United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division
CAROLYN D. GRIFFIN, Plaintiff,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
SCOTT COOGLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are two motions filed by Defendant United States of
America, Social Security Administration (“SSA”).
The first is a Motion to Dismiss tort claims brought by
Carolyn D. Griffin (“Griffin”) for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction. (Doc. 6.) The second is a Motion
for Judgment on the Pleadings regarding the portion of
Griffin's action which stems from the SSA's decision
to end her eligibility for disability benefits. (Doc. 7.) For
the following reasons, SSA's Motion to Dismiss and the
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings are due to be GRANTED
and the case is due to be DISMISSED.
Facts and Procedural Background
filed a pro-se complaint against the “Social Security
Dept. of Tusc. AL” [sic] in the Circuit Court of
Tuscaloosa County on September 25, 2017. The complaint
alleged that Griffin had been “Wrongfully Trespassed .
. . harassed . . . attacked, assaulted, and injured [and]
[w]rongfully taken to jail” and that she had been
improperly denied disability benefits. (Doc. 1-1.) Liberally
construed, Griffin's Complaint asserts state-law tort
claims against an agency of the United States Government
encompassed by the Federal Tort Claims Act
(“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 2671-80.
Defendant properly removed the action to this Court pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b)(1), 1441(a), and 1442(a)(1)
on October 30th, 2017. (Doc. 1.) Griffin brings two causes of
action. First, she alleges that she was wrongfully,
physically harmed by United States government employees
working for the SSA and requests $18, 000 in “damages
from assault” as remedy for this claim. The claim is
based on various alleged harms including wrongful arrest,
harassment, and racial antagonism. (Doc. 1-1.) Second, she
claims that her social security disability benefits have been
“wrongfully taken” and requests that they be
had previously found Griffin disabled as of October 12, 2004,
but eventually determined that her disability ended as of
September 1, 2015. This decision was upheld on
reconsideration. Griffin requested a review of the decision
before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), which
she was granted. After the hearing, the ALJ issued a decision
on May 3, 2017 upholding the determination that Griffin's
disability had ceased. The ALJ sent a copy of the decision to
Griffin and notified Griffin of her right to seek Appeals
Council review within sixty days if she disagreed with the
decision. The decision further notified Griffin that the
Appeals Council would assume she received the decision within
five days of the notice unless she showed otherwise. Griffin
did not file a timely request for review, and instead waited
until July 12, 2017, five days past the deadline of July 7,
to appeal the decision. When the deadline initially passed,
an employee of the SSA reached out to Griffin to determine
whether she wanted to request review and provide an
explanation of good cause for the untimely filing, but the
attempt at contact was unsuccessful.
untimely request for Appeals Council review did not include a
reason for her failure to file the request before the
deadline. The Appeals Council notified Griffin by letter
dated July 25, 2017 that her request for review had been
untimely and invited her to explain the delay in filing and
offer supporting evidence. Griffin was given thirty days to
provide this information, but did not respond. On September
23, 2017 the Appeals Council issued a decision dismissing
Griffin's request for review. Griffin filed the instant
action appealing this decision and bringing her FTCA claim on
September 25, 2017, but did not first submit an
administrative tort claim as required by the Act.
intake, investigation, processing, and adjudication of
administrative tort claims involving SSA under the FTCA are
handled by the SSA's attorneys in the Division of Fiscal
Law, Office of General Law, Office of the General Counsel.
The Team Leader of this Division conducted a search of
SSA's records and attested that Griffin has not filed an
administrative tort claim against SSA.
originally filed suit in state court on September 25, 2017,
and the case was removed to this Court on October 30, 2017.
Defendant filed its Answer, Motion to Dismiss, Memorandum in
Support of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, and Motion for
Judgment on the Pleadings and Supporting Memorandum of Law on
November 20th, 2017. The Court ordered Griffin to respond to
SSA's Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings, but Griffin has failed to respond to either
Standards of Review
Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter
motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction
filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure challenges a court's statutory or
constitutional power to adjudicate a case. Motions to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(1) may take the form of either a facial or a
factual attack. Scarfo v. Ginsberg, 175 F.3d 957,
960 (11th Cir.1999). Under a facial attack, the allegations
in the complaint are taken as true for the purposes of the
motion. Sea Vessel, Inc. v. Reyes, 23 F.3d 345, 347
(11th Cir. 1994). A factual challenge, on the other hand,
questions the existence of subject matter jurisdiction based
on matters outside the pleadings. Lawrence v.
Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). Under a
factual challenge, the Court may hear conflicting evidence
and decide the factual issues that determine jurisdiction.
Colonial Pipeline Co. v. Collins, 921 F.2d 1237,
1243 (11th Cir. 1991).
SSA presents both facial and factual attacks to the
Court's subject-matter jurisdiction. As the SSA also
presenting a factual challenge, “the burden is on the
plaintiff to prove that jurisdiction exists.” OSI,
Inc. v. US, 285 F.3d 947, 951 (11th Cir. 2002).
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that
“[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not
to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the
pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). “Judgment on the
pleadings is appropriate when there are no material facts in
dispute, and judgment may be rendered by considering the
substance of the pleadings and any judicially noticed
facts.” Hawthorne v. Mac Adjustment, Inc., 140
F.3d 1367, 1370 (11th Cir. 1998). “In determining
whether a party is entitled to judgment on the pleadings,
[the court] accept[s] as true all material facts alleged in
the non-moving party's pleading, and . . . view[s] those
facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party.” Id. Courts ...