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Glenda Lopez v. United States of America

June 21, 2012

GLENDA LOPEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows United States Magistrate Judge

AMENDED FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

This amended findings and recommendations is issued merely to correct a clerical error, and in no way effects a change in the analysis or result. Therefore, the objections and reply already filed in response to the original findings and recommendations will automatically be considered in regard to this amended findings and recommendations. No further filings are necessary.

This action was referred to the undersigned pursuant to Local Rule 302(c)(21). This action was removed from state court on January 30, 2012. In the order requiring joint status report, filed January 30, 2012, plaintiff was advised of the requirement to obey federal and local rules, as well as orders of this court, and the possibility of dismissal for failure to do so. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss on February 6, 2012, to which plaintiff did not respond. By order filed March 6, 2012, the hearing on the motion was vacated due to plaintiff's failure to file an opposition, and the motion was taken under submission.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed this action in state court, alleging that Dr. Skinner, an employee of Community Medical Centers, Inc., intentionally refused to treat plaintiff for a clogged arterial vein. (Def.'s Mot., Ex. A.) Both Dr. Skinner and Community Medical Centers, Inc. are deemed employees of the United States Public Health Service. (Dkt. no. 2.) The United States substituted in as defendant in place of Dr. Skinner. (Dkt. no. 3.) The government now moves to dismiss for plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies and for insufficient service of process.

DISCUSSION

I. Rule 12(b)(1) - Subject Matter Jurisdiction

On a Rule12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, plaintiff bears the burden of proof that jurisdiction exists. See, e.g., Sopcak v. Northern Mountain Helicopter Serv., 52 F.3d 817, 818 (9th Cir.1995); Thornhill Pub. Co. v. General Tel. & Electronics Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 733 (9th Cir. 1979). Different standards apply to a 12(b)(1) motion, depending on the manner in which it is made. See, e.g., Crisp v. U.S., 966 F. Supp. 970, 971-72 (E.D. Cal. 1997).

First, if the motion attacks the complaint on its face, often referred to as a "facial attack," the court considers the complaint's allegations to be true, and plaintiff enjoys "safeguards akin to those applied when a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is made." Doe v. Schachter, 804 F. Supp. 53, 56 (N.D. Cal. 1992). Presuming its factual allegations to be true, the complaint must demonstrate that the court has either diversity jurisdiction or federal question jurisdiction. For diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, plaintiff and defendant must be residents of different states. For federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, the complaint must either (1) arise under a federal law or the United States Constitution, (2) allege a "case or controversy" within the meaning of Article III, § 2, or (3) be authorized by a jurisdiction statute.

Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 198, 82 S. Ct. 691, 699-700, 7 L. Ed. 2d 663 (1962).

Second, if the motion makes a "factual attack" on subject matter jurisdiction, often referred to as a "speaking motion," the court does not presume the factual allegations of the complaint to be true. Thornhill, 594 F.2d at 733. In a factual attack, defendant challenges the truth of the jurisdictional facts underlying the complaint. "Faced with a factual attack on subject matter jurisdiction, the trial court may proceed as it never could under Rule 12(b)(6). . . . No presumptive truthfulness attaches to plaintiff's allegations, and the existence of disputed material facts will not preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional claims." Id. (quotations and citation omitted). The court may hear evidence such as declarations or testimony to resolve factual disputes. Id.; McCarthy v. United States, 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir. 1988).*fn1

II. Analysis

Although the court liberally construes the pleadings of pro se litigants, they are required to adhere to the rules of court. As set forth in the district court's order requiring status report, failure to obey local rules may not only result in dismissal of the action, but "no party will be entitled to be heard in opposition to a motion at oral arguments if opposition has not been timely filed by that party." E. D. Cal. L. R. 230(c). Rule 230(i) provides "failure to appear may be deemed withdrawal of ... opposition to the motion...." Plaintiff's failure to oppose should be deemed a waiver of opposition to the granting of the motion. In the alternative, the court has reviewed the motion and finds that it has merit.

The government moves to dismiss in part based on failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Its motion represents that Community Medical Centers, Inc. is a federally supported health center, and that employee Edwina Skinner, M.D. was acting within the scope of her employment at the time of the acts alleged in the amended complaint. As a qualifying federally supported health care center, Community Medical Centers, Inc. comes under the Federally Supported Health Centers Assistance Act ("FSHCAA"), 42 U.S.C. § 233, which provides that the federal government is the medical malpractice insurer for specific health centers which receive federal funding. This act expanded liability protection of employees of federally funded health centers to all patients of those entities. Id. § 233(g)(1)(B). As such, this suit falls under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), which is the exclusive remedy for such malpractice actions. Id. § 233(g)(1)(A); 28 U.S.C. §§ 2675-2681. The ...


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