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United States ex rel. Gionson v. NVWM Realty, LLC

United States District Court, D. Nevada

June 24, 2019

UNITED STATES EX. REL. SHANTEL GIONSON Plaintiff,
v.
NVWM REALTY, LLC, et. al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          GEORGE FOLEY, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (ECF No. 1), filed on July 30, 2018.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges that she rented a residential dwelling from Defendants that was governed by Section 8 Tenant-Based Housing Choice Voucher Program (“Section 8”), a federally regulated rent subsidy program administered by the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority (“SNRHA”). She further alleges that despite an agreement known as the Housing Assistance Payment (“HAP”) Contract between Defendants and SNRHA that prohibited Defendant from charging Plaintiff additional rent or other fees, Defendants charged her for illegal side payments every month from April 2016 to June 2018 in violation of the False Claims Act.

         DISCUSSION I.

         Application to Proceed in Forma Pauperis

         Plaintiff filed this instant action and attached a financial affidavit to his application and complaint as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Reviewing Plaintiff's financial affidavit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the Court finds that Plaintiff is unable to pre-pay the filing fee. As a result, Plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis in federal court is granted.

         II. Screening the Complaint

         Upon granting a request to proceed in forma pauperis, a court must additionally screen a complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). Specifically, federal courts are given the authority to dismiss a case if the action is legally “frivolous or malicious, ” fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant/third party plaintiff who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). A complaint, or portion thereof, should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted “if it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claims that would entitle him to relief.” Buckey v. Los Angeles, 968 F.2d 791, 794 (9th Cir. 1992). A complaint may be dismissed as frivolous if it is premised on a nonexistent legal interest or delusional factual scenario. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989). Moreover, “a finding of factual frivolousness is appropriate when the facts alleged rise to the level of the irrational or the wholly incredible, whether or not there are judicially noticeable facts available to contradict them.” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). When a court dismisses a complaint under § 1915(e), the plaintiff should be given leave to amend the complaint with directions as to curing its deficiencies, unless it is clear from the face of the complaint that the deficiencies could not be cured by amendment. See Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995).

         The Court shall liberally construe a complaint by a pro se litigant. Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 2007). This is especially important for civil rights complaints. Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261 (9th Cir. 1992). However, a liberal construction may not be used to supply an essential element of the claim absent from the complaint. Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 12 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Board of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)).

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Review under Rule 12(b)(6) is essentially a ruling on a question of law. See Chappel v. Laboratory Corp. of America, 232 F.3d 719, 723 (9th Cir. 2000). A properly pled complaint must provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombley, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Although Rule 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, it demands “more than labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). The court must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations contained in the complaint, but the same requirement does not apply to legal conclusions. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. Mere recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported only by conclusory allegations, do not suffice. Id. at 1949. Secondly, where the claims in the complaint have not crossed the line from plausible to conceivable, the complaint should be dismissed. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         III. Instant Complaint

         The FCA imposes liability on anyone who “knowingly presents, or causes to be presented, a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval” from the United States Government. 31 U.S.C. § 3729(a)(1). To assert a claim under the FCA, a plaintiff must sufficiently allege “(1) a false statement or fraudulent course of conduct, (2) made with scienter, (3) that was material, causing (4) the government to pay out money or forfeit moneys due.” U.S. ex rel. Mathis v. Mr. Prop., Inc., No. 2:14-CV-00245-GMN, 2015 WL 1034332, at *4 (D. Nev. Mar. 10, 2015) (quoting U.S. ex rel. Hendow v. Univ. of Phoenix, 461 F.3d 1166, 1174 (9th Cir.2006)).

         1. A False Statement or ...


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