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Shing v. Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 25, 2017

DOREEN SHING, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MARYLAND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES ADMINISTRATION, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge.

         Pro se plaintiffs Doreen Shing and her mother, May Shing, (“plaintiffs”) have filed an Amended Complaint against defendants the Maryland Development Disabilities Administration (“DDA”), its Budget and Expenditures Director, and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (“DHMH”) (collectively, the “State Defendants”), alleging “benign neglect, discrimination, and gross negligence” in the State Defendants' handling of their application for increased benefits for Doreen, a disabled adult who was born with cerebral palsy and suffers from a seizure disorder.[1] (ECF No. 16.) While the record reflects that DDA has been ordered to provide plaintiff Doreen Shing with the increased Medicaid benefits which plaintiffs had requested, plaintiffs seek through this action to recover separate tort damages based on DDA's handling of the application for benefits.[2] See OAH Decision, ECF No. 16, Ex. 10 at 4.

         Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint follows this Court's dismissal without prejudice of their original Complaint. (ECF Nos. 7, 8.) Plaintiffs appealed that decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and that Court dismissed their appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction, but remanded the matter to this Court with instructions to permit the filing of an amended complaint. (ECF No. 14.) Consistent with the Fourth Circuit's Order, plaintiffs were given the opportunity to file the now-operative Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 16.)

         Now pending before this Court is the State Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.[3] (ECF Nos. 30, 39.)[4] The parties' submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, the State Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 30, 39) is GRANTED, and this case is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         BACKGROUND

         This action arises out of the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration's handling of plaintiffs' application for an increase in Medicaid service benefits through the Community Pathways Home and Community-Based Services Medicaid Waiver program.[5]Although DDA initially denied plaintiffs' request for increased benefits, plaintiffs appealed that decision to the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings (“OAH”), which, by Order dated January 5, 2016, ordered DDA to provide the additional services requested by plaintiffs. (OAH Decision, ECF No. 16, Ex. 10 at 4.)

         While DDA was in the process of implementing the new benefits to Doreen, plaintiff May Shing communicated with Ms. Bonita Miller-Real, an employee of Service Coordination, Inc., [6] in order to make a new, additional request for services. (OAH Decision, ECF No. 16, Ex. 10 at 4-5.) Ms. Miller-Real responded to plaintiff May Shing that “a different request cannot be made” while the new benefits were being implemented. (Id.) Based on these communications, plaintiffs filed a “Notice of Appeal - Request for Hearing” with the OAH on March 7, 2016. (OAH Decision, ECF No. 16, Ex. 10 at 1.)[7] DDA moved to dismiss the appeal, and on May 11, 2016, Administrative Law Judge Judith Jacobson conducted a hearing on the matter. (Id. at 2.) By a Decision dated May 17, 2016, ALJ Jacobson dismissed the appeal because Ms. Miller-Real's correspondence to May Shing was not an “action taken by DDA that is subject to appeal.” (Id. at 7.) The Decision dismissing plaintiffs' appeal expressly notified plaintiff of her right to seek judicial review “with the circuit court for the county where the party resides…” (Id.)

         Plaintiffs have attached to the Amended Complaint plaintiffs' Petition for Judicial Review of the OAH Decision, filed in the Circuit Court for Howard County, Maryland on May 25, 2016.[8] (ECF No. 16, Ex. 13.) Indeed, this Court takes judicial notice of the publicly-available docket in that case: In the Matter of Doreen Shing, Case Number 13-C-16107697, in the Circuit Court for Howard County, Maryland.[9] Plaintiffs have attached several orders of that court denying their requests for hearings, and the docket reflects that no request for hearing was granted. (ECF No. 16, Ex.'s 19, 20.) The state court action was ultimately dismissed without prejudice on October 18, 2016.[10] It does not appear that plaintiffs sought review of that dismissal in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

         As the above chronology indicates, on the same date that plaintiffs filed their “Notice of Appeal - Request for Hearing” with OAH-March 7, 2016-plaintiffs filed their original Complaint in this Court. (ECF No. 1.) By Memorandum Opinion and Order dated April 7, 2016, this Court dismissed without prejudice plaintiffs' original Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (ECF Nos. 7, 8.)

         Plaintiffs appealed this Court's April 7, 2016 Order to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. (ECF No. 9.) By Judgement dated January 19, 2017, the Fourth Circuit dismissed their appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction, but remanded the matter to this Court with instructions to permit plaintiffs to file an amended complaint. (ECF No. 14.) Consistent with the Fourth Circuit's Order, plaintiffs were given the opportunity to file the now-operative Amended Complaint, which was filed on January 31, 2017. (ECF No. 16.) On April 3, 2017, the State Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and the matter is ripe for this Court's adjudication.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for lack of subject matter jurisdiction challenges a court's authority to hear the matter brought by a complaint. See Davis v. Thompson, 367 F.Supp.2d 792, 799 (D. Md. 2005). This challenge under Rule 12(b)(1) may proceed either as a facial challenge, asserting that the allegations in the complaint are insufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction, or a factual challenge, asserting “that the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint [are] not true.” Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. Demetres v. East West Const., Inc., 776 F.3d 271, 272 (4th Cir. 2015).

         In a facial challenge, a court will grant a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction “where a claim fails to allege facts upon which the court may base jurisdiction.” Davis, 367 F.Supp.2d at 799. Where the challenge is factual, “the district court is entitled to decide disputed issues of fact with respect to subject matter jurisdiction.” Kerns, 585 F.3d at 192. “[T]he court may look beyond the pleadings and ‘the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists.'” Khoury v. Meserve, 268 F.Supp.2d 600, 606 (D. Md. 2003) (citation omitted). The court “may regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting ...


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