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Williams v. Godwin

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

August 2, 2019

LAUREN GODWIN, et al., Defendants.



         On October 5, 2018, Plaintiff Kenneth Williams, proceeding pro se, filed this action against Defendant Lauren Godwin, Commissioner of the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission ("MWCC"), alleging violations of the Due Process Clause relating to his claim for benefits before the Commission. ECF No. I. The Court denied a motion to appoint counsel on October 17, 2018, ECF No. 6, and a motion for reconsideration, ECF No. 16. Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 11, and the Court granted Plaintiffs Motion for an Extension of Time until May 22, 2019, ECF No. 16. Plaintiff still has not responded to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. No. hearing is necessary. See Loc. Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss shall be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         On September 4, 2018, the MWCC held a hearing to consider Plaintiffs request for additional temporary total disability benefits and an evaluation for surgery relating to an injury suffered while on the job years prior. See ECF No. 11-3. Defendant Godwin presided over the hearing. Id. at 1.[2] At that hearing, Plaintiff explained that he had seen a doctor who recommended surgery to fix the pain in his wrist. Id. But that opinion was not issued pursuant to an Insurance Medical Exam ("IME"), so Defendant Godwin held her decision on the surgery until after the IME was completed two days later. Id. at 11. On October 4, 2018, after receiving the IME report, Defendant Godwin denied authorization for the surgery without holding a second hearing. ECF No. 11-2. On November 1, 2018, Plaintiff filed a petition for judicial review of that decision in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. ECF No. 11-4. Plaintiff also seeks review in this Court, claiming that Defendant Godwin's failure to hold a second hearing violated his due process rights.


         On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court "must accept the factual allegations of the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Rockville Cars, LLC v. City of Rockville, Md., 891 F.3d 141, 145 (4th Cir. 2018). To overcome a 12(b)(6) motion, the "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, 'to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell All. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Plaintiffs must "provide sufficient detail" to show "a more-than-conceivable chance of success on the merits." Upstate Forever v. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, 887 F.3d 637, 645 (4th Cir. 2018) (citing Owens v. Bait. City State's Attorneys Ofice, 767 F.3d 379, 396 (4th Cir. 2014)). The mere recitation 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). Nor must the Court accept unsupported legal allegations. Revene v. Charles Cray. Commis., 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989). A plausibility determination is a "context-specific inquiry" that relies on the court's "experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679-80. A pro se plaintiff is held to a "less stringent" standard than a lawyer, and the Court must liberally construe a pro se plaintiffs pleadings. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). But these principles are not without limits, and courts cannot "conjure up questions never squarely presented to them." Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). Finally, a court "may consider official public records, documents central to plaintiffs claim, and documents sufficiently referred to in the complaint so long as the authenticity of these documents is not disputed." Witlhohn v. Fed. Ins. Co., 164 F, App'x 395, 396 (4th Cir. 2006).


         Plaintiffs claim is most reasonably read as alleging a violation of his procedural due process rights. To establish a procedural due process violation, Plaintiff must show that "(1) [he] had property or a property interest (2) of which the defendant deprived [him] (3) without due process of law." Sunrise Corp. of Myrtle Beach v. City of Myrtle Beach, 420 F.3d 322, 328 (4th Cir. 2005). Plaintiff has not sufficiently pled that he was deprived of due process.

         Maryland's Workers' Compensation Act guarantees a procedure by which claims must be adjudicated. See Md. Code Ann. Lab. & Empl, § 9-701. That procedure appears to have been followed here. A review of the transcript reveals that Plaintiff and his counsel attended a hearing before the M WCC; both Plaintiff and his counsel were given the opportunity to speak at this hearing, and their concerns were carefully considered by Commissioner Godwin. Plaintiff appears to take issue with the fact that he was not afforded a second hearing after having his 1ME. But Plaintiff does not identify, and the Court is unaware of, any Maryland law or regulation requiring a hearing under those circumstances. Therefore, the Constitution cannot be said to require a second hearing.

         Nonetheless, the Act also guarantees the availability of judicial review in Maryland state court-a procedure upon which Plaintiff has already relied. Id. § 9-737; see also Md. R. 7-206.1 (establishing rules for judicial review of a decision of the MWCC). If Plaintiff believes the MWCC has violated Maryland law, that proceeding is the proper forum in which to raise those concerns.


         Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 11, is granted. A separate Order shall issue.


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