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Bowie v. St. Louis County Health Dept.

United States District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, Eastern Division

April 10, 2015

DERWIN BOWIE, Plaintiff,
v.
ST. LOUIS COUNTY HEALTH DEPT., Defendant.

OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

HENRY EDWARD AUTREY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This matter is before the Court on plaintiff’s motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. The motion will be granted. Additionally, having reviewed the case, the Court will dismiss it for lack of jurisdiction pursuant to consideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3).

28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B), the Court must dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if the action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. An action is frivolous if it Alacks an arguable basis in either law or fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989); Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). An action is malicious if it is undertaken for the purpose of harassing the named defendants and not for the purpose of vindicating a cognizable right. Spencer v. Rhodes, 656 F.Supp. 458, 461-63 (E.D. N.C. 1987), aff'd 826 F.2d 1059 (4th Cir. 1987). A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

The Complaint

In his pro se complaint against the St. Louis County Health Department, plaintiff asserts generally a violation of his “privacy rights.”

Plaintiff states that in November of 2014 he was alerted by the Health Department that an unnamed female worker had transferred an electronic copy of his medical records to her private email account. He claims, in a conclusory fashion, that she “breached the statutorily required duty of confidentiality.”

As grounds for filing the instant lawsuit, plaintiff lists: 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question jurisdiction); 28 U.S.C. § 1343 (civil rights and elective franchise)[1]; 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201-2202 (declaratory judgments)[2]; pendent jurisdiction; 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (civil rights act); and “1974 Privacy Act.”[3]

Plaintiff seeks monetary and injunctive relief.

Discussion

Plaintiff has failed to state adequate grounds for filing the instant action in Federal Court. Although plaintiff has listed a plethora of federal statutes in his complaint, not one of the statutes listed in the complaint actually provides jurisdiction in this matter.

For example, although plaintiff claims that his case deals broadly with a violation of his healthcare “privacy rights, ” there is no private right of action for improper disclosures of medical information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”), Pub.L.No. 104-191, 110 Stat. 1936 (1996). Rather, it limits enforcement of the statute to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. See Dodd v. Jones, 623 F.3d 563, 569 (8th Cir. 2010); Acara v. Banks, 470 F.3d 569, 570-72 (5th Cir. 2006); Bradford v. Blake, No. 4:05CV136 CAS, 2006 WL 744307 (E.D.Mo. March 23, 2006).

Moreover, plaintiff’s claims do not survive under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as he has not alleged a violation of his civil rights in relation to St. Louis County or the unnamed female employee of the County. First, plaintiff has not identified exactly what constitutional right he believes was violated. Second, plaintiff’s complaint is silent as to the capacity he is suing defendants. Where a “complaint is silent about the capacity in which [plaintiff] is suing defendant, [a district court must] interpret the complaint as including only official-capacity claims.” Egerdahl v. Hibbing Community College, 72 F.3d 615, 619 (8th Cir.1995); Nix v. Norman, 879 F.2d 429, 431 (8th Cir. 1989). Naming a government official in his or her official capacity is the equivalent of naming the government entity that employs the official, in this case, the County. To state a claim against a municipality or a government official in his or her official capacity, plaintiff must allege that a policy or custom of the government entity is responsible for the alleged constitutional violation. Monell v. Dep’t of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). The instant complaint does not contain any allegations that a policy or custom of St. Louis County was responsible for the alleged violations of plaintiff’s constitutional rights. As a result, the complaint fails to state a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

In light of the aforementioned, plaintiff has not named a federal statute that provides this Court with federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. As such, this matter must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).

Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs motion to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. #2] is GRANTED

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this action is DISMISSED pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).

A separate Order of Dismissal will be filed forthwith.


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