United States District Court, District of Columbia
DAVID L. CALDWELL, Plaintiff,
EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION APPEALS BOARD, Defendant.
G. Sullivan United States District Judge.
se plaintiff David L. Caldwell alleges that he was
injured in July 2009 while employed at the National Gallery
of Art. See Complaint at 2, 12, ECF No.
After incurring the injury, Mr. Caldwell claimed that he was
unable to work and sought compensation from the government.
See Complaint at 11-13, 16. Although Mr.
Caldwell's barebones complaint does not specify the
avenues through which he sought compensation for his
disability, papers attached to the complaint do make clear
that, in December 2016, Mr. Caldwell filed an appeal of his
disability compensation decision with the Employees'
Compensation Appeals Board ("ECAB"). See
Complaint at 8, 11. Apparently unhappy with ECAB's
decision, Mr. Caldwell filed a lawsuit against ECAB in the
Superior Court for the District of Columbia. See
Complaint at 2. ECAB subsequently removed the action to
federal court and filed the instant motion to dismiss Mr.
Caldwell's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants
defendant's motion and dismisses this case for lack of
STANDARD OF REVIEW
district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction,
Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S.
375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994), and a Rule
12(b)(1) motion for dismissal presents a threshold challenge
to a court's jurisdiction, Haase v. Sessions,
835 F.2d 902, 906 (D.C. Cir. 1987). To survive a Rule
12(b)(1) motion, the plaintiff bears the burden of
establishing that the court has jurisdiction. Lujan v.
Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561, 112 S.Ct.
2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992).
Rule 12(b)(1) concerns a court's ability to hear a
particular claim, "the court must scrutinize the
plaintiff's allegations more closely when considering a
motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) than it would
under a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)."
Schmidt v. U.S. Capitol Police Bd., 826 F.Supp.2d
59, 65 (D.D.C. 2011). As such, the court "need not limit
itself to the allegations in the complaint, " but
rather, "may consider such materials outside the
pleadings as it deems appropriate to resolve the question
whether it has jurisdiction in the case." Rann v.
Chao, 154 F.Supp.2d 61, 64 (D.D.C. 2001) (citations and
internal quotation marks omitted). Nor must the court
"accept inferences unsupported by the facts alleged or
legal conclusions that are cast as factual allegations."
Id. Still, in evaluating such a motion, the Court
must "accept as true all of the factual allegations
contained in the complaint, " Wilson v. District of
Columbia, 269 F.R.D. 8, 11 (D.D.C. 2010) (citation
omitted), and should review the complaint liberally while
accepting all inferences favorable to the plaintiff, see
Barr v. Clinton, 370 F.3d 1196, 1199 (D.C. Cir. 2004).
ECAB moves to dismiss Mr. Caldwell's complaint on the
ground that this Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction.
According to ECAB, Mr. Caldwell's exclusive remedy for
any alleged injury incurred while he was working at the
National Gallery of Art - a federal government institution -
is through the administrative process set forth in the
Federal Employees' Compensation Act ("FECA").
See Def.'s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss, ECF
the exclusive remedy for a federal employee injured
"while in the performance of his duty." 5 U.S.C.
§ 8102(a); see also Id. § 8116
("The liability of the United States or an
instrumentality thereof under this subchapter or any
extension thereof with respect to the injury or death of an
employee is exclusive and instead of all other liability of
the United States or the instrumentality to the
employee[.]"); Johansen v. United States, 343
U.S. 427, 439, 72 S.Ct. 849, 857, 96 L.Ed. 1051 (1952) (FECA
"gave the first and exclusive right to Government
employees for compensation, in any form, from the United
States."). FECA sets forth a process for federal
employees seeking compensation for injuries sustained in the
workplace, and the Act provides for an administrative review
through the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs and
ultimately ending in an appeal to ECAB for an employee
dissatisfied with the determination of his or her claim.
See 10 C.F.R. § 10.625; Gallucci v.
Chao, 374 F.Supp.2d 121, 124 (D.D.C. 2005) (setting
forth administrative-review process). An appeal to ECAB is a
claimant's sole remedy and is "not subject to review
by another official of the United States or by a court."
5 U.S.C. § 8128(b); see also Gallucci, 374
F.Supp.2d at 124 ("Administrative review is the
claimant's only avenue for review of a claim because
Congress precluded judicial review of claims
disputes."). Thus, where FECA applies, "federal
courts are without subject matter jurisdiction over covered
claims." Zellars v. United States, 05-CV-1670,
2006 WL 1050673, at *2 (D.D.C. Apr. 20, 2006).
Mr. Caldwell concedes that his injury was sustained at the
National Gallery of Art while he was an employee there.
See Complaint at 11, ECF No. 1-1. Accordingly, his
claim for any resulting disability was subject to FECA.
See 5 U.S.C. § 8102(a). Indeed, Mr. Caldwell
appears to have sought compensation through the Office of
Workers' Compensation Programs, which ultimately resulted
in an appeal of the decision on his claim to ECAB.
See Compl. at 11-12; see also Def.'s
Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss at 1 (explaining that Mr.
Caldwell filed a claim with the Office of Workers'
Compensation Programs "based upon his claim that there
was a power outage at work, fumes ensued and as a result, his
eyes were burned"), ECF No. 1-1. Mr. Caldwell does not
contest any of these facts. See generally Pl.'s
Supp. to Notice of Removal, ECF No. 6.
although it appears that Mr. Caldwell was ultimately denied
compensation under FECA, see Complaint at 2
(alleging that he "never receive[d] any compensation
for" his injury), that does not change this Court's
jurisdictional inquiry. See, e.g., Spinelli v. Goss,
446 F.3d 159, 161 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (where Secretary of Labor
had determined that FECA applied, plaintiff's claims were
not subject to review by a court despite plaintiff's
allegations that he did not receive appropriate
compensation); Scott v. U.S. Postal Serv., No.
05-CV-0002, 2006 WL 2787832, at *4 (D.D.C. Sept. 26, 2006)
(fact that plaintiff "was ultimately denied compensation
under FECA based on a lack of competent medical
evidence" was "immaterial to the issue of the
Court's jurisdiction"); Sullivan v. United
States, No. CIV.A.05 1418 CKK, 2007 WL 1114124, at *3-4
(D.D.C. Apr. 13, 2007) ("Notwithstanding Plaintiff's
statement that 'Plaintiff has not received a penny to
date, ' the Court does not have any authority to question
the Secretary's designation or the manner in which the
Secretary issues an award to Plaintiff under
short, because Mr. Caldwell seeks review of a decision
regarding benefits for injuries allegedly sustained while in
the performance of his workplace duties at a federal
institution, his claims arise under FECA. Accordingly, this
Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the case.
foregoing reasons, the Court grants the Employees'
Compensation Appeals Board's motion to dismiss Mr.
Caldwell's complaint for lack of jurisdiction. A separate
Order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.