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Holland v. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 11, 2015

Fred C. Holland, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Defendant.

Fred C. Holland, 8874 Arona Avenue, Lexington, MN 55014, pro se Plaintiff.

Craig R. Baune, Esq., United States Attorney's Office, counsel for Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

BECKY R. THORSON, Magistrate Judge.

On June 30, 2014, Plaintiff filed a pro se Complaint in this case alleging that he suffered damages as a result of a slip and fall accident that occurred while working at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. (Doc. No. 1.) The matter is now before the Court on Defendant U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). (Doc. No. 13.) Defendant argues that this Court does not have subject-matter jurisdiction over the case because Plaintiff's claims are barred by the Federal Employees Compensation Act and the Civil Service Reform Act. A hearing was held on the motion on April 7, 2015.[1] The matter has been referred to this Court for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and D. Minn. LR 72.1 and 72.2. (Doc. No. 19.) For the reasons set forth below, this Court recommends granting Defendant's motion to dismiss.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Fred C. Holland was employed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, V.A. Medical Center ("V.A.") as a launderer for almost fifteen years. (Doc. No. 1, Compl. ¶ 7.) He stopped working on November 2, 2011, after a slip and fall accident that occurred on October 24, 2011, on the V.A.'s premises. ( Id.; Doc. No. 15, Def. Mem.in Supp. of its Mot. to Dismiss ("Def. Mem.") 2.) He alleges that he suffers from severe back, neck, and leg injuries as a result of this accident, and that these injuries have required surgery. (Compl. ¶ 7.)

Plaintiff received compensation through the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs ("OWCP") from November 2, 2011, through April 19, 2013. (Def. Mem. 2.) However, the OWCP determined on February 11, 2013, that Plaintiff was physically capable of performing work and offered him a position suitable for his qualifications and physical capability. ( Id. ) Plaintiff challenged that determination, but the OWCP affirmed and notified Plaintiff that his worker's compensation benefits would terminate on April 19, 2013. ( Id. ) Plaintiff never commenced work at the newly offered position, and as a result, the V.A. determined that Plaintiff had been absent without leave between April 22, 2013, and June 17, 2013. ( Id. ) Plaintiff objected to that determination, but the agency ruled that Plaintiff's dismissal was appropriate and terminated him on August 10, 2013. ( Id. ) On September 6, 2013, Plaintiff filed a claim challenging his termination. ( Id. ) After a hearing was scheduled on the matter before the Merit Systems Protection Board ("MSPB"), Plaintiff agreed to dismiss his claim without prejudice. ( Id. )

Plaintiff has now filed a Complaint in this Court under the Federal Torts Claim Act for the injuries he suffered at the V.A. (Compl. ¶¶ 7c-e).

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

"Subject matter jurisdiction... is a threshold requirement which must be assured in every federal case." Turner v. Armontrout, 922 F.2d 492, 293 (8th Cir. 1991). When a party brings a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the burden of establishing that jurisdiction exists is on the party invoking federal jurisdiction. V S Ltd. P'ship v. Dep't of Hous. and Urban Dev., 235 F.3d 1109, 1112 (8th Cir. 2000) ("The burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction falls on the plaintiff."). "If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3); see also Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006) ("[W]hen a federal court concludes that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the complaint in its entirety.").

On a Rule 12(b)(1) motion challenging subject-matter jurisdiction, the court "has authority to consider matters outside the pleadings." Osborn v. United States, 918 F.2d 724, 728 n.4 (8th Cir. 1990). But the standards of Rule 56, which would apply to motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) that consider matters outside the pleadings, do not govern a motion challenging subject-matter jurisdiction. Rather, the standard for motions under Rule 12(b)(1) challenging subject-matter jurisdiction is different in that the Court is "free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear the case." P.G. v. Ramsey County, 141 F.Supp.2d 1220, 1230 (D. Minn. 2001) (quoting Osborn, 918 F.2d at 730). "In short, no presumptive truthfulness attaches to the plaintiff's allegations, and the existence of disputed material facts will not preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional claims." Osborn, 918 F.2d at 730 (quoting Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977)).

In instances where sovereign immunity could preclude jurisdiction, the plaintiff must establish "both a waiver of sovereign immunity and a grant of subject matter jurisdiction." V S Ltd. P'ship, 235 F.3d at 1112. Unless sovereign immunity has been expressly waived, a court does not have jurisdiction to hear a case against the ...


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