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Schaut v. Department of Health and Human Services

United States District Court, N.D. New York

July 14, 2015

ANNA M. SCHAUT, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, Defendant.

DECISION AND ORDER

THOMAS J. McAVOY, Senior District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Presently before the Court is Defendant United States Department of Health and Human Services' ("HHS") motion to dismiss with prejudice made pursuant to Rules 12 (b)(1) and (b)(6) of the Federal Rules Of Civil Procedure. Dkt. No. 21-1. Specifically, Defendant alleges a lack of standing for pro se Plaintiff Anna M. Shaut that deprives the Court of subject matter jurisdiction. Dkt. No. 21-1 at 4-6. It is also alleged that Plaintiff's amended complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Dkt. No. 21-1. at 7-8. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be GRANTED.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Anna M. Shaut filed a pro se Complaint, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1395ff(b), against the HHS seeking judicial review of a decision made by the Medicare Appeals Council ("Appeals Council"). See Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff pursued the appeal on behalf of her deceased mother Lydia Grzesiak ("Grzesiak")[1]. Dkt. No. 1 at 12. The Council denied Plaintiff's request to be reimbursed $29, 196.92 for money Grzesiak repaid to Medicare. Dkt. No. 7 at 2. The Appeals Council reasoned that Grzesiak had failed to show that the $29, 196.92 Medicare lien was unrelated to the injuries from which Grzesiak received her settlement recovery. Dkt. No.1 at 13. Plaintiff also filed a motion to proceed in forma paupers. See Dkt. No. 5. Magistrate Judge Therèse Wiley Dancks granted that motion in an order dated October, 28, 2014. Dkt. No. 7.

Due to defects in Plaintiff's original Complaint, Magistrate Judge Dancks, after initial review, ordered a stay of the action to allow Plaintiff to either retain counsel, or to amend the Complaint alleging that "she is the administrator or executor of her mother's estate, that she is proceeding only on her own as the sole beneficiary, and that her mother's estate has no creditors." Id. at 4. Plaintiff timely filed an Amended Complaint. Dkt. No. 8. Magistrate Judge Dancks again reviewed the Amended Complaint, deciding that the Amended Complaint was "sufficient to survive initial review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (e)(2006), and that Plaintiff may proceed pro se solely with respect to her own interest, if any, in the return of the repayment." Dkt. No. 9 at 4 (emphasis added). However, the Court "expresse[d] no opinion" with regard to Plaintiff's standing, or whether the claim could survive a motion to dismiss. Id. at 4-5. Judge Dancks directed Defendant to respond to Plaintiff's amended complaint. Id. at 4.

Defendant subsequently filed the instant motion to dismiss for lack of standing and failure to state a claim. Dkt. No. 21-1. Plaintiff has responded to the motion and later submitted to the Court a copy of "Letters of Administration with Limitations" which has been in effect since April 7, 2015. Dkt. No. 26; Dkt. No. 29. Defendant has replied to the response, as well as to the "Letters of Administration with Limitations." Dkt. No. 27; Dkt. No. 30.

III. LEGAL STANDARDS

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 12 (b)(1) permits a defendant to move to dismiss a case by asserting "lack of subject matter jurisdiction." FED. R. CIV. P. 12 (b)(1). Rule 12 (b)(6), on the other hand, allows a defendant to move to dismiss a case due to plaintiff's "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." FED. R. CIV. P. 12 (b)(6).

Plaintiff here proceeds pro se. The Court gives a pro se plaintiff "every favorable inference arising from [her] pro se status, as well as from [her] position as a nonmovant on these motions to dismiss." Craft v. McNulty, 875 F.Supp. 121, 123 (N.D.N.Y. 1995) (quoting Hall v. Dworkin, 829 F.Supp. 1403, 1993 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10481, *13 (N.D.N.Y. July 27, 1993)). The Supreme Court requires that " pro se complaints be more liberally interpreted than those filed by an attorney." Id . (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21, 30 L.Ed.2d 652, 92 S.Ct. 594 (1972)).

Further, the Court will consider papers that a pro se plaintiff files in opposition to a defendant's motion to dismiss, "as effectively amending the allegations of the... [amended] complaint, to the extent that those factual assertions are consistent with the allegations of the... complaint." Parks v. Smith, 2009 U.S. Dist. Lexis 87210, *13 (N.D.N.Y Aug. 17, 2009); see Gill v. Mooney, 824 F.2d 192, 195 (2d Cir. 1987) (considering plaintiff's response affidavit on motion to dismiss).

Defendant seeks dismissal on two bases. The Court will address each standard in turn.

A. Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

A motion to dismiss based on Rule 12(b)(1) will succeed if "the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it." McCrory v. Adm'r of the Fed. Emergency Mgmt. Agency of the U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., 2015 U.S.App. LEXIS 7077, *1-2 (2d Cir. N.Y. Apr. 29, 2015) (quoting Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000)). "As a threshold inquiry, a federal court must determine that the plaintiff has constitutional Article III standing prior to determining... the subsequent merits of the case." Id. at *2. The plaintiff bears the burden to "establish standing to prosecute the action." Gomez v. Graham, 2014 WL 5475348 at *4 (N.D.N.Y. Oct. 29, 2014) (quoting Elk Grove Unified Sch. Dist. v. Newdow, 542 U.S. 1, 11 (2004)).

Three elements must be satisfied to meet the requirement of Article III standing. See Backer v. Shah, 2015 U.S.App. LEXIS 9210, *4-5 (2d Cir. N.Y. June 3, 2015) (citing Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, at 560-61 (1992)). First, "the plaintiff must show that [s]he personally has suffered an injury that is concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent [.]" Gomez, 2014 WL 5475348 at *4 (quoting Clapper v. Amnesty Int'l, 133 S.Ct. 1138, at 1147 (2013) (internal quotation omitted)(emphasis added). Second, the plaintiff must allege a causal connection between the injury and the defendant's ...


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