Goodwin v. Amazon Services, LLC, et al.

Filing 2

SCREENING ORDER Granting Leave to Amend, signed by Magistrate Judge Barbara A. McAuliffe on 03/7/2018. (30-Day Deadline) (Attachments: # 1 Civil Complaint Form)(Martin-Gill, S)

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1 2 3 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 7 8 9 LORAINE GOODWIN, 10 11 12 Plaintiff, v. AMAZON SERVICES, LLC, et al., 13 Defendants. 14 ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) 1:17-cv-01157-AWI-BAM SCREENING ORDER GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND THIRTY-DAY DEADLINE 15 16 Plaintiff Loraine Goodwin (“Plaintiff”) proceeds pro se in this civil action. Plaintiff has 17 paid the filing fee. 18 enrichment and defamation against Amazon Services, LLC,, Inc. and various doe 19 defendants related to income reported to the Internal Revenue Service. In her complaint, Plaintiff asserts claims of negligence, fraud, unjust 20 Plaintiff’s Complaint, filed on August 28, 2017, is currently before the Court for 21 screening. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Plaintiff leave to amend her 22 complaint. 23 Screening Requirement 24 The Court is required to screen complaints brought by persons proceeding in pro per. 28 25 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Plaintiff’s complaint, or any portion thereof, is subject to dismissal if it is 26 frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks 27 monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). 1 28 U.S.C. § 1 A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the 2 pleader is entitled to relief. . . .” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not 3 required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere 4 conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 5 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 6 (2007)). While a plaintiff’s allegations are taken as true, courts “are not required to indulge 7 unwarranted inferences.” Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) 8 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). 9 Pro se litigants are entitled to have their pleadings liberally construed and to have any 10 doubt resolved in their favor, Wilhelm v. Rotman, 680 F.3d 1113, 1121-1123 (9th Cir. 2012), 11 Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010), but to survive screening, Plaintiff’s claims 12 must be facially plausible, which requires sufficient factual detail to allow the Court to 13 reasonably infer that each named defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, Iqbal, 556 U.S. 14 at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quotation marks omitted); Moss v. United States Secret Service, 572 15 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully is not 16 sufficient, and mere consistency with liability falls short of satisfying the plausibility standard. 17 Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969. 18 I. 19 Plaintiff alleges that she previously sold goods on in 2012 under the 20 pseudonym “santafairy,” but the account was closed in 2012. On or around February 15, 2015, 21 Plaintiff was informed by the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) that she owed over $24,000 in 22 past taxes and fees/fines for unreported income in 2013. Plaintiff learned that the income was 23 reported to the IRS by Amazon Services, LLC, in the amount of $82,570. Allegations in Complaint 24 A United States Attorney later sent Plaintiff a list of transactions between Amazon and an 25 unknown person using Plaintiff’s name and social security number, but an unknown address in 26 another state. Plaintiff reportedly wrote to the attorney for Amazon Services, LLC, but was told 27 that “they would not do anything to help Plaintiff investigate the matter since they were not 28 involved as a party in the Tax Court lawsuit.” Complaint, Doc. 1 at p. 4. Plaintiff contends that 2 1 based on Amazon’s 1099, the IRS demands money. Around March 2016, Plaintiff also was 2 informed by the IRS that a 2015 1099 was filed using Plaintiff’s ID for unreported income in 3 2015. 4 5 As relief, Plaintiff seeks rescission of all 1099s, 20 years of anti-fraud services, punitive damages, and settlement/closure of the related IRS case. 6 II. 7 Based on the allegations in the complaint, it appears that Plaintiff currently has an action 8 pending regarding her federal income tax liability in the United States Tax Court. Insofar as the 9 present action implicates her federal income tax liability, this court lacks jurisdiction over her 10 claims. Federal income tax liability falls exclusively within the jurisdiction of the United States 11 Tax Court. See 26 U.S.C. § 7442; see also Guthrie v. Everson, No. 2:08-cv-1972 LKK JFM PS, 12 2008 WL 5323030, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Nov. 20, 2008), report and recommendation adopted, No. 13 2:08-cv-1972 LKK JFM PS, 2009 WL 667202 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 13, 2009). Discussion 14 Insofar as Plaintiff is seeking to have the 1099s issued by defendants voided, this court 15 also lacks jurisdiction. The Declaratory Judgment Act allows courts to “declare the rights and 16 other legal relations” of parties within its jurisdiction, but not “with respect to [f]ederal taxes.” 17 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a). Further, any determination by the court that Plaintiff did not receive any 18 income from the sale of goods on in 2013 and 2015 would be a determination of 19 Plaintiff’s underlying tax liability. As stated, however, the court lacks authority to determine a 20 party’s tax liability. See Sterling Consulting Corp. v. United States, 245 F.3d 1161, 1166 (10th 21 Cir. 2001) (“[T]here are no relevant exceptions under the Declaratory Judgment Act that permit 22 the district court to determine [a party’s] tax liabilities.”). 23 To the extent that Plaintiff is attempting to assert a claim against defendants for a 24 fraudulent information return, Plaintiff has not stated a cognizable claim. Under 26 U.S.C. § 25 7434(a), a person may not “willfully file[ ]” with the IRS “a fraudulent information return with 26 respect to payments purported to be made to any other person[.]” For the purposes of § 7434(a), 27 an “information return” refers to an enumerated list of statements filed with the IRS pursuant to 28 the United States Tax Code. Id. § 7434(f). The statute authorizes the person on whose behalf the 3 1 fraudulent information return was filed to bring a civil action for damages against the person 2 filing the return. Id. § 7434(a); Katzman v. Essex Waterfront Owners LLC, 660 F.3d 565, 569 (2d 3 Cir. 2011) (discussing legislative intent of § 7434 to address the fact that some taxpayers may 4 suffer significant personal loss and inconvenience as the result of the IRS receiving fraudulent 5 information returns, “which have been filed by persons intent on either defrauding the IRS or 6 harassing taxpayers”). As a claim pursuant to § 7434 alleges fraud by definition, Federal Rule of 7 Civil Procedure 9(b)’s heightened pleading standard applies. See Kearns v. Ford Motor 8 Company, 567 F.3d 1120, 1125 (9th Cir. 2009). Rule 9 requires that a party alleging fraud or 9 mistake must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake. Fed. R. 10 Civ. P. 9(b). 11 Assuming, without deciding, that the form referenced by Plaintiff is an information return 12 subject to § 7434, Plaintiff has not pled sufficient facts to demonstrate that any of the defendants 13 willfully filed the allegedly false information returns. “Willfuness in the context of § 7434 14 means “intentional wrongdoing.” See Gidding v. Zurich Am. Ins. Co., No. 15-cv-01176-HSG, 15 2016 WL 4088865, at *6 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 2, 2016). “[A]lthough Rule 9(b) permits knowledge 16 and intent to be pled in general terms, a plaintiff still must allege sufficient underlying facts from 17 which a court may reasonably infer that a party acted with the requisite state of mind.” San 18 Francisco Tech., Inc. v. GlaxoSmithKline LLC, No. 5:10-cv-03248-JF/NJV, 2011 WL 941096, at 19 *3 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 16, 2011) (internal quotation and citation omitted). There is nothing in 20 Plaintiff’s allegations from which the court may reasonably infer that defendants acted with the 21 requisite state of mind, i.e., that defendants willfully filed false returns or that they intended to 22 either defraud the IRS or otherwise harass Plaintiff. Plaintiff will be given leave to cure this 23 deficiency if she can do so in good faith. 24 CONCLUSION AND ORDER 25 For the reasons stated, Plaintiff has failed to state a cognizable claim for relief. The 26 Court will grant Plaintiff an opportunity to cure the identified deficiencies to the extent she is 27 able to do so in good faith. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000). 28 /// 4 1 Plaintiff’s amended complaint should be brief, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a), but it must state what 2 each named defendant did that led to the deprivation of Plaintiff’s constitutional rights, Iqbal, 3 556 U.S. at 678-79, 129 S.Ct. at 1948-49. Although accepted as true, the “[f]actual allegations 4 must be [sufficient] to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . .” Twombly, 550 U.S. 5 at 555 (citations omitted). 6 7 Additionally, Plaintiff may not change the nature of this suit by adding new, unrelated claims in her first amended complaint. George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007). 8 Finally, Plaintiff is reminded that an amended complaint supersedes the original 9 complaint. Lacey v. Maricopa Cty., 693 F.3d 896, 927 (9th Cir. 2012). Therefore, Plaintiff’s 10 amended complaint must be “complete in itself without reference to the prior or superseded 11 pleading.” Local Rule 220. 12 Based on the foregoing, it is HEREBY ORDERED that: 13 1. The Clerk’s Office shall send Plaintiff a complaint form; 14 2. Within thirty (30) days from the date of service of this order, Plaintiff shall file a 15 16 first amended complaint curing the deficiencies identified by the Court in this order; and 3. If Plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint in compliance with this order, the 17 Court will recommend dismissal of this action, with prejudice, for failure to obey a court order 18 and for failure to state a claim. 19 20 21 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: /s/ Barbara March 7, 2018 22 A. McAuliffe _ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 23 24 25 26 27 28 5

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