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Bean v. Perdue

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 11, 2017

ROBERT ONEAL BEAN, Plaintiff,
v.
SONNY PERDUE, Secretary, United States Department of Agriculture, [1] Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION RE DOCUMENT NO. 16

          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Robert Oneal Bean brought this action against the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) because the USDA denied him loan servicing and decided to foreclose on land that Mr. Bean had purchased. Mr. Bean claims that these acts violated the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), Pub. L. 79-404, § 706, 60 Stat. 237 (codified at 5 U.S.C. § 500 et seq.), the Agricultural, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 1999, Pub. L. 105-277, § 741, 112 Stat. 2681 (codified at 7 U.S.C. § 2279)) (“1999 Agricultural Appropriations Act”), “and/or the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, ” Pub. L. 110-234, § 14011, 122 Stat. 923 (“2008 Farm Bill”). See Am. Compl. at 5-6, ECF No. 3. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND [2]

         Robert Oneal Bean, an African American farmer from Mississippi, borrowed approximately $50, 000 from the Farm Service Agency (“FSA”) to purchase a 120-acre tract of farm land in 2001. Am. Compl. at 3, ECF No. 3. Mr. Bean made timely payments to FSA until 2011, when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Am. Compl. at 4. Thereafter, Mr. Bean fell behind in his payments. See Id. Later that year, an FSA Loan Officer accelerated Mr. Bean's loan and demanded that Mr. Bean pay the full balance to avoid foreclosure. See Am. Compl. at 4. In response, Mr. Bean submitted medical records demonstrating that he had cancer, hoping that the FSA would allow him the opportunity to recover. See id.

         Mr. Bean alleges that in the Fall of 2016, the FSA Loan Officer advised Mr. Bean that the FSA could divide his land and sell a sufficient amount to satisfy the $40, 000 that Mr. Bean still owed to the FSA. See Am. Compl. at 4. On December 15, 2016, during a visit to an FSA Office, Mr. Bean asked the FSA Loan Officer whether he could apply to reschedule his outstanding debt. See Am. Compl. at 4-5. The FSA Loan Officer replied that Mr. Bean had forfeited that opportunity for loan servicing because Mr. Bean had not completed the necessary application in a timely manner (sixty days from the receipt of the application materials). See Am. Compl. at 5. Mr. Bean alleges that he was not aware of any application and, in any event, he could not have submitted any such application due to his prostate cancer. See Id. Mr. Bean does not affirmatively allege that he did not receive a loan servicing application. Rather, he alleges that he “does not recall” receiving an application, either in person or through the mail. Id.

         On January 23, 2017, Mr. Bean filed this action claiming that the USDA acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in violation of the APA, and discriminated against him on the basis of his disability in violation of the 1999 Agricultural Appropriations Act, and the 2008 Farm Bill.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim” in order to give the defendant fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); accord Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) does not test a plaintiff's ultimate likelihood of success on the merits; rather, it tests whether a plaintiff has properly stated a claim. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). A court considering such a motion presumes that the complaint's factual allegations are true and construes them liberally in the plaintiff's favor. See, e.g., United States v. Philip Morris, Inc., 116 F.Supp.2d 131, 135 (D.D.C. 2000).

         Nevertheless, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). This means that a plaintiff's factual allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007) (citations omitted). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” are therefore insufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true, see id., nor must a court presume the veracity of the legal conclusions that are couched as factual allegations. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         IV. ANALYSIS

         A. Pigford v. Glickman Consent Decree and the 2008 Farm Bill

         Much of Mr. Bean's Amended Complaint and briefing is devoted to his assertion that he is a claimant under Pigford v. Glickman,185 F.R.D. 82 (D.D.C. 1999) (“Pigford”) and that he is entitled to relief pursuant to the consent decree entered in that case. See Am. Compl. at 1-3; Pl.'s Opp'n Mot. Dismiss (“Opp'n”) at 2-4, 5-6, ECF No. 18. Defendant argues that Mr. Bean's status as a Pigford claimant is irrelevant. See Def.'s Mot. Dismiss ...


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