltom's Fifth Amendment claims as to each of the defendants discussed in this Memorandum and Order.

         A. Individually-Named Defendants

         As noted above, Haltom alleges various constitutional violations and conspiracy-related charges against several individually-named health care practitioners. These allegations broadly relate to the alleged conspiracy between DHHS and other named defendants to "injure" Haltom, and to "eliminate [Haltom's] rights to parent his children." Filing 6 at 3-4. Generally speaking, Haltom alleges that the individually-named defendants sought to "conceal their conflicts of interest that, under their professional rules of conduct, [they] were obligated to reveal and to resolve before engaging in consultation with [Haltom.]" Filing 6 at 4. Several of these defendants- including Barbara Onnen (filing 27); David Kucera (filing 30); James C. Carmer (filing 41); Ryan Hurd (filing 48); Melissa Schmid (filing 51); Lisa Blankenau (filing 57); and Robert Troyer (filing 56)-move to dismiss. Those motions are addressed in varying order below.

         1. Robert Troyer

         Robert Troyer seeks dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(4).[2] Filing 56. In support of his motion, Troyer points to a series of orders by the Magistrate Judge pertaining to service of process. See filings 3-6. Specifically, Troyer notes a May 3, 2016 order in which the Magistrate Judge granted Haltom's motion to continue, instructing him to serve his amended complaint on defendants "[o]n or before June 17, 2016." Filing 4; filing 5. Haltom filed-but did not serve-the amended complaint on June 17, and then, on June 24, requested that the Court issue summons. See, filing 7; filing 9. Thus, Troyer argues, because Haltom "did not comply with the Court's Order" regarding service of process, the claims against him must be dismissed.[3] Filing 55 at 2.

         An objection under Rule 12(b)(4) concerns the form of the process rather than the manner or method of its service. Technically, then, "a Rule 12(b)(4) motion is proper only to challenge noncompliance with the provisions of Rule 4[a] or any applicable provision incorporated by Rule 4[a] that deals specifically with the content of the summons." 5B Wright & Miller Federal Practice and Procedure Civil 3d § 1353. But Rule 12(b)(4) motions will be granted only when the defect is prejudicial to the defendant. Id. And here, there is no indication that Troyer was prejudiced by the delayed service of process. Indeed, while Haltom did not strictly comply with the Magistrate Judge's order, Troyer received sufficient notice of Haltom's complaint. Accordingly, Troyer's motion to dismiss (filing 56) will be denied.

         2. David Kucera

         Haltom, in his 89-page complaint, refers to Kucera only one time. See filing 6 at 14. In this reference, Haltom suggests that Kucera is or was an employee of KVC Behavioral Healthcare Nebraska, another named defendant in this dispute. But Kucera contends that he "has never worked, associated with, or been employed by KVC . . . or any similar-type organization[.]" Filing 31 at 1. Nor has he worked for DHHS or any of the other defendants in this matter. To this end, Kucera believes that he was erroneously served with Haltom's complaint, and that the intended recipient may have been a different "David Kucera" living in or around Lancaster County, Nebraska. Filing 31 at 1. Because Haltom has not responded to the defendants' motions to dismiss, the Court takes Kucera's factual statements as true. See Neb. Civ. R. 7.0.1(b)(1)(C). Accordingly, Kucera's motion to dismiss is granted.

         3. James Carmer / Mental Health Associates, LLC

         Carmer moves to dismiss Haltom's claims against both himself and "Mental Health Associates, LLC."[4] With respect to the latter entity, Carmer notes that the business was improperly named in the summons as "Mental Health Associates, LLC, " as opposed to "Mental Health Associates." Filing 42 at 3-4. Thus, because the summons is "facially invalid, " and because "Mental Health Associates, LLC" is not a legal entity subject to suit, it argues that the summons should be quashed and that "all purported claims against 'Mental Health Associates, LLC' should be dismissed[.]" Filing 42 at 3. But as stated above, dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(4) is warranted only upon a showing of prejudice. And while the defendant may have been improperly named, that does not-on these facts-warrant dismissal. Accordingly, Mental Health Associates' motion to dismiss is denied.

         However, the Court will grant Carmer's motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Indeed, other than the case caption, Carmer is mentioned nowhere in Haltom's amended complaint. Thus, even assuming the truth of the matters asserted, the amended complaint contains no factual allegations that support any inference that Carmer is liable for the misconduct alleged. Accordingly, Carmer's motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) is granted.

         In sum, the defendants' motion to dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part. Specifically, Mental Health Associates' motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(4) is denied, and ...

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