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Akeyo v. Rehm

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

October 4, 2019

DR. VALERIE T. AKEYO, Plaintiff,
v.
MR. RODNEY REHM, REHM, BENNETT, MOORE, REHM & OCKANDES, PC, LLO, DR. SCOTT S. JOHNSON, DR. ADRIAN M. DREESSEN, DR. KIMBERLY APKER, DR. GARY S. LERNER, DR. JOEL ARMITAGE, MAKOVICKA, and DR. AMY BROWN, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Richard G. Kopf Senior United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Dr. Valerie T. Akeyo filed her Complaint on February 14, 2019. (Filing No. 1.) She has been given leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Filing No. 5.) The court now conducts an initial review of Plaintiff's Complaint[1] to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         I. SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT

         Plaintiff brings this civil action against the following defendants: Attorney Rodney Rehm (“Rehm”); the law firm of Rehm, Bennett, Moore, Rehm & Ockander, PC, LLO; Dr. Scott S. Johnson; Dr. Adrian M. Dreessen; Dr. Kimberly Apker; Dr. Gary S. Lerner; Dr. Joel Armitage; Makovicka Physical Therapy; and Dr. Amy Brown (collectively “Defendants”). Plaintiff alleges claims of legal malpractice, negligence, professional misconduct, breach of contract, and defamation against Defendants. (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 5.)

         According to Plaintiff's “Statement of Claim” and supplement, Plaintiff retained Rehm to represent her in connection with a worker's compensation claim related to injuries sustained by Plaintiff on March 13, 2014. (See Id. at CM/ECF pp. 7-10; Filing No. 6.) Plaintiff generally complains that Rehm's representation was deficient in that he only met with Plaintiff three times over the course of two years, failed to prepare her for court appearances, and failed to adequately investigate her claim. In particular, Plaintiff asserts that Rehm “was colluding with the defense attorney to defeat ‘his' case” and sabotage her claims. (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 8.)

         Plaintiff alleges that the last time she met with Rehm, he handed her a copy of a 71-page document entitled “Valerie Akeyo, CHRON Med Summary, March 20, 2017” (hereinafter “Med. Summary”) and “said it was for ‘him' to use in court during the upcoming hearing due in 5 days.” (Id. at CM/ECF pp. 8-9 (emphasis removed).) When Plaintiff asked who the doctors listed in the document were, Rehm responded “they are the doctors who treated you!” (Id. at CM/ECF p. 8 (punctuation corrected).) Plaintiff took the document home and, upon closer review, found that she did not know or was never treated by over two-thirds of the doctors listed in the document. Rehm had never asked Plaintiff “to verify or confirm if the doctors ever provided any treatment . . . to [her] injuries of March 13, 2014.” (Id.) Plaintiff contacted Rehm via telephone to relay this information, and he “mumbled words saying, ‘you are wasting your time,' then [hung] up the telephone.” (Id. at CM/ECF p. 9 (punctuation corrected).) Plaintiff subsequently terminated Rehm's representation and alleges that Rehm's mistreatment of her was due to “[h]is assessments of the plaintiff . . . into four categories: color, accent, gender and age” as Plaintiff is “a black woman, [who] spoke with an accent, and [was] over 60 years old.” (Id. at CM/ECF pp. 8-9.)

         The medical doctors and providers listed as co-defendants in this action are the doctors listed in the 71-page Med. Summary that Plaintiff claims never treated her injuries. (See Id. at CM/ECF p. 10.) Plaintiff alleges that “[i]f the doctors were . . . complicit with [Rehm], then they are answerable to the court;” if Rehm “anonymously used [their] names, they (the doctors) should defend themselves in court.” (Id.)

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks $1, 800, 000.00 in damages for “pain and continued suffering, ” financial losses, emotional distress, and mental anguish. (Id. at CM/ECF p. 5.)

         II. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS ON INITIAL REVIEW

         The court is required to review in forma pauperis complaints to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The court must dismiss a complaint or any portion of it that states a frivolous or malicious claim, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         Pro se plaintiffs must set forth enough factual allegations to “nudge[] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, ” or “their complaint must be dismissed.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also 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.”).

         “The essential function of a complaint under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is to give the opposing party ‘fair notice of the nature and basis or grounds for a claim, and a general indication of the type of litigation involved.'” Topchian v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 760 F.3d 843, 848 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Hopkins v. Saunders, 199 F.3d 968, 973 (8th Cir. 1999)). However, “[a] pro se complaint must be liberally construed, and pro se litigants are held to a lesser pleading standard than other parties.” Topchian, 760 F.3d at 849 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION OF CLAIMS

         In evaluating Plaintiff's claims, the court must determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction is proper. SeeFed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3) (“If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.”). Furthermore, a plaintiff must sufficiently state a claim for relief that contains, “a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction, unless the court has jurisdiction and the claim needs no new jurisdictional support.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1). Here, Plaintiff alleges that the basis for the court's jurisdiction is diversity of citizenship. (SeeFiling ...


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