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English v. Methodist Health Care System

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

October 3, 2016

LAWAN J. ENGLISH, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff, Lawan English, filed this case on September 9, 2016. She has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. The court now conducts an initial review of English's complaint to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).


         English claims Defendants, Methodist Health Care System, Darren Keiser, MD, Sean Bigler, PA, and Physicians Clinic, [1] “conspired to commit health care fraud” against her and “committed medical malpractice.” (Complaint [Filing 1], pp. 5-6) English allegedly “suffers from reflex sympathetic distrophy and severe depression as a result of an intentional work related injury resulting from discrimination while employed by Time Warner Cable/now Charter Communication.” (Id., p. 6) English further alleges she “at present has a partially dislocated RT Shoulder & permanent damage to RT shoulder as a result of the injury, as a result of multiple health care systems including the Defendants' lack of proper care or abuse of power. Leaving [her] $1600.00 to roughly $25.00 once [she] questioned the coding and MSDRG issues on claims.” (Id.) She alleges Defendants “submitted false claims to BCBS for date of service March 25, 2016; altering the diagnosis of injury to RT Shoulder & Right Upper Quadrant due to a work related injury on May 7, 2015 while working for Time Warner Cable ....” (Id.)[2] English claims “Defendants misused codes to defraud [her] out of Workers Comp settlement” and with “a host of others conspired to defraud [her] causing severe medical issues that are going going [sic] unreported or have been misrepresented.” (Id., pp. 6-7) English has attached 74 pages of supporting documents, with handwritten comments, to the complaint. (Id., pp. 11-84).


         The court is required to review in forma pauperis complaints to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The court must dismiss a complaint or any portion of it that states a frivolous or malicious claim, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The court also has an independent obligation to consider its subject matter jurisdiction where there is a reason to suspect that such jurisdiction is lacking. See Hart v. United States, 630 F.3d 1085, 1089 (8th Cir. 2011); Bacon v. Neer, 631 F.3d 875, 877 (8th Cir. 2011).

         Pro se plaintiffs must set forth enough factual allegations to “nudge[] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, ” or “their complaint must be dismissed.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”).

         “The essential function of a complaint under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is to give the opposing party ‘fair notice of the nature and basis or grounds for a claim, and a general indication of the type of litigation involved.'” Topchian v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 760 F.3d 843, 848 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Hopkins v. Saunders, 199 F.3d 968, 973 (8th Cir. 1999)). However, “[a] pro se complaint must be liberally construed, and pro se litigants are held to a lesser pleading standard than other parties.” Topchian, 760 F.3d at 849 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         Subject-matter jurisdiction is proper where a plaintiff asserts “[a] non-frivolous claim of a right or remedy under a federal statute, ” commonly referred to as “federal question” jurisdiction. Northwest South Dakota Prod. Credit Ass'n v. Smith, 784 F.2d 323, 325 (8th Cir.1986). The mere suggestion of a federal question is not sufficient to establish the jurisdiction of federal courts, rather, the federal court's jurisdiction must affirmatively appear clearly and distinctly. Bilal v. Kaplan, 904 F.2d 14, 15 (8th Cir.1990).

         Subject-matter jurisdiction may also exist under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, commonly referred to as “diversity of citizenship” jurisdiction, if “the citizenship of each plaintiff is different from the citizenship of each defendant.” Ryan v. Schneider Nat'l Carriers, Inc., 263 F.3d 816, 819 (8th Cir.2001) (citation omitted). In addition, the amount in controversy must be greater than $75, 000.00 for diversity of citizenship jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).


         English claims federal question jurisdiction exists because her claim arises under 18 U.S.C. § 371 and 31 U.S.C. § 3729. Neither of these statutes provide English with a right of action, nor are they even applicable to the claims alleged. The first statute makes it a crime to “conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States ....” 18 U.S.C. § 371. The second statute, part of the False Claims Act, imposes civil penalties and treble damages for submitting a false claim to the United States Government. There is no legitimate basis for claiming federal question jurisdiction.

         English alleges that she is a Nebraska citizen (Complaint, p. 4), that Defendants Keiser and Bigler are Nebraska citizens (id., pp. 3, 4), and that Defendants Methodist and Physicians Clinic are both Nebraska corporations (id., pp. 8, 9). There is no diversity of citizenship. In addition, although English is seeking to recover $50 million in damages from each Defendant, the allegations of the complaint do not show that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00.

         Even if the court could exercise subject-matter jurisdiction, the allegations of the complaint are not sufficient to state a claim against any Defendant, either for fraud or for medical malpractice. The complaint is conclusory and incomprehensible, and the attachments fail to shed any light ...

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