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Parker v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Kansas

October 19, 2017

DEANNA MILLER PARKER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1]Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Daniel D. Crabtree United States District Judge

         Pro se plaintiff[2] Deanna Miller Parker filed a Complaint against the Acting Commissioner of Social Security alleging employment discrimination under Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq. This matter comes before the court on defendant's Partial Motion to Dismiss under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Doc. 12). Having reviewed the parties' arguments, the court grants defendant's Motion to Dismiss for the following reasons.

         I. Factual Background

         The following facts come from plaintiff's “Employment Discrimination Complaint” and the court views them in the light most favorable to her. See Garling v. EPA, 849 F.3d 1289, 1292 (10th Cir. 2017) (explaining that, on a Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) or 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must “accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint and view them in the light most favorable to the [plaintiff]” (citations and internal quotation marks omitted)).

         Plaintiff has several severe impairments including degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, obesity, degenerative changes to the right knee, carpal tunnel syndrome, depression, and anxiety (R. 19). Plaintiff alleges that Von's Grocery Store in Lompoc, California, terminated her employment because of an on-the-job injury, but that she received workers compensation for the injury (R. 51, Doc. 14). Plaintiff cannot find new employment because she walks with a cane (Doc. 14). Plaintiff thus applied for supplemental security income (“SSI”) on June 14, 2013 (R. 259) followed by a disability insurance benefit (“DIB”) application on January 14, 2014 (R. 271). The Social Security Administration denied plaintiff SSI and DIB at the reconsideration level on May 15, 2014 (R. 187). Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ conducted this hearing on July 8, 2015 (R. 196). Afterward, the ALJ upheld the rule denying plaintiff's SSI and DIB claims (R. 18-30). On January 17, 2017, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review (R. 1).

         Plaintiff timely filed a civil suit on March 17, 2017. Plaintiff's Complaint includes two different complaints. She calls one of them a “Civil Complaint.” Doc. 1 at 1-6. She refers to the other as an “Employment Discrimination Complaint.” Id. at 7-11. The Civil Complaint seeks judicial review of the final decision by the Commissioner of Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits. The “Employment Discrimination Complaint” asserts a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq. against the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) in her official capacity. Plaintiff alleges an employment discrimination claim based on her denial of DIB.

         Plaintiff alleges the following facts to support her employment discrimination claim. First, plaintiff alleges that medical doctors declared her permanently disabled. Second, she contends that the Commissioner wrongly denied her DIB because of her permanent disability. Docs. 1 at 4, 14 at 2. Last, plaintiff alleges that defendant failed to reasonably accommodate her because she was denied her disability benefits. Id. But, plaintiff never asserts that the United States government or the Social Security Administration employed her at any time.

         Defendant's Motion to Dismiss only addresses the Employment Discrimination Complaint. Defendant asserts that the court should dismiss plaintiff's ADA claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim.[3] Plaintiff filed a Response to defendant's Motion to Dismiss. Doc. 13. That same day, plaintiff also filed a document titled “Argumentation and Authority.” Doc. 14. In that filing, plaintiff asks the court to deny defendant's Motion to Dismiss and to grant a hearing on the matter. The court denies the hearing request. The parties have explained their positions effectively in their briefs, and a hearing would not assist the courts' effort to resolve the Motion to Dismiss. The court thus denies plaintiff's Motion for Hearing titled “Argumentation and Authority.” Doc. 14 at 2.

         II. Legal Standard

         In its broadest sense, judicial power extends to controversies “between Citizens of different States and between a State, or Citizens thereof, and Foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.” U.S. Const. art. III, § 2. A federal statute narrows that scope, providing that federal courts have original jurisdiction “of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treatises of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. To determine whether a claim “arises under” federal law, the court follows the “well-pleaded complaint rule.” Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987); see also Louisville & Nashville R.R. Co. v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149 (1908) (holding that a federal issue must arise from the face of the well-pleaded complaint). This rule provides that “federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint.” Caterpillar Inc., 482 U.S. at 392. “The rule makes the plaintiff the master of the claim; he or she may avoid federal jurisdiction by exclusive reliance on state law.” Id.

         Generally, a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) takes one of two forms: a facial attack or a factual attack. Holt v. United States, 46 F.3d 1000, 1002 (10th Cir. 1995). “First, a facial attack on the complaint's allegation as to subject matter jurisdiction questions the sufficiency of the complaint. In reviewing a facial attack on the complaint, a district court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true.” Id. (citing Ohio Nat'l Life Ins. Co. v. United States, 922 F.2d 320, 325 (6th Cir. 1990)).

         Next, “a party may go beyond allegations contained in the complaint and challenge the facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction depends. When reviewing a factual attack on subject matter jurisdiction a district court may not presume the truthfulness of the complaint's factual allegations.” Id. at 1003 (citing Ohio Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 922 F.2d at 325). “A court has wide discretion to allow affidavits, other documents, and a limited evidentiary hearing to resolve disputed jurisdictional facts under Rule 12(b)(1)” without converting the motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment. Id. (citations omitted); see also Sizova v. Nat'l Inst. of Standards & Tech, 282 F.3d 1320, 1324-25 (10th Cir. 2002) (holding that a court must convert a motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 only when the jurisdictional question is intertwined with the merits of case, but concluding that exhaustion of Title VII administrative remedies is a jurisdictional issue, not an aspect of the substantive claim of discrimination, and thus does not invoke a summary judgment procedure).

         III. Analysis

         Plaintiff brings a claim against the Commissioner under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq. Defendant's Partial Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 12) argues that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over ...


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