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Hickmon v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

June 12, 2019

MONICA HICKMON, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Monica Hickmon initiated this action in the District Court of Maryland for Prince George's County alleging fraud, defamation, and employment discrimination claims against Rosie Taylor who was acting within the scope of her employment with the United States Postal Service at the time of the alleged incidents. ECF Nos. 1-3, 1-4, 3-1, 9-1. The United States of America removed the action to this Court, ECF No. 1, and filed a Motion to Substitute, removing Ms. Taylor and adding the United States as the proper defendant, ECF No. 3. Pending before the Court is the United States' Motion to Dismiss. No. hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is granted.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Taylor “committed contract fraud, wage fraud, defamation of character and discrimination based on [Plaintiff's] disability” while Ms. Taylor was acting within the scope of her employment with the United States Postal Service. ECF No. 1-4. She claims that Ms. Taylor “continuously and intentionally misused and withheld material information that was vital to several contract disputes from September 2016 to present.Id. And that Ms.

         Taylor “intentionally continued to deny [her] wages and benefits that are legally and rightfully owed to [her] from September 2016 to present, ” including by “deleting information from the system.” ECF No. 9-1. In support of her “discrimination” claim, Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Taylor “took a job” from her because Ms. Taylor believed Plaintiff “wasn't qualified for it” even though Plaintiff had previously been detailed to that position and was performing it until September 2016. Id. Plaintiff also asserts that Ms. Taylor “intentionally misclassified” her in the work system. Id. Finally, Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Taylor made “untrue statements to employees, ” “spoke negatively” about her to others, called the police to report Plaintiff, and had Plaintiff placed on “emergency suspension without documentation.” Id. Plaintiff alleges that she exhausted her “internal administrative options but to no avail.” ECF No. 9-1. Plaintiff asserts that she is owed $30, 000 in damages. ECF No. 1-4.

         II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         The United States moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim.

         “It is well established that before a federal court can decide the merits of a claim, the claim must invoke the jurisdiction of the court.” Miller v. Brown, 462 F.3d 312, 316 (4th Cir. 2006). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) governs motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Khoury v. Meserve, 268 F.Supp.2d 600, 606 (D. Md. 2003), aff'd, 85 Fed.Appx. 960 (4th Cir. 2004). Once a challenge is made to subject matter jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that subject matter jurisdiction exists. See Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., a Div. of Standex Int'l Corp., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999); see also Ferdinand-Davenport v. Children's Guild, 742 F.Supp.2d 772, 777 (D. Md. 2010). In ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), the Court “should regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment.” Ferdinand-Davenport, 742 F.Supp.2d at 777 (quoting Evans, 166 F.3d at 647); see also Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991).

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, a Complaint shall contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” and “each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1). Further, to state a claim that survives a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint, relying on only well-pled factual allegations, must state at least a “plausible claim for relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). The “mere recital of elements of a cause of action, supported only by conclusory statements, is not sufficient to survive a motion made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).” Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012). The Court need not accept unsupported legal allegations, Revene v. Charles Cnty. Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989), nor must it agree with legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, or conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979); see also Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009). “[U]nadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed me accusation[s]” or “naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement” do not suffice. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Although the Court must accept well-pleaded factual allegations in the Complaint as true, the Court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, ” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” and “are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at 678-79.

         Pro se complaints must be construed liberally and must be “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, “[p]rinciples requiring generous construction of pro se complaints are not . . . without limits.” Beauciett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). Courts are not required to “conjure up questions never squarely presented to them” nor “construct full blown claims from sentence fragments.” Id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         As discussed in more detail below, Plaintiff has failed to establish that this Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over her tort claims because she has not alleged facts showing she exhausted her administrative remedies pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act. Additionally, Plaintiff has failed to sufficiently plead an employment discrimination claim.[2]

         A. Tort Claims

         The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) provides the “exclusive remedy for all tort suits against the government and its employees who commit tortious acts in the course of their employment.” Ross v. Fed. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, 807 F.Supp.2d 362, 369 (D. Md. 2011) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2679(b)(1)). Federal courts have subject-matter jurisdiction over FTCA claims “for injury or loss of property . . . caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment.” 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1). Because Plaintiff alleges claims based upon the alleged negligence or ...


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