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Ghislaine Paul v. Noubar A. Didizian

October 19, 2011

GHISLAINE PAUL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NOUBAR A. DIDIZIAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Ghislaine Paul ("Paul") brings this state-law tort*fn1 action against Defendants Noubar A. Didizian, M.D. ("Didizian") and the District of Columbia (the "District"). There are currently three motions before the Court: Didizian's [16] Motion to Dismiss; the District's [19] Motion to Dismiss; and Paul's [24] Motion for Summary Judgment. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions, the relevant authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court shall DENY Didizian's [16] Motion to Dismiss, GRANT the District's [19] Motion to Dismiss, DENY Paul's [24] Motion for Summary Judgment, and DISMISS this action in its entirety WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Succinctly stated, the Court finds that Paul has failed to discharge her burden of establishing that this Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the case.

I. BACKGROUND

Paul commenced this action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on October 1, 2010. See Compl., ECF No. [1]. On March 16, 2011, United States District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee transferred the action to this Court on his own motion. See Order (Mar. 16, 2011), ECF No. [7]. Upon transfer, the Court directed Paul to effect service of process on Defendants. See Rule 4(m) Order (Apr. 8, 2011), ECF No. [9]; Order (Apr. 18, 2011), ECF No. [13]. Once putative service was made, both Defendants appeared and the parties proceeded to file and brief the motions now before the Court.

Didizian filed his Motion to Dismiss on May 20, 2011. See Def. Didizian's Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of His Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. [16-1]. That same day, recognizing that Paul is proceeding in this action without legal representation, the Court issued an Order warning Paul that her failure to respond to Didizian's motion would result in the Court treating the motion as conceded. See Order (May 20, 2011), ECF No. [17]. Paul filed her opposition on May 27, 2011. See Pl.'s Opp'n to Def. Didizian's Mot. to Dismiss ("Paul's [18] Mem."), ECF No. [18]. Didizian filed his reply on June 14, 2011. See Def. Didizian's Reply to Pl.'s Opp'n to Mot. to Dismiss ("Didizian's [23] Mem."), ECF No. [23].

The District filed its Motion to Dismiss on June 6, 2011. See Def. District's Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of its Mot. to Dismiss ("District's [19] Mem."), ECF No. [19]. That same day, the Court issued an Order warning Paul that her failure to respond to the District's motion would result in the Court treating the motion as conceded. See Order (June 6, 2011), ECF No. [22]. Paul filed her opposition on June 17, 2011. See Pl.'s Opp'n to Def. District's Mot. to Dismiss ("Paul's [24] Mem."), ECF No. [24]. The District filed its reply on June 28, 2011. See Def. District's Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. J. & Reply to Pl.'s Opp'n to its Mot. to Dismiss ("District's [27] Mem."), ECF No. [27].

Paul's opposition to the District's Motion to Dismiss was also styled as a Motion for Summary Judgment. See Paul's [24] Mem. The District filed its opposition on June 28, 2011. See District's [27] Mem. Didizian filed a separate opposition on June 29, 2011. See Def. Didizian's Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. [28].

II. LEGAL STANDARD

"Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction" and can adjudicate only those cases entrusted to them by the Constitution or an Act of Congress. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Rule 12(b)(1) provides a vehicle for parties to challenge the district court's "subject matter jurisdiction," FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1)-a term that refers to the court's authority to hear and decide the case. If the district court finds that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction, it must dismiss the case, and without prejudice.

The district court should begin with the presumption that it does not have subject matter jurisdiction. Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 377. The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the court has subject matter jurisdiction. Moms Against Mercury v. Food & Drug Admin., 483 F.3d 824, 828 (D.C. Cir. 2007). In most cases, the plaintiff attempts to establish subject matter jurisdiction through one of two routes.

First, "diversity jurisdiction" arises when the parties are "citizens of different States" and "the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs."

28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). There must be "complete diversity" between the parties, meaning that diversity jurisdiction is unavailable when any plaintiff is a citizen of the same state as any defendant. Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 373 (1978).

Second, "federal question" jurisdiction is available when the case "aris[es] under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. For federal question jurisdiction to arise, "a right or immunity created by the Constitution or the laws of the United States" "must be disclosed upon the face of the complaint." Phillips Petroleum Co. v. Texaco, Inc., 415 U.S. 125, 127-28 (1974) (per curiam) (quoting Gully v. First Nat'l Bank in Meridian, 299 U.S. 109, 112 (1936)) (internal quotation marks omitted). "[I]t is not enough to allege that questions of a federal character arise in the case, it must plainly appear that the averments attempting to bring the case within federal jurisdiction are real and substantial." Blumenstock Bros. Adver. Agency v. Curtis Publ. Co., 252 U.S. 436, 441 (1920).

In determining whether it has subject matter jurisdiction, the district court may consider the allegations in the complaint and undisputed facts and, in appropriate circumstances, resolve disputed factual matters. Coalition for Underground Expansion v. Mineta, 333 F.3d 193, 198 (D.C. Cir. 2003). In engaging in this task, the factual allegations in the complaint must be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Settles v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, 429 F.3d 1098, 1106 (D.C. Cir. 2005), though a plaintiff's factual allegations will "bear closer scrutiny" when the district court is resolving a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction as opposed to a motion to dismiss for failure to sate a claim, Wright v. Foreign Serv. Grievance Bd., 503 F. Supp. 2d 163, 170 (D.D.C. 2007), aff'd, No. 07-5328, 2008 WL 4068606 (D.C. Cir. July 30, 2008). Even though pleadings filed by a party proceeding without legal representation must be construed liberally, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per ...


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