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WOODLAND NURSING HOME CORP. v. CALIFANO

October 19, 1979

WOODLAND NURSING HOME CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
v.
Joseph Califano, Individually and as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, and The Travelers Insurance Company, Defendants and Third-Party Plaintiffs, v. WOODLAND NURSING HOME ASSOCIATES d/b/a Woodland Nursing Home, Irving Sendar and Martin Marmon, Third-Party Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DUFFY

Plaintiff, Woodland Nursing Home Corporation (hereinafter referred to as "Woodland"), by the instant motion seeks summary judgment or, in the alternative, a preliminary injunction which would prevent defendants from withholding Medicare payments. Plaintiff also requests leave to serve an amended complaint. Defendant, Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (hereinafter referred to as "the Secretary"), without making a formal motion to dismiss, argues in his brief that the motion should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

The instant action has a long history in this Court. Plaintiff presently owns a nursing home facility in New Rochelle, New York which provides Medicare services pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1395 et seq. Until 1970, the nursing facility in question was owned by Woodland Nursing Home Associates (hereinafter referred to as "Woodland Associates"), a partnership. Thereafter, ownership was transferred to the plaintiff corporation. Defendant, Travelers Insurance Company (hereinafter referred to as "Travelers") is a "fiscal intermediary" which performs administrative services to Woodland on behalf of defendant Secretary. In this capacity, Travelers is required to reimburse plaintiff for the reasonable costs of Woodland's services under the Medicare Program. 42 U.S.C. § 1395f. It did so initially by making interim payments which were adjusted at the end of the year based on the provider's annual cost report.

In 1968, a dispute arose between Travelers and Woodland Associates as to the reasonableness of the latter's accounting in its 1967 annual cost report. On May 24, 1973 Travelers requested repayment and informed Woodland that current and future Medicare payments would be withheld until the Woodland Associates' debt had been repaid.

 On August 7, 1973, plaintiff commenced an action arguing that it was not responsible for Woodland Associates' debts and seeking to enjoin defendants from collecting the overpayment through cessation of its interim payments. This relief was denied and the action later discontinued. Woodland Nursing Home Corp. v. Weinberger, No. 73-3461 (S.D.N.Y. September 28, 1973).

 After an intermediary administrative hearing in which it was determined that plaintiff could be liable for Woodland Associates' debts, plaintiff commenced the present action to recover accrued payments previously withheld by Travelers. A third-party action against Woodland Associates was later instituted by defendants.

 Plaintiff moved in November, 1975, for summary judgment. In a decision dated March 24, 1976, I denied that motion and remanded to determine the "cogency and persuasiveness of plaintiff's explanation" concerning its accounting procedures in the 1967 annual report and the motivation of the partnership in transferring the nursing facility to the present corporate plaintiff. That hearing was held on October 5, 1978 and plaintiff's appeal thereto is still pending.

 This recounting of the facts brings me back to the instant motion. Plaintiff's request for leave to amend the complaint poses no problem as it is unopposed. Leave to amend, therefore, is granted. For the following reasons, however, plaintiff's motions for summary judgment and preliminary injunction must be denied.

 Initially, several interesting jurisdictional questions are raised by this motion. The argument is raised merely in the government's brief and, given the importance of the issue of subject matter jurisdiction of this Court, I am compelled to address the question.

 In a recent case somewhat similar to the one at hand, the Second Circuit held that in a provider suit for reimbursement of money illegally captured under the Medicare Act, the Court of Claims has exclusive jurisdiction if the amount claimed is over $ 10,000. *fn1" South Windsor Convalescent Home, Inc. v. Mathews, 541 F.2d 910 (2d Cir. 1976). Relying on this decision, the government argues that this action should either be dismissed or transferred to the Court of Claims.

 Unfortunately, the issue is not quite as simple as defendant's brief would make it appear. Plaintiff not only seeks money damages, but also injunctive and declaratory relief.

 The Court of Claims is a Court of limited jurisdiction. This jurisdiction is statutorily granted, 28 U.S.C. § 1491, and is to be strictly construed. See Transcountry Packing Co. v. U.S., 215 Ct. Cl. 390, 568 F.2d 1333 (Ct.Cl.1978). No equity jurisdiction exists in the Court of Claims, nor can it enter declaratory judgments.

 The United States Supreme Court has specifically held that the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201, which empowers federal courts to enter such judgments does not apply to the Court of Claims. U.S. v. King, 395 U.S. 1, 89 S. Ct. 1501, 23 L. Ed. 2d 52 (1968).

 In the King case, an Army officer challenged the classification of his retirement as based on longevity as opposed to physical disability and sought money damages. The Court held that the Court of Claims had no jurisdiction to determine the money damage question until some other Court had made a declaration of plaintiff's entitlement to a physical disability retirement.

 Similarly, in the instant case, the issue of whether or not Woodland can be liable for Woodland Associates' debts is a question which must be decided by declarative relief ...


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