United States District Court, D. Minnesota
ELLEN ELIZABETH PACKENHAM STANLEY and ELLEN ELIZABETH PACKENHAM STANLEY, as Representative Payee for M.J.S., Plaintiffs,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security,  Defendant.
Elizabeth Packenham Stanley, pro se.
R. Baune, Assistant United States Attorney, UNITED STATES
ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, for defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON REPORT AND
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
R. TUNHEIM Chief Judge
case arises from a series of adjustments made by the Social
Security Administration (“SSA”) to social
security benefits allegedly owed to Plaintiff Ellen Elizabeth
Packenham Stanley. Stanley filed an Amended Complaint
pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”),
28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq., alleging the SSA
negligently reduced Stanley's social security benefits.
United States Magistrate Judge Katherine Menendez issued a
Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) on January
17, 2017, recommending dismissal of Stanley's Complaint
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Stanley filed timely
objections, arguing the government waived sovereign immunity
in the FTCA and, therefore, the FTCA supplies the Court with
jurisdiction. Because the Court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction over this action, the Court will overrule
Stanley's objections, adopt the R&R, in part, and
dismiss Stanley's Amended Complaint without prejudice.
approximately May through July 2014, Stanley allegedly
suffered a decrease in social security benefits because SSA
employees improperly input an equity settlement into the
“earnings” category in the SSA computer system.
(Am. Compl. ¶¶ 7, 9, May 12, 2016, Docket No. 8.)
According to Stanley, the SSA improperly reduced her social
security benefits from $411 to $1 a month. (Id.
¶ 7.) Stanley asserts she contacted the SSA numerous
times regarding the reduction in benefits, but “was
ignored and was not given the proper paperwork and/or
interview.” (Id. ¶ 8.) Stanley alleges
the SSA's negligence caused: her “household to
become financially unstable”; eviction from
Stanley's home; the death of Stanley's dog; and both
“physical and psychological” pain to Stanley
and her son M.J.S. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 10.)
2015, Stanley filed a claim for damages with the SSA alleging
SSA employees negligently decreased her social security
benefits in violation of the FTCA.(Decl. of Lucinda E. Davis
(“Davis Decl.”) ¶ 3 & Ex. 1, Aug. 9,
2016, Docket No. 21.) On August 13, 2015, the SSA denied
Stanley's claim. (Id., Ex. 2 at 1.) The SSA
found Stanley failed to submit evidence showing “a
negligent act or omission of a federal employee acting within
the scope of his or her employment caused [Stanley's]
injury.” (Id.) The SSA further advised Stanley
of its position that the FTCA did not permit claims related
to benefits calculations against the SSA. (Id.
(citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(h)).) The SSA informed Stanley
that the proper procedure for appealing this determination
was to “fil[e] suit in the appropriate United States
District Court within six (6) months.” (Id.)
filed the Amended Complaint on May 12, 2016, alleging the SSA
negligently reduced Stanley's social security benefits in
violation of the FTCA.(See Am. Compl. at 11.)
Stanley's Amended Complaint set forth allegations
substantially similar to the claim Stanley asserted before
the SSA in July 2015. (See Davis Decl., Ex. 1 at
3-5.) The government moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint,
arguing the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.
(Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, Aug. 9, 2016, Docket No. 17.)
The Magistrate Judge issued an R&R recommending the Court
grant the government's motion to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction. (R&R at 7, Jan. 17, 2017,
Docket No. 40.) Stanley filed timely objections to the
R&R, arguing the Magistrate Judge erred in finding the
Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this matter.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
magistrate judge files an R&R, a party may file
“specific written objections to the proposed findings
and recommendations.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2);
accord D. Minn. LR 72.2(b)(1). “The objections
should specify the portions of the magistrate judge's
report and recommendation to which objections are made and
provide a basis for those objections.” Montgomery
v. Compass Airlines, LLC, 98 F.Supp.3d 1012, 1017 (D.
Minn. 2015) (quoting Mayer v. Walvatne, No. 07-1958,
2008 WL 4527774, at *2 (D. Minn. Sept. 28, 2008)). On a
dispositive motion, the Court reviews “properly
objected to” portions of an R&R de novo.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); accord D. Minn. LR
the government moves to dismiss Stanley's Amended
Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). A Rule 12(b)(1)
motion challenges the Court's subject matter jurisdiction
and requires the Court to examine whether it has authority to
decide the claims. Uland v. City of Winsted, 570
F.Supp.2d 1114, 1117 (D. Minn. 2008). In resolving a motion
to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) based on a
“facial” attack,  “all of the factual
allegations concerning jurisdiction are presumed to be true
and the motion is successful if the plaintiff fails to allege
an element necessary for subject matter jurisdiction.”
Titus v. Sullivan, 4 F.3d 590, 593 (8th
Cir. 1993). “In other words, in a facial challenge, the
court ‘determine[s] whether the asserted jurisdictional
basis is patently meritless by looking to the face of the
complaint, and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of
the plaintiff.'” Montgomery, 98 F.Supp.3d
at 1017 (quoting Biscanin v. Merrill Lynch &
Co., 407 F.3d 905, 907 (8th Cir. 2005)).
SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION
primarily challenges the R&R's recommendation that
the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this action.
Specifically, Stanley challenges the R&R's conclusion
that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the
exclusive remedy provision in the Social Security Act - 42
U.S.C. § 405(h) - “precludes pursuing tort claims
via the FTCA.” (R&R at 5; see also
Pl.'s Obj. to R&R at 4, Jan. ...