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Ferebee v. United Medical Center

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 8, 2018

UNITED MEDICAL CENTER, et al., Defendants.



         Pro se plaintiff Renee Ferebee describes herself as “the original child of heavenly father, who is very healthy[.]” (Compl., ECF No. 1, at 1.)[1] Ferebee alleges that, during a November 2014 medical appointment with Dr. Melanie Scott-Bowling at United Medical Center (“UMC”) in the District of Columbia, Dr. Scott-Bowling accused Ferebee of using drugs and alcohol, and caused an office door to hit Ferebee's head. (See id. at 4-6.) Based on this incident, Ferebee has filed the instant lawsuit against Dr. Scott-Bowling and UMC (collectively, “Defendants”). Although her sprawling complaint is difficult to parse, Ferebee appears to assert claims for defamation, assault, and battery, for which she has demanded $500 million in damages. (See Id. at 2.)

         Before this Court at present is Defendants' motion to dismiss Ferebee's complaint. (See Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 6.) Defendants argue that all of Ferebee's claims are subject to a one-year statute of limitations, and that because she filed this lawsuit more than two and a half years after her claims accrued, all of her claims must be dismissed. (See Mem. in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss (“Defs.' Mem.”), ECF No. 6-1, at 6-7.) For the reasons explained below, this Court agrees with Defendants that Ferebee's claims are untimely under the law of the District of Columbia, and as a result, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss will be GRANTED. A separate Order consistent with this Memorandum Opinion will follow.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The Facts [2]

         Dr. Scott-Bowling was Ferebee's primary care physician for some period of time, and from Ferebee's recounting of their interactions, it appears that the physician-patient relationship soured beginning in November of 2014. Specifically, Ferebee alleges that she had a medical appointment with Dr. Scott-Bowling scheduled for November 4, 2014, but when she arrived at Dr. Scott-Bowling's UMC office, a staff member informed Ferebee that her appointment had been cancelled. (See Compl. at 4.) Ferebee “was displeased[, ]” and “[w]hen [Ferebee] ask[ed] why she was not notified, the staff [assistant] replied by saying ‘I called you [] and left a message.'” (Id.) Ferebee maintains that she has no cell phone, and she believes that the staff assistant lied about having left a message. (See id.)

         Ferebee allegedly returned to UMC on November 9, 2014, “to have blood work done, ” and again on November 24, 2014, for the test results. (Id.) She states that she was “a little annoyed” on November 24th because she had an appointment at 9:00 a.m., and she “was not being seen on her schedule[d] time.” (Id.) Ferebee also asserts that she “felt disrespected” by Dr. Scott-Bowling's staff; she claims they were rude to her and improperly allowed other patients to be seen ahead of her. (Id. at 5.)

         When Dr. Scott-Bowling finally saw Ferebee to review her test results, Dr. Scott-Bowling allegedly noted that Ferebee's “liver enzymes [were] high[, ]” and according to Ferebee, attributed the elevated levels to “drinking and smoking.” (Id.) Ferebee claimed not to drink alcohol or smoke (id. at 5, 6), and she took offense when Dr. Scott-Bowling “kept on repeating (accusation, and insinuated) that [Ferebee] did . . . drugs and dr[a]nk.” (Id. at 5.) Ferebee claims that the conversation “became a little hostile, ” and that a staff nurse entered the examination room and witnessed Dr. Scott-Bowling calling Ferebee “a physco [sic][.]” (Id.)

         Ferebee surmises that Dr. Scott-Bowling's conduct was the result of “jealousy towards [Ferebee] because of her severe weight loss” achieved over three years “with the help of her heavenly father[.]” (Id.) Ferebee claims that Dr. Scott-Bowling “could not accept the new look that she saw in [Ferebee], just like every other woman who has a weight problem, and is jealous of someone[] else['s] success.” (Id.) The visit ended with a conversation that became “a little loud, ” and, allegedly, a demand that Ferebee not return to that office. (Id.) According to Ferebee, Dr. Scott-Bowling “harshly told [Ferebee] to ‘get out of her face[, ]'” and “purposely open[ed] the door to hit [Ferebee] in the forehead.” (Id. at 6). Ferebee claims that she “has suffered a permanent scar over her right eye” as a result of the door hitting her. (Id. at 7.)

         B. Procedural Background

         On April 3, 2017, Ferebee filed the instant complaint, along with an Application to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs (“IFP Application”) (ECF No. 2), and a motion to use a Post Office Box as her mailing address (ECF No. 4). Her complaint consists of four type-written documents that offer a stream of consciousness accounting of various medical appointments and interactions, and appears to assert claims for assault, battery, and defamation. (See generally Compl.) Ferebee requests $500 million in damages and the termination of Dr. Scott-Bowling's employment at UMC. (See, e.g., id. at 2 (“Plaintiff is seeking five hundred million dollars, for defamation of character, false medical review, intent to disable[], verbal threat, punitive damages, tort, and mental stress, which Plaintiff endured from this doctor.”); see also Id. at 6 (requesting that Dr. Scott-Bowling be fired).)

         The copy of the complaint that Ferebee has filed bears two earlier Clerk's Office date stamps that are crossed out: August 22, 2016, and November 30, 2016. (See Id. at 1.) It appears that Ferebee attempted to submit her complaint and IFP application on each of these two dates, but that the Clerk's Office rejected the filings, presumably because Ferebee listed a Post Office Box in the caption as her address and did not file a motion seeking an exemption from Local Civil Rule 5.1(c), which requires a pro se party proceeding in forma pauperis to “provide in the caption the name and full residence address or official address of each party.” LCvR 5.1(c)(1). In such circumstances, it is the practice of the Clerk Office's to return the documents to the plaintiff and cross out the date stamp. The Court finally granted Ferebee's IFP application and her motion to use a Post Office Box as her mailing address on May 11, 2017, and the Clerk filed these documents on the Court's CM/ECF system, along with her complaint, on May 15, 2017.

         On July 17, 2017, Defendants filed the pending motion to dismiss, in which they argue that all of Ferebee's claims accrued in November of 2014, when the alleged incident occurred in Dr. Scott-Bowling's office, and are subject to a one-year statute of limitations that expired in November of 2015-well before Ferebee filed the instant complaint. (See Defs.' Mem. 4-5.) Defendants also maintain that, even if Ferebee's claims are timely, they nevertheless must be dismissed because neither Dr. Scott-Boling nor UMC has been properly served with process. (See Id. at 7-9.)[3] On July 20, 2017, Ferebee filed her opposition to the motion to dismiss, in which she argues (without any further explanation) that “all of [the] claims that are mentioned in Defendant[s'] motion[] are not barred by the statute of limitation, because claim was issued in a timely manner[.]” (Pl.'s Opp'n, ECF No. 10, at 1; see also Id. at 2 (“Plaintiff's claim[s] are not barred by the statu[t]e of limitations[.]”).)

         Defendants' motion to dismiss is now ripe for this Court's consideration. (See Defs.' Reply, ECF No. 11; Pl.'s Mot. to Oppose Against the Def.'s Dismissal ...

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