United States District Court, D. Maryland
Stephanie A. Gallagher, United States District Judge.
March 14, 2019, Plaintiff Adria C., who proceeds pro
se, petitioned this Court to review the Social Security
Administration’s (“SSA’s”) 2014
decision to award her disability benefits. ECF 1. The SSA
filed a Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1), on the grounds that Plaintiff did not exhaust her
administrative remedies prior to filing her complaint, and
12(b)(6), on the grounds that Plaintiff did not state a claim
upon which relief can be granted. ECF 25. Plaintiff opposed
the motion. ECF 27. I find that no hearing is necessary.
See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons
explained below, I will grant the SSA’s Motion to
following facts are derived from Plaintiff’s Complaints
and their attachments, and the allegations are assumed true
for the purposes of this motion. Plaintiff received a fully
favorable decision of disability from the Social Security
Administration on December 8, 2014. ECF 1-4.
Plaintiff’s application for benefits stated an onset
date of June 1, 2012. ECF 1-3. Plaintiff sustained an injury
to her meniscus at work in 2010. ECF 1-2 ¶ 1. Plaintiff
underwent surgery and continued having difficulties with her
meniscus after surgery. Id.Plaintiff saw several
doctors after having surgery, but none identified the cause
of, or solution for, the injury. Id. ¶ 2. These
doctors were paid through Medicaid. Id. The SSA sent
Plaintiff’s application to the Cochran firm for legal
representation in her disability case. Id. ¶ 5.
contacted her Senators’ offices, her
Congressman’s office, the Maryland Board of Physicians,
and other entities to inform them that she was intentionally
put on disability “because doctors did not identify
[her] injury and SSA [chose] lawyers to misrepresent
[her].” Id. ¶ 10. The Cochran firm
received Plaintiff’s signed retainer in 2013.
Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff alleges in her Complaint
that the Cochran firm knew or should have known that hers was
a medical malpractice case, and not a disability case.
Id. Plaintiff additionally alleges that she would
have had her injury fixed had she been able to proceed with a
medical malpractice case. Id. Plaintiff further
alleges that she is not disabled, and that the SSA, and the
doctors and lawyers involved, committed illegal, fraudulent,
and criminal acts in forcing her to receive disability
benefits. See Id . ¶¶ 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8,
9, 10, 11, 12, 13.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) governs motions to dismiss
for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1). While the plaintiff bears the burden of proving
that a court has jurisdiction over the claim or controversy
at issue, a Rule 12(b)(1) motion should be granted
“only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in
dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a
matter of law.” Ferdinand-Davenport v.
Children’s Guild, 742 F.Supp.2d 772, 777 (D. Md.
2010) (quoting Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., a Div. of
Standex Int’l Corp., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir.
1999)). In a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction, the pleadings should be regarded as “mere
evidence on the issue, ” and courts may “consider
evidence outside the pleadings without converting the
proceeding to one for summary judgment.”
Evans, 166 F.3d at 647 (quoting Richmond,
Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. v. Unites States, 945
F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991)).
plaintiff carries the burden of establishing subject matter
jurisdiction. See Lovern v. Edwards, 190 F.3d 648,
654 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Thomson v. Gaskill, 315
U.S. 442, 446 (1942); Goldsmith v. Mayor of Balt.,
845 F.2d 61, 63-64 (4th Cir. 1988)). However, a pro
se plaintiff’s complaint should not be dismissed
“unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can
prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would
entitle him to relief.” Gordon v. Leeke, 574
F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1987) (quoting Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972)) (quotation and
citation omitted). Pro se filings, “however
unskillfully pleaded, must be liberally construed.”
Noble v. Barnett, 24 F.3d 582, 587 n.6 (4th Cir.
1994) (citing Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926, 928
(4th Cir. 1977)). Where a plaintiff has failed to exhaust
administrative remedies before bringing a claim, the action
should be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(1). See Khoury v.
Meserve, 268 F.Supp.2d 600, 607 (D. Md. 2003),
aff’d, 85 Fed.App’x 960 (4th Cir. 2004).
Rule 12(b)(6), a defendant may test the legal sufficiency of
a complaint by way of a motion to dismiss. In re
Birmingham, 846 F.3d 88, 92 (4th Cir. 2017); Goines
v. Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd., 822 F.3d
159, 165-66 (4th Cir. 2016); McBurney v. Cuccinelli,
616 F.3d 393, 408 (4th Cir. 2010), aff’d sub
nom., McBurney v. Young, 569 U.S. 221 (2013);
Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th
Cir. 1999). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion constitutes an assertion
by a defendant that, even if the facts alleged by a plaintiff
are true, the complaint fails as a matter of law “to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
a complaint states a claim for relief is assessed by
reference to the pleading requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2). That rule provides that a complaint must contain a
“short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief.” The purpose of the
rule is to provide the defendants with “fair
notice” of the claims and the “grounds” for
entitlement to relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).
survive a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint
must contain facts sufficient to “state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; see Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (citation omitted)
(“Our decision in Twombly expounded the
pleading standard for ‘all civil actions’ . . .
.”); see also Willner v. Dimon, 849 F.3d 93,
112 (4th Cir. 2017). While a plaintiff need not include
“detailed factual allegations” in order to
satisfy Rule 8(a)(2), the rule demands more than bald
accusations or mere speculation. Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 555; see Painter’s Mill Grille, LLC v.
Brown, 716 F.3d 342, 350 (4th Cir. 2013). If a complaint
provides no more than “labels and conclusions” or
“a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action, ” it is insufficient. Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555. Rather, to satisfy the minimal requirements of
Rule 8(a)(2), the complaint must set forth “enough
factual matter (taken as true) to suggest” a cognizable
cause of action, “even if . . . [the] actual proof of
those facts is improbable and . . . recovery is very remote
and unlikely.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556
(internal quotation marks omitted).
reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court “must accept
as true all of the factual allegations contained in the
complaint” and must “draw all reasonable
inferences [from those facts] in favor of the
plaintiff.” E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v.
Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011)
(citations omitted); see Semenova v. MTA, 845 F.3d
564, 567 (4th Cir. 2017); Houck v. Substitute Tr. Servs.,
Inc., 791 F.3d 473, 484 (4th Cir. 2015); Kendall v.
Balcerzak, 650 F.3d 515, 522 (4th Cir. 2011), cert.
denied, 565 U.S. 943 (2011). But, a court is not
required to accept legal conclusions drawn from the facts.
See Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986).
“A court decides whether [the pleading] standard is met
by separating the legal conclusions from the factual
allegations, assuming the truth of only the factual
allegations, and then determining whether those allegations
allow the court to reasonably infer” that the plaintiff
is entitled to the legal remedy sought. A Society Without
a Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 346 (4th. Cir. 2011),
cert. denied, 566 U.S. 937 (2012).
first argues that this Court lacks jurisdiction over
Plaintiff’s appeal because Plaintiff failed to exhaust
her administrative remedies before filing suit and is not,
therefore, appealing from a final decision of the
Commissioner. ECF 25. The SSA, as an agency of the United
States Government, enjoys immunity from suit absent express
waiver. See F.D.I.C. v. Meyer,510 U.S. 471, 475
(1994). The applicable waiver of immunity in this case is
found in the Social Security Act, which provides, in relevant
part, that “[a]ny individual, after any final decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security made after a hearing
to which he was a party . . . may obtain a ...