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Watkins v. Tennessee Department of Human Services

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

April 17, 2015

MYRA WATKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

S. THOMAS ANDERSON, District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant Tennessee Department of Human Services's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 7) filed on February 25, 2015. Plaintiff Myra Watkins has responded in opposition to the Motion. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion is GRANTED. In the alternative, Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed for failure to serve within 120 days under Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

BACKGROUND

On September 24, 2014, Plaintiff Myra Watkins filed a Complaint (ECF No. 1) against Defendant Tennessee Department of Human Services.[1] On the same day Plaintiff caused summons to issue. No further docket activity occurred after that date. On January 26, 2015, when more than 120 days passed from the filing of the Complaint, the Court ordered Plaintiff to show cause as to why the Court should not dismiss her Complaint for failure to effect service within 120 days under Rule 4(m) or in the alternative for failure to prosecute under Rule 41(b).

On February 10, 2015, Plaintiff responded to the Court's show cause order. Plaintiff stated that she served the summons and Complaint on the Attorney General for the state of Tennessee on February 4, 2015. Plaintiff requested that the Court accept the service as "effective" and argued that Defendant had not suffered any prejudice as a result of Plaintiff's failure to effect service within the time allowed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff also requested that the Court enter a scheduling order, which would require Defendant to file the administrative record and set deadlines for the parties to brief the issues raised in Plaintiff's Complaint.

Defendant responded by filing the instant Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction now before the Court. Defendant argues that Plaintiff seeks judicial review of Defendant's decision to deny her Medicaid benefits. According to Defendant, Plaintiffs has also filed a petition with the Chancery Court for Davidson County, Tennessee. Plaintiff has alleged no other claim against Defendant. Defendant argues that under the circumstance this Court lacks jurisdiction to review the state agency's decision. None of the statutes cited in the Complaint actually confer jurisdiction on this Court to hear Plaintiff's appeal. Tennessee's Uniform Administrative Procedures Act requires that any appeal of a state agency decision must be taken to the Chancery Court for Davidson County, Tennessee. In the alternative, the Court should hold that it lacks jurisdiction because Defendant is an agency of the state of Tennessee and therefore is entitled to sovereign immunity and cannot be sued under the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Plaintiff has responded in opposition.[2] Plaintiff begins by requesting that the Court direct Defendant to file the administrative record. Plaintiffs argues that pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 706, an agency must file the administrative record before a reviewing court can makes it determination of the agency decision. Plaintiff reserves the right to supplement its response upon filing of the administrative record. Plaintiff contends that federal question jurisdiction exists in this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. For support Plaintiffs cites 42 U.S.C. § 1396a, which governs state plans for medical assistance. Plaintiff argues that other federal courts have held that subject matter jurisdiction exists "to address alleged wrongs engaged in the bye [sic] states when interpreting and applying the federal Medicaid statutes." Pl.'s Resp. in Opp'n 3. Plaintiff does concede that she filed a "precautionary petition" in Davidson County Chancery Court but that federal question jurisdiction exists over her claims. Plaintiff concludes by proposing deadlines for a case management scheduling order.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) allows a party to move to dismiss a claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. "Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and the law presumes that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction."[3] As such, "federal courts have a duty to consider their subject matter jurisdiction in every case and may raise the issue sua sponte ."[4] A party moving to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction "may either attack the claim of jurisdiction on its face or it can attack the factual basis of jurisdiction."[5] "A facial attack goes to the question of whether the plaintiff has alleged a basis for subject matter jurisdiction, and the court takes the allegations of the complaint as true for purposes of Rule 12(b)(1) analysis."[6] By contrast, "[a] factual attack challenges the factual existence of subject matter jurisdiction" in which case the court may receive evidence to determine "whether subject matter jurisdiction exists, including evidence outside of the pleadings."[7] In the final analysis, the plaintiff has the burden to prove that the federal court has jurisdiction to hear the claim.[8]

ANALYSIS

I. Lack of Jurisdiction

The Court holds that subject matter jurisdiction is lacking in this case. Based on the well-pleaded allegations of the Complaint, Plaintiff challenges the Tennessee Department of Human Services's determination that she is not entitled to benefits under the state's Medicaid program.[9] The Sixth Circuit has summarized the nature and purposes of the Medicaid program as follows:

Medicaid is a federal "grant-in-aid" program that helps states pay for health services for the needy. Grant-in-aid programs are contractual in nature-that is, states that accept federal Medicaid funding must develop a state Medicaid plan that complies with the terms and conditions upon which the federal funds were offered. State plans must include certain services, and may include others if the state chooses, but the services offered must meet the requirements of the Medicaid Act unless a waiver of certain requirements is approved by the Federal Center for Medicaid Services in the Department of Health and Human Services (CMS) under 42 U.S.C. § 1396n.[10]

The Complaint alleges that the Court has jurisdiction over her petition for judicial review pursuant to several statutory sources. However, none of the statutes actually confers ...


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